DS1 Study Habits

First of all, I apologize in advance to blog followers (my predentals!) that I’ve been so MIA. I took NBDE Part I on July 1st and since then, have been chugging away at my operative amalgam restorations and ISTR gold crown preps. It’s been a tough few weeks without time for blogging. Not only that, the Colorado ASDA Predental* Academy started a couple weeks ago! Getting to meet some of you in person makes me smile 🙂

*I’ve been asked to begin stylizing “pre-dental” as “predental.” Consistency is key and from here on out, will be dropping the dash. Weird, but it was a request.

Recently, I’ve partnered up with Dr. Rabe, a CU microbiologist and immunologist that just happens to teach both of those subjects in the CU DS1 curriculum AND is a CC grad. In the wise words of Dr. Rabe, “NEATO!” I met Dr. Rabe about midway through my first semester at CU, though I wish I’d met her even earlier. She has a PhD in education and a knack for helping students determine the best way of note-taking and studying for them. Thankfully, she will be delivering her magical presentation to the first years in the class of 2021 in only a few short weeks when orientation begins.

This year, I will be Dr. Rabe’s tutor and a teaching assistant of some sort for her immunology and microbiology classes, credit-hour heavy courses in the DS1 curriculum – they’re worth 1.9 and 3.1 credits, respectively. This year, immunology will be taught during the fall semester, instead of the spring, though.

I have been asked to write a blog detailing my personal study habits and tips from my DS1 year – that being said, it’s pretty key to note that what works best for me may not (read *probably*) won’t be best for you. Study habits are so unique to each individual, and Dr. Rabe has collected anecdotes of several of my classmates as well to account for such differences. They’ll be delivered during orientation week, which I sadly (lol no I’m going to COSTA RICA!) cannot attend.

The vast majority of lectures given at CU involve a Powerpoint presentation. Most of the time, professors and guest lecturers upload files to the class Canvas page and students have access to the Powerpoint ahead of time. This is key. I always download my Powerpoint lectures in advance and save them to pre-made folders on my laptop. It saves quite a bit of time and prevents any sort of last minute scrambling before the lecture actually begins.

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I take all of my lecture notes on my computer, annotating directly on the Powerpoint slides with red text. This helps me to highlight key concepts and statements. Rarely will I type, word-for-word what the lecturer is saying, I find it to be too dense to parse through at the end. I know some of my classmates type directly into the Powerpoint “Click for notes” box at the bottom of every slide. However, I personally dislike the relative inaccessibility to those notes compared to having them placed where they are relevant on the slide itself.

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Often times, the lecturer will include a list of learning objectives in either the syllabus or preceding the Powerpoint. Most of the time, I will complete these learning objectives right after the lecture is delivered, or that night. If not, I complete them before I begin studying for the exams. I’ve found that learning objectives underscore the most crucial parts of the lecture and explicitly enumerate what I actually need to know vs. the fluff included in the lecture that may not be relevant. Ideally, in a world where dental students have unlimited time, it’d be nice to read the learning objectives ahead of time to better hone your ears for important points during lecture, but time is simply of the essence in dental school.

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When I begin studying for an exam, I’ll print off my extensive pages of learning objectives (you’ll quickly learn that dental school exams span weeks of material and borderline insane amounts of content) and annotate by hand. It’s a well-known fact that the muscle memory gained from hand-writing notes is immensely helpful for brain memory and information retention. I’ll go back to Powerpoint lectures and parse through my notes, underlining and rewriting on my learning objective pages where I see fit. Many times, professors will hold reviews before exams to refresh your memory and often, feed you the most important information to know for exams. Always go.

Last word: Many students in my class love Panopto, a recording software we use in class to record all of our lectures, if the professor deems it appropriate. Personally, I rarely use Panopto and try to save it for instances that I completely zone out and fail to hear something important (which unfortunately tends to happen during pre-test reviews). Why? It takes a lot of time. Yes, you can watch the lecture at 2x speed and sometimes it’s funny listening to Alvin the Chipmunk give you a lecture on the kidney, but I’ve found that re-watching a lecture does not aid in information retention for me.

Still looking for additional study tips? One of my classmates, Seth, put together a YouTube playlist of videos that he swears by. Upon watching a few of them, they offer a pretty good study primer for DS1 and beyond. Check the playlist here.

*Also, don’t you just love the featured image? It’s one week in from the CU fall 2016 schedule. Ok yes it is the comprehensive schedule for all students here (DS1-4, ISP1-2), but it does look rather intimidating, no?

~ Colleen

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