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Mapping, Re-Writing, and Coding…OH MY!

Luckily for us students, some interesting and med student worthy articles about learning and memory-retrieval techniques were published this month.

A study in Science Magazine found that students who took an exam immediately after reading a passage retained 50% more than students who used concept mapping or repeated studying techniques. As medical students and future doctors, this could be an invaluable strategy for test taking and future diagnosis. I have received an endless stream of advice on concept mapping, re-writing, and color-coding over the past 10 years.

Now, it seems possible that this is the wrong approach for college students. A recent study of over 2,300 college students found that 45% of them had no significant improvement in critical thinking, complex reasoning or writing skills during their freshman and sophomore years. Speculation as to why this is the case has resulted in multiple theories ranging from insufficient workload to poor study habits such as cramming and laziness. One student was quoted as saying “Honestly, you can get by with Wikipedia and pass just about anything.” Yikes.

In my experience, I don’t know if we can blame anyone but ourselves by the time we’re in medical school. Sure, we need to have proper education available to us, but the rest of it is really about whether you feel like learning something for the long haul or learning just long enough to last you until you hear “pencils down.” What if everyone was able to have 50% more recall by next week? Imagine the precedent we could set for the months to come.

by Mehrbanoo Lashai, Class of 2013