If you’re not getting the grades you want in school, you may think it’s because you’re
not putting in enough effort. After all, working harder should yield better
results, right? For many students, the issue isn’t actually
a lack of effort. Rather, it’s the way most pre-med and medical
students study that is highly ineffective and ultimately holding them back. We’ll separate fact from fiction, explore
the scientific research, and give you actionable advice that you can follow. Dr. Jubbal, As an MCAT and USMLE tutor, I’ve seen first-hand
how impactful it can be for a student to make the switch from commonly-used, ineffective
study methods to evidence-based, effective study methods. Ultimately, you’ve probably heard others suggest a variety of study methods, some of
which are contradictory to one another. For that reason, it’s important to practice
some judgment and critical thinking of your own when sifting through advice. I like to look at a few key elements. First, is the information I’m receiving
backed by evidence? That being said, not all evidence is created
equal, and I’ve even gone over how you can assess the strength of a research study in
a previous video. Additionally, not every question you have
has been addressed with sound scientific research. So if your question isn’t adequately addressed
by the scientific research, you’ll need to keep in mind some other factors. Which bring us to the second point: credentials. I don’t mean the person needs a PhD or an
MD after their name, although that certainly helps. If the person giving advice wasn’t able
to achieve the results themselves that they are promising you, then where is their authority
on the matter? I personally scored in the 99.9th percentile
on my MCAT, or the 100th percentile for the statistically illiterate, and I hit the high
260s on my USMLE. And third, what is the potential upside and
downside from following the advice? I’m unlikely to eat mysterious foods or
take radical supplements because there is potentially a large downside with relatively
limited upside. However, I’m more willing to experiment
with my own study methods or productivity strategies since the downside would be relatively
limited. That being said, I wouldn’t start a new
sleep routine just one week before my MCAT, as that is higher risk. In investing, we call this phenomenon asymmetric
risk – you want to take risks when the potential upside or gain is significantly larger than
the potential downside or loss. Knowing that, let’s dive into the five most
common mistakes students make while studying. The first mistake is misunderstanding the
utility and balance of comprehension and memorization. Recently, there seems to be an attack on memorization,
with the idea that comprehension and understanding is all you need. This is idiotic advice that does more harm
than good. Like most things in life, the truth is somewhere
in the middle. In certain subjects, particularly medicine,
memorization actually becomes increasingly important. Comprehension and memorization are not an
either-or proposition. You need to use both in harmony to ultimately
get the best grades and be the best doctor. On one end of the spectrum, you have students
who try to create flashcards and memorize every single fact. These students need to focus more on creating
a mental scaffolding of comprehension before they start filling in the small details. On the other end of the spectrum, self proclaimed
study experts say memorizing is bad and not to use flashcards, pushing a silly agenda
that by simply understanding the concepts deeply, you’ll never have to memorize a
fact again. That’s a load of bull honkey and more marketing
ploy than substance. Sure, in cardiology, having an understanding
of pressure-volume loops and basic fluid dynamics is foundational, and trying to memorize these
relationships rather than understand them will prove detrimental. This is why so many students find cardiology
particularly challenging – it’s heavy on concepts. On the other end of the spectrum, anatomy
is heavy on memorization. Understanding the relation and functions of
different body parts helps in memorizing important information, but at the end of the day, using
a mnemonic device to memorize the branches of the external carotid will take you much
farther than simply trying to understand it. Prior to starting plastic surgery residency,
I spent a year teaching anatomy to first and second year medical students. I also spent considerable time tutoring students for both USMLE Step 1 and Step 2. I found that different students require different
approaches, as do different subjects. For anatomy, students benefited most from
learning memory tricks and mnemonics. Comprehension could only take them so far. For students struggling with renal or cardiology,
we had to focus more on comprehension, as memorizing facts without a solid foundation
has little utility. I’ve covered additional details in how to
balance memorization and comprehension in a previous video. Now I’m guilty of this next one. Back in college, I often studied by re-reading
my notes, which is terribly inefficient. By re-reading notes or re-listening to a lecture,
you’re spending most of the time hearing things you already know,. That time would be better spent (1) applying
your new knowledge with spaced repetition to improve memory consolidation, (2) challenging
the newfound knowledge with practice questions, or (3) learning about it from a different
angle to address inconsistencies or holes in your understanding. Don’t worry about making sure you heard
every single last word. You can still set the curve and have top marks
if you miss a small detail here or there. For the MCAT and USMLE, students often brag
about how many “passes” they’ve done through their prep books, such as First Aid. There’s nothing wrong with referencing the
text when you see a gap in your knowledge, but reading the whole thing cover to cover
multiple times is a perfect example of the law of diminishing returns in action. This next mistake is a perfect summation of the previous two. Students have pride in how rapidly they listened
