Test Taking Strategies: The Brain Dump

brain dump

The MCAT, USMLE and COMLEX. There is a good reason that this alphabet soup strikes fear into potential physicians. Performing well on these exams is critical to getting into the medical school and residency of your choosing. There are many test taking strategies out there ranging from the worthwhile to the ridiculous. Today I want to share with you an extremely effective strategy that I have used for many years. I call it “The Brain Dump”.

I’m surprised more people don’t do this because the concept is exceedingly simple (maybe they do and I just don’t realize it, eyes on your own paper people!). The concept is this. Pretty much every exam you will ever take will either be ON paper or provide you WITH scrap paper. Take advantage of this! Memorize a set of facts that you know WILL be on the test or are difficult to remember and be able to “Brain Dump” them on this scrap paper.

braindump2Here is exactly how I do it. The day before a test I review my notes and identify concepts I think will be tricky for me on the test. An example of this would be something like the MEN syndromes or the viscerosomatic reflexes for you osteopaths out there. These aren’t difficult concepts, they just require rote memorization. This is perfect fodder for a brain dump. I then organize exactly what I want to know and try to create mnemonics or order it in such a way that I can easily recreate it time after time. You have now created a study guide of some of the most difficult material on the test.

The morning of test day I re-create this study sheet a few times just to make sure I remember it. Here’s the important part, when you walk into the test and sit down you “dump” all of the contents of your “brain” on your scrap paper (hence why I call it a “brain dump”). There you have it, you now have a resource to refer to for some of the most difficult material on the exam. You’re welcome.

mnemonicThis is one of my favorite test taking strategies because the concept is simple as shit and it works for every test you will ever take. Taking a 6 or 8 hour test plays tricks on your mind. Things you once were sure about quickly become hazy. Give it a shot, it is by far the most efficient thing you can be doing on the day before a test.

What unique test taking strategies do you use?


Test Taking Strategies: The Brain Dump — 3 Comments

  1. YES! I have been doing this for years as well! It is the only way I can clear my head before I can start answering questions! Do you know if there has been any research posted on the subject that proves that this is an effective test taking method? Would love to look more into the concept.

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