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How to succeed at exams for medics

Use what you know

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When you are trying to learn new information, you can make the task easier by using what you already know to help you make sense of the new material.

Technically, 'revision' is the process of revisiting what you've already learned; however, we all know that come 'revision' time, much of what's being 'revised' is actually new information. You need to get the hang of using what you already know to help you learn new information.

Read the following passage:

A newspaper is better than a magazine. A seashore is a better place than a street. At first it is better to run than to walk, and you may have to try several times. It takes some skill, but it's easy to learn. Even young children can enjoy it.

Doesn't make much sense does it? And because it doesn't make sense, you'd soon forget what you'd read. Now read the passage again; this time we've given you a title:

Recommended Further Reading

Making and flying a kite

A newspaper is better than a magazine. A seashore is a better place than a street. At first it is better to run than to walk, and you may have to try several times. It takes some skill, but it's easy to learn. Even young children can enjoy it.

Makes more sense now doesn't it? Now you know what it means, you'd make a much better job of recalling how to make and fly a kite.

The same principle applies to learning medical knowledge: if you apply what you already know, you'll learn new information much more easily.

When you start to revise, take a blank sheet of paper and write down all the information you can recall about the topic you are covering. This will concentrate your mind on the matter in hand, and activate the knowledge that is relevant to the new information you're attempting to learn. This will also show you how much you really know about the subject, and identify any areas of weakness - this is only useful if you're prepared to act on your findings.

Activity: using what you already know - 10 minutes

Before you begin a revision session, spend a few minutes making notes on what you already know; this will make you more receptive to learning new knowledge.

1. Take a blank sheet of paper - A4 or larger is best.

2. Write the title of the topic you're revising across the top of your sheet of paper.

3. Spend 5-10 minutes make brief notes on everything you already know about this topic.

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