How to overcome a new subject

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Credits

Let’s say you’ve never received immunology classes so you have little knowledge of the subject. At what level do you start the learning process? Do you choose a specialized manual and move on? Or do you start with an introductory text that works at more general levels? Because your daily bread is to be ambitious, you may be inclined to choose the specialized manual. “I’m going straight to the marathon, I do not need training!” With this strategy you will not get very far. Why? Because when you go directly to the details, all this information makes little sense to you.

An important factor that determines the actual storage of new information is how much prior knowledge we have about the subject. Learning is easier when we can connect new information to previous knowledge. The problem with jumping directly into the brush, as a beginner, is that you will get lost in the great labyrinth of details that are difficult to put together, leaving you brain saturated.

In addition, you will lose the forest among the trees. Trapped in the details, you will not see the basic proposals, such as “cytokines are released by immune cells in response to invading pathogens” since you’ll get lost in the hundreds of details there. General principles like these are not always obvious, especially for the newbies. Good textbooks and good teachers will clearly show you the main ideas, but not many other sources will, but they will leave you without any help for the creation of the general picture. That’s why the right approach is to move sequentially from lower levels of detail to levels where those details are higher. By learning in this way, you will allow your brain to absorb and understand much more than if it plunged directly into the mystical depths of knowledge. 🙂

Learning in this sequential manner also characterizes a strategic study. Most of us will develop in different specialties, where our knowledge will be rich and profound. For these cases, we will want to acquire a very detailed specialized knowledge. But for anything else, the general image is enough, which, if forgotten, can be found in an external reference. But to know what to look for, you must have the basic knowledge. It is enough to see the important links between the different concepts.

For a basic level, you will need something like “How does the immune system work? If you are starting, you should read something like that to get an approximate idea about the elements of Immunology and how to link these together. If you want to go deeper, you must pass, for example, to Basic Immunology from Abbas and Lichtman. And if you want something more in detail, you could move forward with Molecular and Cellular Immunology of Abbas and Lichtman.

By learning in this sequential way, you will absorb, understand and remember the maximum amount of information. Try going directly to Molecular and Cellular Immunology and you will hit a rock. In fact, medical students often complain that a similar subject such as Immunology is a complicated challenge, and one of the reasons is that teachers sometimes give too many details from the beginning, the bombing overwhelms and the students are lost. Therefore, intelligent students will have confidence in their own judgment when choosing suitable introductory books for a new subject.

This is an example, use it for your specific situation whatever you study.

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How to study without stress

The moment of truth is coming again and you may not have started to study yet. If you are normally an organized person, surely you have already begun to organize your time. If not, and that’s how I was at the beginning, your idea of establishing a plan is limited to studying the maximum possible and to begin with the subject whose examination is nearer. I want to save you, so you can see how beautiful your life can be!

You may think that to plan is disheartening, but it does not have to be like that. Forget that! If you make a good plan you will get many advantages:

  • You will free the “RAM memory” to be able study more easier.
  • You will reduce stress and anxiety.
  • You will stay healthy, which will improve your intellectual performance.

GENERAL PRINCIPLES FOR MAKING A PLAN

  1. Make time for 3 fundamental things: eat properly, get enough sleep and do sport. Final exams are a marathon. You can afford to eat some unhealthy food and sleep less the night before the test, but you can’t do that for 2-3 weeks in a row, because your effectiveness in studying will be greatly reduced.
  2. Apply the Pareto principle with each subject. That is to say, select 20% of the notes that will give you an 80% benefit for the final exam. The 20/80 ratio is not very realistic for college exams but you already understand the idea: avoid historical introductions that will not come out in the exam, useless schemes, exaggerated details, etc.
  3. Avoid the temptation to procrastinate. Close the WhatsApp, Facebook, the page of Beneberak, etc. Run away from YouTube kitten videos. Iron will. If you want, you can ask your mother or your roommate for help. Frame your digital time in periods dedicated exclusively to “digital time”
  4. How many hours you have available. Set the hours you need to eat, sleep and do sport, and be generous, give yourself enough time. An advice: always finish studying one day before the exam and use the last day to rest, if you are very tired, or to continue studying if you are very limited.
STEP 1. PREPARE THE MATERIAL AND DETERMINE THE MARK YOU NEED TO REACH IN EVERY TEST

