I was super frustrated when I was taking my biochem class in undergrad. It seemed like no matter how hard I tried to memorize these metabolic pathways, I just couldn’t get it down. I was in a study group with two of my friends and classmates and although they were trying their best to break it down for me, it still wasn’t making any sense.
A few days before my that biochem final, it finally hit me. My way of studying for my classes needed to change. Memorizing for the sake of memorizing rather than understanding was not going to work anymore. I was already on course to fail the class and I was getting disheartened.
As I sat in my room, studying on my own, I found myself staring and staring at my notes trying to make sense until finally, it clicked. It was a subtle shift for me but one that impacted the way I studied after that – I realized that if I made a story out of the Krebs cycle and whatever else we were covering that quarter, it suddenly made sense. Compounds could be modified only in a specific chain reaction in order to achieve the desired end result. There was a ‘story’ of sorts in the biochemical reaction where things had to follow in a step by step fashion in order to work. For some reason, translating this cycle into a ‘story’ made it make sense to me for the first time all quarter and I was able to pass the class easily after excelling on the final exam.
In high school and early college classes, it was really a lot easier to just memorize a bunch of things and let it all back out for exams and move on. However, optometry school has courses and concepts that continue to build upon previously learned material. Straight memorization will not cut it and you’re going to be required to put anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, optics, behavioral health, psychology, and more all together in order to help the patient in your chair. The sooner you can solidify your foundation in basic concepts, the easier it will be to integrate it all later when you’re faced with increasingly complex patients in front of you.
But does that mean I recommend you should make a story out of your material when you try to study? If it works for you, great. If not, try something else. I had classmates who re-wrote their notes, color-coded, and organized their thoughts in a more pattern like way. Other classmates thrived in study groups and being able to bounce off their learning points with others. I personally needed a quiet, clear space to concentrate most of the time, but found study groups or office hours to be helpful when I needed extra clarification.
The point is to recognize early on what doesn’t work and figure out what does. You don’t want to go through your whole optometric education, come to boards, and realize that the fundamentals aren’t solid and you were just repeating facts this entire time rather than understanding why. You’ll get much more out of your education this way.