Studying at 75 MPH

Only four days into classes and I’ve already pulled out a study technique that I first started using when I was simultaneously a full time teacher and a full time master’s student.  It’s likely that it will have even more application now than it did then, as I will quite possibly be even more strapped for time.  I certainly have a longer commute.  Feel free to use this technique yourself if you have a long commute and lots of studying to do!

Two years ago, when I added up the time I spent behind the wheel on my commute to work, I couldn’t help but feel that those minutes were a valuable resource being wasted.  I wanted to turn my commute into a productive study session, but knew that it wouldn’t be safe to flip through flashcards or study my notes while driving.  Consequently, I started audio recording sets of study questions instead.  Specifically, I recorded myself reading a question that I had written, paused while I silently read over my notes to make sure I had the answer, and then recorded myself explaining the answer.  I recorded 20-30 minute question-answer sets and then listened to them (and responded to myself) as I drove to work and home again.   This effectively gave me an extra 40-60 minutes of study time without causing me to lose out on anything other than singing along with the radio.  It’s safe to say (and not surprising) that this directly improved my exam scores and played no small part in my success in my master’s program.  Hopefully I’ll experience similar results in vet school!

As a disclaimer to my love for this technique, you have to be effective at writing/using flashcards and/or study questions for it to matter.  The key for me is making sure that I explain the answer without reading directly from my notes.  This way I am actively confirming my understanding, rather than allowing words to travel through my brain without actually being comprehended.  Another key component is the choices I make in writing study questions.  Many of the questions I write are higher-level-thinking questions.  For example, instead of saying “Describe _______.” I try to write questions such as “How is ________ an example of _________?” or “How is _________ similar to/different from ________?”  These questions play a huge role in making me process the information as I answer the question.

Don’t let me mislead you – I don’t study every time I get in the car.  There are lots of times that I need the stress-relief of the radio, I love listening to recordings of TED Talks, and the only time I get to “read” for pleasure these days is when I listen to audio books.  But I will say that I foresee this incredibly simple approach making a difference in my comprehension as an avalanche of information tries to consume me!


One thought on “Studying at 75 MPH

  1. Pingback: Zoo Living, pt 2 [Clinics Series] | The Other Side of the Desk

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