This is done at the beginning of the semester. If you do not have the material, the first step is to get it before you start studying:

  1. Collect all the notes of all classes and practices. Ask your friends and a bibliography of a level according to your needs (not “hyperspecialized”, but not too shallow).
  2. Reviewing the course plan can be helpful.
  3. Analyze the weight of the final exam in relation to the partial examinations or to the written works: If the final exam represents 80% of the mark, should be studied in more detail than if it accounted for 40% of the total. This changes a lot depending the university or the career you are studying.
  4. Get exams to practice. If you’re lucky, you will have the tests of other years of the same teachers. In absence of these, you can use exam questions made in manuals, books (yes, books, those soul-less objects, that are found in university libraries); and in the worst case, online tests with trusted sources.
STEP 2. ACCOUNT HOW MANY HOURS YOU HAVE AVAILABLE AND ESTABLISH YOUR PRIORITIES
  1. Reserve time for meals.
  2. Reserve time for sports. At morning or evening, as you prefer. If you reduce too much time for the sport, your endorphins will decrease and stress will increase.
  3. Reserve time to sleep, depending on your needs … 7, 8 or 10 hours, The sleep is SACRED!!!
  4. Count the actual hours of study per day and multiply them by the days until the exam. In general, is not possible to study and be concentrated more than 8 hours a day, but this also depends on you.
  5. Divide the hours between the different subjects. If you have enough time between exams you do not need to do this. If not, you will have to alternate the study for both subjects. You must choose the hours of study depending on the importance of the discipline:
    1. More hours for difficult subjects, those that you do not study daily or in which you have low marks in the partial exams.
    2. More hours for the exams that constitute a higher percentage of the mark.
STEP 3. SET THE HOURS IN A CALENDAR

Do it as detailed as you can. This will reduce the mental burden. It seems unimportant, but deciding every time what you are going to study takes away some energy, and you need to conserve energy for study and review. The calendar can help you, so, to control what you have already done and what you have to do at any time, you need it.

Do not forget that diversity helps you to rest your brain:

  • Change the place of study. Review walking in the park, go to the library, etc.
  • Switch between modalities of study. Read, make summaries, schemes, conceptual maps, etc.
  • Change the study posture. Standing or sitting, do not stay more than an hour in the same position. Drink water and rest your eyes.
STEP 4. START YOUR STUDY CYCLE

Organize your study cycle (that could be just like mine) and assign to it a specific time in your calendar:

  1. Read understanding. Do not go to the next word until you understand everything (sometimes you’ll have to read the full text).
  2. When you read, try to explain it to yourself. New concept, new explanation.
  3. Associate ideas among other subjects or other things (regardless of whether they are serious or not) to keep your brain focused.
  4. Read everything again and underline only the ideas you will use to create your own exam.
  5. Create an exam. As if you were the teacher. It’s okay if you do not know enough about the subject, this will help you to see what you have learnt and will stimulate your brain to stay alert and be able to retain information more quickly.
  6. Make a scheme or a conceptual map. To create a logical structure, the “skeleton”
  7. Make review cards. With two different colors (one for the front and one for the back of the card) and some A4 paper you can create as many questions as you consider necessary so you can memorize efficiently. You can use Anki. It’s great!
  8. Repeat the review cards. Not all the time, but only 10% of the time left for the exam, is a technique to never forget and which forces your brain to become more receptive. For example, if I have the exam in 7 days, that means approximately repeating every 16.8 hours. If I have it in 2 months (60 days), then once every 6 days.
  9. Repeat the concept map / scheme
  10. If you do not understand something, ask. It will be an excellent opportunity to make a possible friend (teacher or not) and be able to collaborate together.

FOLLOW THESE STEPS, INDIFFERENTLY FROM WHAT YOU ARE STUDYING AND YOU WILL BE AMAZED BY HOW EASY IS TO STUDY IF YOU DO IT WITH ANTELATION AND WITHOUT EXCEEDING YOUR POSSIBILITIES. YOU WILL FORGET WHAT STRESS MEANS IN THE EXAMS. YOUR DESIRE TO FIND A BETTER METHOD FOR STUDYING SAVED YOU.