to a lecture recording or podcast. Oh, you only listened at 1.5x? I was at 2x! Oh, you did only 2x? I’m more of a 3x kind of guy. Here’s the reality. I personally rarely went over 1.5 or 1.7x
for lecture recordings, but I had many friends who were going at 2x or even faster. But guess who was getting better scores in class,
on the MCAT, and on the USMLE? I’ll let you figure that one out. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that
listening at higher speeds is always better. I consider myself very fast when it comes
to learning new information and test-taking. I’m usually one of the first to finish my
exam or think through a challenging concept presented in class. Yet I choose to listen to my lecture recordings
at a moderate speed. So what gives? When you are presented information for the
first time, it’s not a race to hear the words as fast as possible. Your goal is to comprehend what is being said
and build a mental scaffolding of understanding as you go. By going at too rapid a pace, you end up comprehending
much less, as you’re unable to make the necessary real time connections. The rate I chose varied based on the subject
material, the lecturer, and how fresh and alert I was feeling. As someone who processes relatively quickly,
I found my mind wandering while waiting for the speaker to get to the next topic. Therefore I sped up the lecture to the point
I was able to maximize both engagement and therefore understanding without compromise. If you want to know more, I made a video about
speed reading which goes over these details in more depth. Despite commonly being used, highlighting has been demonstrated to provide little to
no benefit for students studying for a test and may even worsen inferential recall. This detrimental effect on higher level functions
may be due to highlighting drawing attention to individual items rather than to connections
across items. This goes back to the balance between comprehension
and memorization. For most of your college courses, and certainly
for the MCAT and USMLE, you’ll need to rely on critical thinking and higher level functions
to perform optimally. Skip the highlighting, and opt for flashcards,
the Feynman technique, or other active learning methods instead. Which brings us to the last and final mistake. Not using active learning study methods. Across multiple studies, active learning methods
have consistently demonstrated far superior results. There are two primary ways you should be practicing
active learning. First, self-testing. A study of Texas medical students demonstrated
that time management and self-testing were the strongest predictors in academic performance,
more so than even GPA or MCAT scores. Studies have also demonstrated that practicing
retrieval produces greater gains in meaningful learning – more specifically, test results
up to 50 percent higher than concept mapping and 100 percent higher than reading alone. Taking practice tests frequently and regularly
is one of the best ways to prepare for exams, particularly for the MCAT or USMLE. But many students push their practice tests too
far off, focusing only on content review in the early stages of prep. However, the benefits of taking practice tests
occur even when you don’t have as solid of a foundation, as you’re not only learning
and consolidating new information effectively, but also learning how to apply said information. Second, spaced repetition. In short, spaced repetition helps consolidate
working memory into long-term memory, which is ultimately what you want on test day, thereby
allowing you to spend your brain cycles on applying the information rather than remembering
it. Cramming may work for quizzes and smaller
tests, but you’re not going to remember the information long term, and cramming simply
won’t cut it for larger tests like the MCAT or USMLE. Spaced repetition is daunting and the overwhelming
majority of students do not practice it effectively. For that reason, I’ve created an entire
playlist on how to use Anki, the best spaced repetition software for pre-med and medical
students. Link in the description below. These are the most common mistakes I’ve
seen from personally tutoring and mentoring dozens of students. But there’s even more that I wasn’t able to fit
into this video. If you haven’t already, be sure to check
out my Study Less, Study Smart video where I cover the study methods I learned in medical
school, but wish I knew in college. It’s already over 1 million views and counting
and I have received hundreds of messages from students who have drastically improved their
grades after implementing the advice within the video. I hope you find it helpful as well. Link in the description below. Following the advice from our videos and blog
posts will take you far. It took me years of experimentation and tweaking
to finally get consistent and excellent results that allowed me to match into a hyper competitive
surgical subspecialty. If you aren’t getting the results you want
in university or medical school, our tutors at can help. Whether it’s the MCAT, USMLE Step 1, or
any other pre-med or medical school test, we can help. Our tutors scored in the top percentiles and
can help you do the same. If you regularly watch our YouTube videos,
chances are you know how heavily we emphasize the importance of systems in generating desirable
results. And our tutoring is no different. We have painstakingly taken months crafting
the systems in place to provide the best quality tutoring. We examine your test taking strategies, study
methods, road blocks and sticking points, and customize a tailored plan to optimize
your performance on test day. Visit to learn more. Thank you all so much for watching. Are there any other studying or test taking
myths that you want me to cover in an upcoming video? Let me know with a comment down below, as
that’s how I know what it is that guys want to see. New videos every week, so make sure you’re
subscribed. If you want to chat with me in real time,
enable the notification bell as I’m in the comments section during the first hour after
a video uploads. Much love to you all, and I will see you guys
in that next one.

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