With the massive amounts of information that has to be learned in medical school, I have found it difficult to keep track of everything. The best way I have discovered to help me learn more efficiently is by using a smart book. I started implementing a smart book into my study routine while studying for Step 1 and have continued using it throughout third year so far.
Smart books especially come in handy when working through practice problems. I tend to use my book mostly when doing UWorld question blocks. The idea behind a smart book is to learn from the questions you have missed and actively work towards getting similar questions right in the future. Using this strategy is one way to help incrementally improve your score on standardized tests and board exams.
While there are a variety of ways to set up a smart book, I set mine up in a question and answer format. By setting it up this way, I found it much easier to quiz myself and keep myself accountable for learning the information.
To start your smart book, all you need is a notebook. Super easy, right? Then as you are answering practice questions from Uworld or any other question bank, whenever you miss a question, add an entry to your smart book with just the information that you needed to have remembered in order to answer the question correctly. Your entries should be short, concise, and bulleted to only include the key information from the question.
Of course, I had to color code everything! (I honestly think I have a problem.) The point of a smart book is for your entries to be random. This way, going through your book is more similar to an actual board exam where all of the subjects are mixed together. However, sometimes, I want to go over just the subjects that I know I struggle more in. This way, I would more easily be able to find those particular subjects based on their color.
The key to successfully using your smart book is repetition. The entries are the condensed information that you didn’t remember while answering practice questions, so it is vital to ingrain these points into your long term memory. Therefore, it is important to read through your smart book often so you are training your brain to start answering the questions correctly. While studying for Step 1, I would read through my smart book every evening as the last thing I did during my study routine. Slowly, I found myself remembering key points I wrote down in my smart book while doing UWorld question blocks and was able to answer more and more questions correctly.
Do you have a smart book? How is yours set up? Are there any other study tips/ideas that you just can’t live without? Let me know by leaving a comment below.
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