Balancing studying with research

I’m excited to be giving a research talk at the end of this month. Oh my, I am nervous because I’ve never given a talk before and I feel intimidated that I’ll be speaking in front of a room full of knowledgeable researchers and healthcare staff. I have tempted to not this because it scares me. But I know that deep down, I really want this experience. I love my research project and love talking about it so the chance to share it with people interested in hearing about it – count me in! I also think this will be a helpful learning experience to learn how to give a presentation, especially since I plan to continue academic research in my future career.

My mentor advised me that the first time you give a talk, you spend the most time making your slides and rehearsing your talk over and over until you can give your talk in your sleep. I want to give the best talk that I can so I’ve been putting a lot of effort into this.

The problem is this is the heart of final exam season. So, to make time, I woke up at 4:30 am to work on my talk. I ended up working on my talk much longer than I intended to and did not get as much biochem studying done as I planned to. As a result,  I’m going to bring up my study intensity tomorrow.

I was a bit sad after my first final exam yesterday in Physical Chemistry because I realized I did a written answer question wrong – after I handed it in. But I can’t dwell on the past if I can’t change it. I just have to focus on the next exams and do as well as I can!

I’ve always believed in trying to do the best you can when possible and would and sometimes still do feel down when I didn’t do as well I thought my studying would amount to. The further I get in my studies, the more I have become to realize that dwelling on mistakes is unproductive. Analyzing and learning from your mistakes is useful but beating yourself up over a 91 because it’s not 100% is not worth it! I hope this hasn’t come off as preachy. This is really what I wish my younger self would have known sooner and it’s something I still have to remind myself of. Don’t get me, I still wish “aw, if I didn’t make that silly error” but I get over pretty quickly compared to in the past.

I thought I was going to stop blogging when I got busier with school but strangely enough, the busier I get with school, the more I seek writing as a creative outlet. (By the way, let me know how you like the new layout of this website!)

Thank you so much for reading this little blog! I hope this brought a little peace and quiet to your busy day.

Shanna

My first MCAT full length

I did my first full-length MCAT yesterday!

For those of you also looking to write the MCAT, I used the unscored AAMC sample test.I purchased the AAMC practice bundle that includes 3 practice exams and questions banks. My wallet cried but I think the investment will be worth it.

  • Fighting fatigue during a 7.5 hour exam is really hard! I need to train my endurance. I had an interruption halfway so I  took a longer break midway than I supposed, which I regret doing because It would have been better to do the exam straight through to get the most accurate representation of my abilities. So I think my actual score would have been lower than it was.
    • To be honest, it felt brutal mentally and physically.
  • The chemical and physical section was my worst section so I need to prioritize improving this section. I need to review content for this section
    • I need to review a lot of general chemistry that I vaguely recall from 11th grade chemistry
    • I also need to learn fluids
    • I also need to learn electricity
  • CARS felt alright. Not too rushed.
  • I was surprised at how well I did on the Biology section. I had to draw on knowledge from MICB 202, BIOL 200, and BIOC 202.
  • Psych/Socio section: I need more content review.

UBC thankfully has a long weekend this weekend so I was able to spend the majority yesterday writing the full length (as well as working on our upcoming club event. Hooray!) , and a chunk of today reviewing what I got wrong.

You might be wondering why I am taking a full length so early. I think it’s important to get a feel for the exam early on rather than wait until you’ve finished all your content review first before taking an exam. I’m a first time MCAT taker so I don’t know whether this is the right philosophy. I’ll let you now after I write the real test and see my score (eek!).

I have to be productive the rest of today because I’m going with my friend Veena to the Japanese design exhibition downtown tomorrow.

Do you have any tips for writing standardized tests? Any advice about the MCAT? I’d love to hear you from you!

Cheers,

Shanna

To get better grades, I’m going to study less

I’m back! I’ve written drafts of posts for you all but haven’t had time to edit and publish lately. A lot of these post ideas have to do with struggling with school, with feeling overwhelmed by long to-do lists, feeling down after a bad grade, and more – lots of the not so sunny sides of university. I’ve been struggling lately and went to get advice and tried all sorts of methods to deal and want to share what worked with you all eventually. But for now, here’s a quick update

I just wrote an Organic Chemistry midterm today and now I feel amazing. I’m glad to be finished with my last midterm this semester. I rewarded myself with chattering about many things with Alyssa and Kevin on the way home, checking out what interesting events will be happening at UBC (I’m interested in a Science Undergraduate Society dinner, a class on how to bake wheel cake, and an application workshop for the Integrated Sciences program), and indulging in my guilty pleasure of listening to a lot of new music and reading a episode of drama. And best of all, I got to be silly with my mom. My mom just made me download WhatsApp – she’s more into social media than I am??

Anyways, I really think it’s important to take a break and relax after an exam because if you start stressing about other work right away, you’ll be constantly stressed and anxious and that’s bad for your mental health. Take a break because you deserve it. Go back to the busyness of your life feeling fully recharged.

Anyways, the main point of this post: I plan to start studying less in attempt to get better grades.

Why? I feel like I study a lot and after some reflection, I’m not studying as effectively as I could be. I strongly believe that if I fine tune my study techniques, I can get the same results from studying a third of the amount that I’ve been studying. Don’t get me wrong- I want to get the best grades I can. I want to learn the maximum amount I can while I’m in university. I do enjoy studying. But this past round of midterms, I was so focused on studying that I let my sleep, fitness, eating habits, attention to my family, and my excitement for life and learning disappear. The first three – I’m okay with sacrificing but the last three, I am not okay with that. Those are important to me and I want to protect them. Those who have graduated tell them that university years should be the source of fond memories and if you’re not happy and feel like you’re miserable everyday and are wishing that the semester is over, you’re not creating the experience that you should be creating for yourself. So study hard and efficiently and make the most of your time to make an impact in your community outside of your classes, challenge yourself and have a good time!

What I plan to do:

  1. Restrict the amount of time I allow myself to study in one day.
  2. Cut up long study sessions in shorter ones. 2-3 hours sessions rather than 5+ hours stretches.
  3. I need to listening to music less while I study. This is going to be really tough for me so I will allow myself to cave and listen to music while I’m doing more low focus studying.

Why do I think studying less will help me get better grades

  1. I’ll be more efficient if I have limited time. – I’ll be least tempted to daydream or endlessly scroll social media).
  2. Focus degrades with time and my focus limit is 3 hours. As much as I would love to say that I can focus for 8 hours straight, I can’t.
  3. I love music so so much and always want to study with music playing. I’ve always had the sneaking suspicion that music was decreasing my focus but after experimenting with and without music, it unfortunately seems that I study better without music. I’m sad but I’m justifying that if I study more efficiently and can get away for a smaller amount of time, then I enjoy music freely when I’m not studying e.g. while cleaning or exercising.

I’m a big nerd and I love my studying and thinking about how to study better so hope this post didn’t bore you.

Thanks for reading!