THE AUDACIOUS WILL WIN

Cornell Method

The Cornell method was devised in the 1950s by an expert in study techniques from Cornell University, Walter Pauk.

In spite of its antiquity, this method is still widely commented today, so I thought I’d give it a chance. That’s why I’ve started to try it at conference talks. This method has two parts: A) Prepare the sheets according to a template; and B) Learn how to use the template.

A. SEPARATE A SHEET (DIN A4) IN 3 WORK AREAS

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B. LEARN HOW TO USE THIS TEMPLATE

  • Greatest to take notes in class.
  • A column to the left to write key words or phrases when reviewing the notes.
  • A bottom zone to write down a summary or key ideas of the leaf content.
  1. Take notes in class in the large area.
  2. After class (no more than 24 hours later), read it again and write questions on the left side area that are answered with the content of the notes.
  3. Recite what you read: cover the large area, read the questions and try to answer them aloud.
  4. Reflect on what has been read: meaning, general rules that apply, what relationship you have with other topics …
  5. Review each week the notes you prepared using the left area, and if necessary, make an even more concise summary in the lower area.

First problem I encounter when I use this system: I have little space to write in class. Although on the scheme it seems that there is much space, when I start writing I find it very small. That means that every hour of talk will occupy me several more pages than usual.

Nevertheless, it seems to me a success of this method to reserve spaces for abstracts and keywords. When you study something very visual that space is good to include drawings or schemes to accompany the writing in class. In fact, I usually leave a wide margin to the left precisely for that in my notes. But I find it useful to separate clearly the area of notes and the summary with a straight line, to be able to use each zone in a different way when reviewing.

If the class is somewhat confusing, you may have to use the side area to rewrite the subject, or even that you have to organize your notes or use notes of other years. At first it seems that a lot of paper is wasted, but I think if you take notes by hand it is worth it, so try the system.

If you take notes on a laptop, it is not necessary to use a special template, because then in your study time you can modify and complement the notes as much as you want depending on what software you are using. Although they say out there that taking notes on computer does not allow to retain information equally well that if you take it by hand, but that will be subject for another post.

How to use Habitica

Habitica is a very useful application to obtain necessary habits in your life, for a better organization and to become a more productive person, using simple methods like playing a role-play game where you control a character you develop. If you need the motivation to start something new and to be perseverant in it, then this is your article.

After you remove the Habits, Daily and Pendings by default, you can begin your adventure in Habitica by doing three simple steps.


STEP 1: ADD TASKS

First, add some tasks. You can add more later, as they occur to you.

  • Add those tasks you do once or rarely in the Pendings column, one by one.
  • The activities that you do daily or on some specific day add them in the Daily column. Click the pencil icon for each item to select the days for when you will do it.
  • Add the habits that you want to establish in the Habits column. Edit each habit to determine it as a good habit (+) or bad habit (-).
  • Personal “rewards” activities that you want to use as a motivation or that you want to allow in moderation can be added to the rewards column.

Bonus: If you lack inspiration, review Habits, Daily , Pendings and Rewards by default.


STEP 2: WIN POINTS FULFILLING TASKS

When completing your assignments you will earn experience points (PE) which will help you level up, as well as gold coins (GP) that will help you to buy Rewards. If you fall into some bad habit or failure to complete your Daily activities you will lose health points (HP). In that sense, the experience and health bars in Habitica will serve as a fun indicator of your progress toward your goals.


STEP 3: PERSONALIZE AND EXPLORE HABITICA

Once you are familiar with the basics you can get more out of Habitica with these great features:

  • Organize your tasks with Tags and Lists.
  • Customize your Avatar (using the user menu).
  • Purchase and change your equipment.
  • Choose a class (upon reaching Level 10) and use specific skills for her (Levels 11 to 14).
  • Connect with other users in the Tavern, a Group, Guilds or participate in a Challenge.
  • Collect pets collecting eggs and hatching potions. Feed them to create Mounts.
  • Defeat monsters and accumulate objects in Missions.
  • Enjoy your stay in the Habitica world!

A tutorial about how to quickly use Habitica (click me)