All right – here’s part 2 of my PA study tip series!
So to recap, the previous post was how to study during class/modify your notes, this post will focus on how to study AT HOME! Now, I’m no expert and have not read multiple meta-analyses on the most effective studying, but considering I was in school for literally a decade (completing my bachelors + 2 master’s degrees) with little to no breaks in between, I can safely say that I’ve learned a thing or two and want to share this knowledge with you.
For those that struggle with independent study and prefer traditional classroom learning, I’m sorry that COVID has disrupted this for you.
With that said, I am a firm believer in mind > matter. You CAN learn to adapt. After all, that is the golden rule of being a PA! That was one of the first lessons I learned during PA orientation. Know this is temporary and you might prove to yourself and who knows.. maybe you will enjoy the flexibility of e-learning.
It would be helpful to have daily goals/tasks. They say if you write down your goals, you’re more likely to achieve them. So write down the subjects/tasks you hope to complete for the day.
One of my best investments for studying is buying a large dry erase whiteboard. As previously stated, I’m a visual learner. I love to map out ideas and rewriting to help solidify hard concepts.
Prior to starting/establishing a study regimen is to determine if you are an early riser or night owl when it comes to studying. For me, I was neither! I often joke that 10 AM – 2 PM is my optimal time to be productive. With that being said, don’t push yourself for overnighters if you’re not one to function late in the evening. Taking care of your body and sleeping is SO important!
In fact, on the weekends, I love to take hour-long naps after an intense study session. There are studies that suggest napping helps with stress and cementing knowledge learned. Again, I’m not going to post these studies, so you’re going to have to take my word on it.
Where you study is up to you. Although I love a good coffee shop, paying for coffee and freezing at coffee shops was not always something I enjoyed. Some may find spending hours at the library helpful, but again, every indoor building in Florida is freezing, and to be honest, I’m not very good at sitting still or staying quiet for an extended period of time, so I didn’t find studying in the library helpful. As a result, I found myself studying at home most days with the occasional treat at a coffee shop.
For me, natural lighting is important. Even in college, I always loved to sit at a desk near a window. Clear your desk and try to eliminate your environment from distractions. Have a glass of water nearby (it’s important to stay hydrated). If it isn’t obvious, turn your phone on to ‘do not disturb.’ If you do not have the will power, there are apps to download to block you from visiting any websites outside of Google or pages that you approve of.
I also wanted to throw this bit in for those that have to commute. The bulk of my time spent studying was also on the road. I commuted close to an hour each way each day. That’s A LOT OF TIME to sit in traffic.
As previously stated, I don’t have the time to replay lectures (I mean who does?). As part of my time creating notes, I also carved out time creating flashcards on Quizlet. The Quizlet Pro account (currently $23.88/year, you can also try it out for free 7 days before purchasing a pro account) allows you to record over the cards. Ha ha. As humorous as it may the first few times, let’s just say their automated robotic voice struggling to pronounce certain medical terminology is not so entertaining and sometimes confusing when listening on the drive. As a result, I opted to record and voice-over my cards for playbacks instead. This technique allows you to ask questions to solidify concepts and great for those exam reviews.
I know I said I wouldn’t throw out any resources, however, Brian Wallace PA-C’s Physician Assistant Exam Review was so helpful to listen to on the drive!
One of my favorite resources that I wish I knew about early on is the Pomodoro Technique. I loved using tomato-timer! This management method is 25 minutes in length, separated by short breaks. I did a modified version and focused on studying for 50 minutes and then using the 10-minute breaks to use the restroom, snack, maybe check on social media (the addiction is real).
You can read more about the Pomodoro technique in this article, here!
I also found studying to music to be really helpful. For this reason, I cannot part with my Spotify account and found that having music playing in the background makes me more productive. There are also studies that state the many benefits of studying with music. Check out this article here if you don’t believe me.
For those of you that don’t know, I played the violin with my middle and high school orchestras growing up. So naturally, I love classical music. Here are some of my favorite Spotify playlists: Various Artists – Studying with Classical Music, Instrumental Study, Intense Studying, Deep Focus. Although I love EDM and pop-punk, I found songs with lyrics are too distracting and often found myself listening to instrumentals instead.
Again, this is a personal choice. There are no study schedules. This is solely dependent on the individual. I generally allowed myself Friday nights to relax and did the bulk studying on Saturdays. I would study a bit on Sunday but made sure I gave myself time to relax on Sunday night to reset for the week. This was also adjusted depending on the week. I made sure to include playtime. For a Disney fanatic – I made the effort for one day of fun with the family and studied the second day. Again, these sacrifices are temporary. It’s important to have that work/play balance. Find out what’s your best schedule!
Shout out to my stationery fans! I think one of my favorite things that I miss about being a student is the excuse to buy new stationery.
We talked about having a large dry erase whiteboard for daily tasks/reminders and concept mapping.
After reading both posts, I hope you have a better idea of how to study. As you can see, there’s really no magic “pill” or book to help you learn the material easily. If only we can learn by osmosis… if only!
The biggest factor is your determination and willingness to sit and buckle down. A lot of times the hardest part is actually sitting down and to start!
- Set daily goals
- Determine when is your optimal study time (morning or night)
- Find a quiet study place, free of distractions (turning your phone off/limit yourself on social media usage)
- Have the right tools ready: cue the music, have the right pens/highlighters in hand, and let’s start studying!
I ask the same question I’ve previously been asked.
How do you eat an elephant?
One bite at a time.
Take it one day, one class, one lecture at a time!
Good luck to those about to embark on their new PA adventures!
Don’t let the fear of studying get to you.
Drop a comment below if you would like to share any additional study strategies or if used and found any of these tips helpful!