Three is a magic number in dental school. Everybody knows that. When it comes to studying in dental school, three is the number you should aim for if you want to give yourself the best opportunity for success. Anything you have to read, read it at least three times. Any set of practice test questions you have to review, do it three times.
When I was in undergrad, once was usually enough for anything. I’d review something, read it slowly, understand it, and do pretty well on the tests. When I got to dental school, that didn’t work anymore and I had to budget my time and study habits accordingly. I learned how to study much faster and more efficiently so that I would be able to review all materials intensely at least three times before any exam. Once through the notes, I got nothing. Second time around, I was filling in the gaps. Third time around, I knew it.
When it comes to your preclinical work, practicing at least three times for any practical examination might not be sufficient, but three can still come in handy. Let’s say you’ve been working on something for a while and need to critically assess where you are at. Three things. Find three things at a time to fix, fix them, then evaluate again. If you try to fix less than three things at once, you might start going in circles. If you try to take on more than three things at once, on a wax up, for instance, you might become overwhelmed and not accomplish anything. Fix three things at a time. I still do this when I’m evaluating my own clinical work.
My third tip for studying doesn’t have to do with the number three, but it is number related, and it has to do with odds. Let’s say you read my blog a little too late and there’s not enough time to go through all of the notes and review questions three times. What do you do? Strategize! Let’s say there’s ten lectures on an exam and the exam is 50 questions. That’s five questions per lecture. Take each lecture and pick about seven or eight facts/principles that will likely be on the exam. You know how dental school exams are, always asking the most miniscule little detail about something. With practice, you’ll see them coming a mile away on each lecture. Be careful, this method has both saved me and burned me, so use with caution! Good luck to you, and enjoy your time in dental school because you will cherish it forever.