by KEVIN KUO
I attended the University of Michigan School of Dentistry a few years ago from 2010 to 2014. It was my favorite four years of my life. I had a wonderful experience meeting lifelong friends, bettering myself, and of course, learning dentistry. I must admit, and not sugarcoat; it was certainly a tough four years. However, I was able to manage and navigate our intense training successfully, and I would love to share some of my experiences to help new dental students succeed as well.
In this blog, I am going to explain my top 4 tips to best study while in dental school.
1) REVIEW THE PRESENTATION THE NIGHT BEFORE
This is something I wished I would have done more often while I was in dental school. Too often, I wasted valuable, and expensive, lecture time not paying attention and thinking more about what I wanted to eat for lunch and dinner. Reviewing the notes before the lecture really helps you maximize your learning experience while in lecture and prepare your mind to learn. By reading prior to the lecture, you can study at your own pace and look-up areas where you need more clarification. In other words, your primary learning time is actually at this time. The lecture will then be a time of repetition, clarification, and supplementation. You can also be more active during the lecture by asking specific and noteworthy questions now that you are more prepared.
2) TYPE NOTES IN POWERPOINT
This is the easiest and most common way to take notes. My classmates and I often just open the PowerPoint presentations and type under the slides in the presenter notes section. This use is not why Microsoft designed this feature as it is more for the presenter and not for the audience. Although simple and "off-label", I really do feel like this is still the best way to take notes. This method gives the learner the most amount of repetition with visual cues (graphs, pictures, drawing, etc). To put simply, if you follow Tip #1, you will have studied the same material three times--before the lecture, during the lecture, and most importantly, after the lecture. This repetition will certainly help with recall and recognition for exams, boards, and clinical practice.
Now logistically, Tip #2 can be hindered when the faculty lecturer releases PDF versions of their presentations instead. This file type has been increasingly popular with faculty to prevent plagiarism, which is understandable. Luckily, there are several free "PDF to PPT converters" online. A quick Google search will give you plenty of options.
3) CONVERT POWERPOINT INTO PDF
"Wait, what?! But you just said ..."
Yes, Tip #3 is not a typo. Converting the PowerPoint with your typed notes into a PDF is easier for you to study after the lecture at home. The most important detail is to convert with the "Notes pages". You can do this by going to:
PC: File > Export > Create PDF > Publish
Mac: File > Export
With a PDF, you can more easily pinch zoom in and out over the slides where there are graphs, pictures, and other small details. Most laptop these days have touch screens, which is especially convenient with this method of studying slides. Tablets and 2-in-1 laptops are optimized in this manner too.
4) Read associated books and articles
This is the most important tip!
With Tips #1-3, you can actually score really well on exams. However, your recall of the information later, especially when you are practicing, can be incomplete. My recall from dental school, and even college, is actually very good. I attribute my good recall all to reading numerous books and online articles. Reading narratives better piece complex information together--much better than trying to memorize individual slides that are mostly incoherent. During dental school, I actually bought several books and kept many books from my college days. I was able to read them while following lecture slides. Nowadays, there are a myriad of great online articles and sources too.
Watch the corresponding video about this topic here on KevinKuoProductions YouTube Channel.