Sunday, September 9, 2012

Tips to Strenghthen my Study Skills from an Expert

I attended the UCLA's Med-Pep's pre-health conference yesterday.  I went to the "Study Skills" workshop led by Dr. Doyle. I met Dr. Lawrence "Hy" Doyle when he was a speaker at Cerritos College CCM (Chicanos and Latinos for Community Medicine) back in 2003 or so. Back then, I was so thankful for what he taught us. His goal was to help increase the number of unrepresented minorities in medical school by helping us study for those challenging science classes and the MCAT (Medical School Admissions Test).

Back in 2003, I knew him as just "Hy Doyle" and yesterday I saw in the program his name was followed by an Ed.D degree. (Later I did some of my own research and I saw he has earned his doctorate in 2004!). I have learned so many things from Dr. Doyle, such as: eating a balanced breakfast, getting enough sleep and improving my memory by reviewing material; periodically to improve put study skills and master test-taking.

It was so good to attend his workshop yesterday. I had such great memories when I was a student and CCM'er at Cerritos where my academic journey began....Whoo! I can't believe I have come this far. Back when I was 22, I had no idea what was ahead of me...

I once longed to go to medical school, but soon I discovered that it wasn't for me. I learned about Public Health and realized that is my calling in life. My purpose today, then, is not to take the MCAT (phew!), but the GRE (Graduate Record Exam) for admissions to a Ph.D in public health. The workshop Dr. Doyle's led helped me once again and reassured me that I can master the exam by following his tips. These were his main points:
  1. "Sleep well."
  2. "Eat related to the test. Eat protein and some carbohydrates."
  3. "Do a test analysis to figure out why you chose that answer."
I am not an expert on study skills-- I have some challenges I need to overcome myself; however, I think that the first 2 tips need further explanation. In fact, I'd add a #3 tip before the "Do a test analysis" one. Here is my interpretation of them and what I would suggest to other students:

1. "Sleep well". Get sufficient quality sleep. Each person's needs vary and are between 6 to 9 hours. Find out what's good for your body. To find out, for a couple of weeks jot down in a journal your bedtime and the time you wake. Also take not how you feel in the morning. Have a consistent sleeping schedule, pencil it in.

  • I have an alarm clock that goes off at 9pm that tells me it's "BEDTIME!" and it's a cue for me to get ready for bed (i.e., washing bed, brushing teeth, etc.). I have to admit I don't always follow it, but it is a good tool to get me to bed on time!

2. "Eat related to the test." I would say, eat well all of the time, not just the day the test. Do your best to nourish your body with nutritious, wholesome foods. Eating a healthy and well balanced diet will give you the energy you need to get a good study session in. Eating well will also help you have energy through out your bust day you be at your best.

  • Honestly, you don't need meat or dairy to satisfy your "protein intake." You only need about 10% of your daily calories to be protein. Eat good sources of protein that come from legumes, preferably. Legumes are lentils, beas, chickpeas, peas,  and plant-milks.It is impossible not to get sufficient protein on a healthy and balanced diet-- a plant-based diet to be exact.
  • As far as "some carbohydrates", let me explain.... You don't need just "some carbs"; you need the BEST carbohydrates in your body.  These best carbs are whole grains and starchy vegetables, such as, sweet potatoes, carrots, and other root veggies. Carbohydrates are great source of energy and the only source of energy that our brains use. 

Fruits and vegetables are also a great source of protein, carbohydrates,  vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, water, lots of fiber and so much more! These should be staples in your diet EVERY DAY! Fruits and veggies are magnificent!

Stay away from refined/simple carbs-- they will only spike your sugar and make you crash fast!
Check out: The Importance of Breakfast
  • Start off with a hearty breakfast every day that will fuel your body and mind. Great breakfast ideas are: oatmeal, fruit and nuts; slice of wheat bread, beans and veggies; 1/2 bagel with peanut butter and a banana. You can also add 1 glass of plant-milk to accompany your meal :)

3. "Exercise." When you break a sweat and get your heart pumping you increase blood flow to your muscles and brain. Your brain needs oxygen to think right and focus for an awesome study session.

  • Exercise 3-4 times a week or move as much as you can. Move more: park farther, go up the stairs instead of taking the elevator, stand more instead of sitting; and when standing,  do calf raises. Do whatever you can on a regular basis. Make it a habit!
He talked about ho ours memory declines with each passion hour, day and weeks--and months! In order to retain information, we need to constantly review it! He also stressed on the importance of being healthy and become a good test-taker
Wow, thank God that over time I've developed these good habits. It's kind of like second nature to me now to sleep enough. eat right, and exercise frequently. Since I first met Dr. Doyle's in 2003, I have tried so hard to disciplined myself to be my best so I can get the most of my studying-- and I have to say I have improved so much. However, I still lack the skill of being able to focus and narrow my focus when I study. I just need to learn how to focus and study well.

One more thing I need to work on is #4: doing the Test Analysis that Hy Doyle recommended. A test analysis will help me figure out why I chose the answers I did, whether they're right or wrong. It will help me find my thinking patterns and figure test-taking strategies for success. I need to do this during my preparation for the GRE to be qualified to apply to PhD programs next year. But before I start preparing though, I need to hone my focus-- and that is my biggest challenge.

At the end of Dr. Doyle's talk I asked him, "What do you think about ADHD?" He said that, "It could be real. You just need to learn what works for you and learn to cut out distractions." (I am sure he knew that it was me who has ADHD :(

After we talk I was ready to get my GRE studying on! I'm going to do my best each and every day until I get it right. I'll get disciplined, study hard and just do my best. I'm going to kick that GRE's butt and I will score high! This is the biggest barrier I face to getting in a doctoral program, but I am determined to do well on this exam!

Okay, now back to working on my focus! Here's to the fitness of my Mind.....




  1. Thanks, Erika! I actually am now working n my thesis right now. Once that task is done, the I'll go off and hide at a library to study for the GRE :) Do you have any plans to take it any time soon?