Inspire Medics' Guide to Studying

Ineffective Study Methods: 


Quick Summary:

Re-reading, highlighting and making notes are common examples of ineffective study methods that are a poor use of your time

Rereading πŸ“š 

Rereading your notes is a passive exercise πŸ’€  

Research suggests it is ineffective compared to active techniques βŒ 



Highlighting your notes is an ineffective technique βŒ  

Can prevent you making necessary inferences from the information πŸ§   


Summary notes πŸ“„ 

Can be useful if you make effective, well summarised notes βœ  

Otherwise, it is an ineffective use of study time as you are just rewriting and not testing yourself πŸ§   

Effective Study Methods 


Quick Summary:

STIC Framework: 

Spacing: space out revision on each topic πŸ“…  

Testing: test yourself, before, during, and after learning a topic βœ…  

Inter-leaving: mix up the topics you study in any one revision session πŸ”€  

Categorising: break down a subject into smaller topics 



Space your study sessions on a topic out πŸ“…  

Revisiting the information allows better recall over time πŸ”  

Combine spacing with active recall testing for best results πŸ§   



Testing/ active recall is the most effective way of studying   

The more you test yourself, the more likely you are to remember the information πŸ”  

Every time you test yourself, your brain makes connections between different ideas to help you remember it πŸ§   

You should test yourself before you even learn the information πŸ’» 



Mixing up topics in your revision time β±  

Rather than blocking (timetabling one topic into a period of a few days) πŸ“…  

Inter-leaving can strengthen the association your brain makes between topics which helps you to remember the information πŸ§   

For example, when doing practice questions, doing questions on different topics can produce better results than doing a set of questions on one topic 

Inter-leaving can seem difficult, but this is a good sign πŸ€―  

It also means practicing of a particular topic or skill is more spread out, increasing the benefits β¬† 



This is where you break a large piece of information down into more manageable β€˜categories’ πŸ“„  

This is particularly useful when reviewing the breadth of information, as you are able to categorise it 


Active recall:  


Quick Summary:

Active recall is the act of testing yourself regularly, using methods such as note-taking from memory, creating questions and producing flashcards.

What is it?

This is where you test your understanding of a topic at every stage of your studying πŸ“„  

Testing yourself regularly increases the information you retain, as your brain is forced to find the appropriate information in your memory, and makes connections between relevant information πŸ§   

This is much more difficult than passive tasks such as rereading/highlighting but that is a sign that it is working βœ…  


Active recall techniques: 

Closed-book note-taking: attempt to learn a topic, then test yourself by writing down as much as you can remember (in notes or spider diagram form) without consulting your notes, then fill in any gaps with the help of your notes; repeat until you know everything πŸ“’  

Create questions: writing questions for yourself is good practice as it forces your brain to retrieve the answer from the information in your memory❓ 

Flashcards: these can be useful for remembering facts, but also for remembering things you need to memorise, such as essay paragraphs; apps such as Anki make this very easy 


Spaced Repetition: 

Quick Summary:

Spaced repetition is the act of going back to review a topic several times, at spaced intervals, rather than all at once.

What is it?

It involves spacing your revision out, and reviewing topics at set intervals (by active recall) β±  

Testing yourself on a topic after a day, then 3 days, then a week is a good place to start 

The longer the space between revising a topic and testing yourself, the more chance there is that you will forget it, and so active recall is required, testing your brain's ability to remember the information πŸ§  

Use it in conjunction with the retrospective revision timetable for maximum benefit❗ 


The Great Explainer: 


Quick Summary:

When you are confident that you understand a topic, try to explain it like a teacher to identify any gaps in your knowledge.

What is it?

Once you have β€˜learnt’ a topic, it can be useful to try to explain it, like a teacher πŸ«  

  1. Choose a topic  
  2. Explain it thoroughly, in simple terms, as though you are teaching a lay person or small child (think of questions they may ask such as β€œwhy does that happen?” to make sure you truly understand it) πŸ‘Ά  
  3. Identify any gaps in your knowledge 
  4. Go back, focus on the areas than need more work, then repeat πŸ”  


Essay Memorisation: 


Quick Summary:

Planning a range of essays, then using flashcards, spider diagrams and retrospective revision timetables is a great way to be prepared for any potential essay questions that may appear in an exam.

The Creation Stage: 

Deciding which essay titles to prepare: find essay topics which encompass the breadth of the subject, from past papers and by identifying potential questions❓ 

Planning the essay: once you have identified your question, use google to gather information which can then be supplemented with lecture notes, then write your essay out πŸ“„  

3 key points: refine the structure, answer the question, make it unique 


The Memorisation Stage: 

Flashcards: using flashcards can help you to remember specific paragraphs or key points in an essay 

Spider diagrams: after memorising essays using flashcards, try making a spider diagram per essay, do this until you remember the whole essay 

Retrospective revision timetable: filling in time spent of different topics, retrospectively, enables you to identify any areas you have not focussed on as much πŸ“… 


Revision Timetables: 


Quick Summary:

A retrospective revision timetable is much more useful than a prospective one, as you can see how much time you have spent on each topic and how confident you feel about them.

Weaknesses of Prospective revision timetables:  

Planning your future time requires you to work out what topics you will have issues with which can be unrealistic, and unexpected events can get in the way πŸ“…  

It means you are planning how to fill your time, rather than focussing on which topics you need to improve β±  

Producing the timetable itself can be a form of procrastination πŸ’»  


The Retrospective revision timetable: 

You don’t have to plan/predict your future time β±  

  1. Scope your subjects to produce a list of topics you need to revise for each subject πŸ“„ 
  2. Produce a spreadsheet for each subject with each topic in the first column πŸ’»  
  3. Start revising the topics you find most difficult πŸ€―  
  4. Whenever you study a topic (and test yourself), you should write the date in the row which corresponds to that topic on your spreadsheet πŸ“…  
  5. Use a colour coordination system to rank your understanding of each topic 
  6. Review your retrospective timetable each time you study to see which topics you have not studied recently/those which you understand least 

Benefits of a retrospective revision timetable βœ…: 

You do not have to plan your future time β±  

Unforeseen circumstances will not disrupt your timetable 

You can review each topic, and your understanding of it to plan your time more effectively 

You do not need to procrastinate, spending a long time creating a timetable πŸ’» 


  1. Studying should not be easy! 
  2. The more you test yourself, the more information you will retain
  3. Active studying techniques are much more useful than passive ones
  4. Spacing your revision of a specific topic out, and mixing up the topics you study in a study session is the best method
  5. Retrospective revision timetables help you to identify areas that you have spent less time on and those which you are struggling with
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