No matter where you study in any veterinary school, you are undertaking a long-term degree.
Often we start this degree with enthusiasm, passion, and excitement – the joy of getting into vet school or trying your absolute best to fully grasp the degree that will lead you to the career you really want. However, it can get exhausting as time goes on. The long hours, days, and weeks of studying start to catch up with you, and sometimes the idea of sitting down to get some work done (no matter the nearness of the looming deadlines) is nearly impossible.
I know I really felt this in my last few years of study. By the end of my fourth year, I was doing lectures for the very first time the day before my exams). The reason I still passed these exams, despite the last-minute preparation, is thanks to my study habits.
With a bit more preparation and repetition added to these methods, it can prevent stress, panic, and cramming that may come along with studying (hopefully).
Everyone has different study habits and methods for preparing themselves. It may take some trial and error to find the best study method but it will help you stay on top of your studies in the long run.
1) Play a Game Instead
I’ve never really been a big fan of flashcards. My short-term memory was never strong enough to actually remember what was on each card. I also just didn’t enjoy the monotonous task of flicking through them. But what I did enjoy, is making a game out of flashcards.
Sometimes I made these flashcards or I found already existing flashcard sets online (work smarter, not harder). Cram and Quizlet have these options, but I’m sure there are many resources out there that can support your studying efforts. This method works best for learning terms, definitions, anatomy insertions/origins, and short answer questions.
You can also make it a game in real life too e.g. “If I can memorize this mechanism of action, I can go buy a KitKat from the vending machine as a reward” Making things fun and rewarding can be a helpful way to get motivated to begin studying.
2) Become the Teacher
Some people say you shouldn’t study on the day of an exam. I don’t think you should be learning new content on the day of your exam, but revising content you already know can really reinforce your understanding of the topic matter. My favorite way to do this is to host mini-tutorials in my bedroom, with my students being the pillows on my bed.
Pretend that you’re the teacher – speak out loud, draw diagrams on a whiteboard or paper, and interpret concepts from memory. I really think this has been invaluable for my learning, and probably for my grade point average too. I’ve even done this weeks before my exams and recorded myself with the voice memo app on my phone, and re-listened to this content on walks, which is a simple mindless way of studying that doesn’t really feel like it.
If you have friends that you like to study with, teach them what you know to help you retain the information. After all, repetition is key! Put together a great study group, have your peers teach things back to you, and then quiz each other regularly on what you’ve taught/learnt (like pop quizzes at the end of a class). You’ll be amazed at how much you really do know, and how much you can learn from others.
3) Channel Your Inner Picasso
Lectures are great for basic understanding, but the auditory overload that can come from them doesn’t suit everyone. You can add layers to that by visualizing what you are learning to prompt these lectures to move from fleeting knowledge to long-term memory. Personally, I learn the best through visuals and kinesthetics – so for me to remember things well I need to see it and do it.
There are so many ways that you can add visual prompts into your study! I’m no artist, there’s a reason I’m going to be a veterinarian and not pursuing a BA, but I do love a good diagram. I’ve been known to draw pictures, create elaborate mind maps, or even just annotate my notes with symbols, doodles, and coloured highlighters. Go to labs after hours if you’re studying for anatomy and look at the cadavers, hang back after tutorials and play with the microscopes some more, find online 3D images of things, watch surgeries on YouTube, or videos that explain drug mechanisms with cool pictures.
Any way possible that makes it feel more enjoyable to you and less like the endless hours of looking at words on a page.
Studying can be extremely daunting, especially if there are subjects or concepts you have to learn that you really don’t want to. I know the feeling of sitting there in paralyzing dread thinking about the fact that I just need to start the insurmountable pile of study ahead of me. But if you make your study methods fun, and you work them into your daily or weekly routine, it’ll start to feel less like a chore, and help you to appreciate the fact that we get to learn these awesome things about veterinary medicine.
Good luck to you all, and happy studying!
Jess Cliffe is a final year Veterinary Science student at Massey University specializing in small animal medicine with an interest in exploring all areas of veterinary practice. During her time at veterinary school, Jess has been utilizing her interests in video media by helping and educating prospective/current veterinary students on YouTube.
If you want to get a head start on your veterinary career, then join Thrive for FREE! You’ll get access to a full course that will equip you with all the professional skills you need to have a happy and successful career in veterinary medicine.
Go on- it only takes a second.