Wednesday, September 24, 2008


Put this on your next shopping list: 3" x 5" index cards. Index cards will become your best friend when it comes time to study for your exams.

I used index cards in several different ways while in college. Depending on the material you need to master, you may want to use both sides of the index card, with perhaps a word on one side with its definition on the reverse side or a question on one side and its answer on the reverse side. Using Pharmacology class as an example, I would put "Beta Blocker" on one side of the card and on the reverse side I would list all the information I needed to know about Beta Blockers for my exam.

Another way to use index cards is to put main points from your lecture notes on one side of the card. This is especially effective if you use colored index cards and use all one color for similiar material. Once that material is mastered, you easily can eliminate that color from your deck of index cards.

The best way to begin using index cards is to FILL OUT THE INDEX CARD AFTER EACH LECTURE CLASS. If the professor stressed a particular point, you write up a card. Did the professor write something on the blackboard, you write up a card. Did the professor say, "You will see this again", then you write up a card on that item. Also if there are terms in bold print in your textbook, most professors will test on them so write up an index card on those terms.

The point is, if you expect it will be on a test, write an index card using as few words as possible to explain the term, concept, or material. I normally title the index card with what concept I'm explaining and then use bullet points. Here's an example (pretend it's on an index card!):


  • Looking for angina

  • Diagnose unexplained heart pain

  • Determine how much damage has been done to heart

  • All patients have injection of Thallium and xray, after exercise, more Thallium

That's it. I want to be able to look at the card and quickly get the information I need to know. If you write too much on each card, it's too overwhelming and you won't be able to quickly memorize the information.

If you write your index cards up after each class, the next step is to shuffle through your cards several times a day. As you are able to basically verbalize the points listed on the index card, that card can be removed from your pack. As time goes on, your pack of cards should become smaller until you only have the most difficult material left to master.

Before your exam, put all of your index cards back in the pack and go through them a few times to refresh yourself. If you follow this method, you will force yourself to study for a small amount of time each day or so and you will have NO NEED TO CRAM the night before a test.

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