Jonas Olsen took a master’s in medicine at the University of Copenhagen and will start his PhD at Roskilde Hospital in December 2016. We asked him to offer his advice to students based on his experience.
# 1: Choose a small study group
"I started out with a study group of 5-6 people. It did not work so well because we were just too many people to talk about the material. So I set up a new study group with a fellow student, where we were only the two of us to review the curriculum. It worked much better for me, because we could really get down into the material."
# 2: Don’t choose your best friend as your study buddy
"At the start of my study programme I was in a study group with my best friends. But it often ended up with us playing computer games and drinking beer. So I teamed up with a good reading buddy who I got on with socially, but who was not my best friend. Then we really started working!"
# 3: Set up times with your group, so you actually get out
"Up to my exams I made a deal with a fellow student that we would meet every day at 9 am. If we didn’t meet on time, you owed a beer after graduation. It meant that we both got up and worked together. I ended up only owing 2 beers while my study buddy owed me 4, so it was very effective.
"Up to my exams I made a deal with a fellow student that we would meet every day at 9 am. If we didn’t meet on time, you owed a beer after graduation. "
# 4: Give priority to your social life
"Many new students say, when they start their study programme, 'now I will only focus on my studies'. But I think you get better at structuring your time and get more motivated by also taking the time to be a part of a community."
# 5: A good network can get you really far
"I got into a really good network through my study programme, and they helped me get a student job, housing, cheaper books and alot more."
"Often about 10 per cent fail at the start of the study programme. So I have a rule of thumb: If you look around you in class and spot two students that know less of the curriculum than you do, then you are probably on the safe side for the exam.”
# 6: For your career, your grade is not everything
"Of course it is cool to get the [maximum Danish grade, ed.] 12 and less cool to get a 02. But having said that, I don’t think it is only the good grades that get you the good career. It is equally important to get yourself a good student job and to associate with your fellow students along the way. "
# 7: Focus on yourself not on all your fellow students
"You can’t be best at everything. So I advise you to look at yourself and your own performance when you evaluate yourself. You quickly get demotivated if you compare yourself to all your fellow students. Be yourself! This will get you the farthest."
# 8: Make friends across semesters
"It is a good idea, both socially and academically, to have friendships across the younger and older study years. You can help each other and at the same time get help with the curriculum and the assignments."
"I do not think that grades mean that much. And if you take on this attitude, the study environment turns into a common project”
# 9: Yes you will pass the exam
"I usually say to students of medicine that they will most likely pass their exam. Often about 10 per cent fail at the start of the study programme. So I have a rule of thumb: If you look around you in class and spot two students that know less of the curriculum than you do, then you are probably on the safe side for the exam”.
# 10: Don’t postpone the reading until the exam
"I did lots of other stuff, and no reading at the beginning of the semester, and then studied with a vengeance with one month left to the exam. But I enjoyed life more the few times when I was not under all this pressure up to the exams. So do something different: Read moderately throughout the year to avoid the worst exam stress."
# 11: You gain nothing from your fellow students failing
"I do not think that grades mean that much. And if you take on this attitude, the study environment turns into a common project. You get no benefit from your fellow students failing an exam. In medicine, we help each other with facebook groups and websites where we share notes and compendiums."
"If you only think of the exam and your grade, you quickly forget the relevance of it all"
# 12: Focus on the subject itself and not on the grade
"I've got all my grades, and this is enough. Instead of focusing on passing the exam, I've focused on becoming a good doctor. It has made it more exciting, and it has made me proud of knowing the profession. If you only think of the exam and your grade, you quickly forget the relevance of it all."
# 13: Get some good friends on your study programme
"It has been really important to me that I had good friends on my study programme. This meant that it wasn’t a chore to attend school, but just nice to go over and meet up with some friends."