Developing study strategies for dental school

One of the most challenging parts of being a first-year dental student has been figuring out the most efficient and effective study strategies. Unlike in college, in dental school, you are expected to study large amounts of material in short periods of time. For example, a 10-question quiz on two weeks of material for one class might be on 200–300 PowerPoint slides. Is it possible to study this much material, or possibly more for every class, while still doing well? Yes, it is!

Although the curriculum moves quickly, and you are expected to retain a lot of information, with efficient study strategies in place, academic success both short-term and long-term is possible. Find the most effective strategies for your personal success, as different strategies work for different people. Here’s what worked for me.

Create a study plan, and stick with it. Do you study best by making flashcards and reviewing them every day? Do you rewrite your notes? Do you like to read through the textbook? Creating a plan allows you to organize your studying and make the most out of every day. After a full day of classes, studying for a few hours is all that is manageable to avoid burnout. Maximize this time by planning what to cover. Buy a planner and write in all your quiz, exam and clinical assessment dates, and plan what to study every day according to that. Knowing what assessments are upcoming each week has helped me tailor my studying on a weekly basis.

Study in a quiet space. The material we are taught in dental school is detailed and requires a lot of memorization for long-term retention. A quiet study space will allow you to understand and retain information better and learn challenging information in shorter periods of time.

Know what distracts you. Turn your cellphone to airplane mode and keep it out of sight. Close out of websites such as Facebook, Netflix or YouTube. This will help you avoid the temptation of checking your phone and being distracted. You know yourself best, so make sure you are aware of what is distracting and cutting into your study time.

Create a small study group and teach each other. Get together with a group of three or four classmates after you all have reviewed the material for an exam, and take turns teaching each other difficult concepts. If you are able to accurately “teach” your classmate a concept from memory, it’s more likely you will remember it for the exam.

Review. Always leave time in your study plan to review during the couple days before the exam. The more you see the material before being tested on it, the better. It also will help you remember the information you studied and allow you to be more confident on the day of the assessment.

I hope you find these study strategies helpful and can make them your own. Happy studying!

~ Joan Daniel, New England ’22

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About Joan Daniel

A Massachusetts native, Joan Daniel currently is a first-year student at the University of New England (UNE) in Portland, Maine. She's an active member of her chapter, serves as an admissions ambassador for predental interview days and works at the recreation center on campus. Joan loves photography, traveling, spending time with family and friends, and trying new coffee shops.

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