3 study tips to help material stick

In general, it's important to figure out what your studying style is. Me personally, I really like to read textbooks and take notes, which is something most people hate. It works for me because I remember information better when it has context. Below, I've listed three other ways that I've found to add context to study material. love, elyse, MD

Study tips to help material information stick.

[ 1 ] Create a (still or moving) picture

Find a way to connect the object that you are thinking of to a visual picture (either in your head or actually on paper). Creating the picture yourself works for two purposes - it forces you to spend time contemplating the topic and the picture is a unique image that stays with you. Netter images are the archetype for this type of study aid. A visual I learned for Microbiology Made Ridiculously Simple is that coccidiomycosisis is found in the southwest United States because I imagine a cowboy cocking his gun.


I'm not much of a visual artist, so I make stories to remember things. The stories are always really, really silly and simple, which is why I can remember them!


Some people love acronyms, but I have a hard time remembering what the acronym stands for, so I don't use this study method much, but if it works for you go for it!


BTW - there's an entire USMLE section on pinterest. I just learned this.


[ 2 ] Learn while running

I trained for a marathon during the second year of medical school. I couldn't stand to spend 2 hours listening to music (what a waste of time!), so I would listen to Goljan lectures. I began to have genuine memories of the lectures when I passed by certain locations as if I was hanging out with Goljan. I still remember him going on and on about the antiplatelet effects of aspirin and how women who smoke while using birth control are asking for a stroke while running up Ponce de Leon.

A photo posted by elyse (@elyse.love) on


[ 3 ] Make a study buddy.

Find someone who has the same study style as you. This person may be your best friend or someone that you only hang out with in the library. My study buddy during the preclinical years of medical school was also my best friend (read his career profile here!). We would show up to the school of medicine on a Saturday morning, find a study room, and get real comfortable. We each had our own individual agenda that we planned to study that day, but we would interrupt each other whenever we came across something we thought was particularly interesting. We would also take breaks to teach each other concepts on the board once we felt we fully understood them. This is my preferred study style for a few reasons:

  1. It decreases FOMO because you know you're not the only one in the library on a Friday night/Saturday morning.
  2. It allows you to initially absorb the information at whatever speed and style (audio, visual, tactile) you prefer.
  3. Teach backs allow you to process the information on a deeper level than however you originally learned it. Teach backs also help you realize what you don't know (you will use this method often with patients in the future)
  4. The unscheduled or scheduled breaks to learn from your friend makes studying less monotonous. I also think you're more likely to remember those little pearls because they are presented in the context of something else ("I remember while I was studying x, Soohee told me about y).


A photo posted by elyse (@elyse.love) on

Do you have any study tips? Share, please!

I've still got a lot of studying ahead of me for dermatology next year (Alex actually studies more than I did in medical school).


elyse, MD