The Science of Reverse Studying

The Science of Reverse Studying

Reverse psychology, reverse parking, reverse transcriptase- but have you heard of reverse studying? With tons of students all over the world constantly studying with the end goal of passing their exams, reverse studying might sound like a counter-productive concept. I’m here to tell you that that’s not the case at all. On the contrary, reverse studying might be the most productive way* for getting a big bulk of your syllabus done.

*of course, it might not work that way for everyone. After all, we all learn differently, so while one method may work really well for me, it might not work well for you. So if this method doesn’t appeal to you, that’s completely fine!

Reverse Studying Study Methods Studyblr

First of all, what is reverse studying? It’s basically studying, but in reverse. Usually in schools and universities, learning is taught in a rather predictable format: lectures and demonstrations, followed by tests and exams. A lot of students follow the same routine too, by first covering all of their syllabus and content before attempting past papers and other exercises.

Some universities, and even schools, have been changing the format up by having pre-tests before lectures and demonstrations followed by a post-test afterwards, but we won’t really be talking about that in this post.

Reverse studying is basically the opposite: attempting past papers and using the exam questions to study specific topics.

It might seem like a strange thing to do but it’s actually a very efficient way of covering important topics from the exam’s point of view. Instead of studying the content on your own and being unsure of what to focus on, working backwards is a great way to make sure you cover exam specific topics. You’ll get a great idea of what topics are really important, based on how often questions from that topic pop up, and you’ll be very familiar with all the different ways the exam can test you. 

Arguably, it’s also much more efficient if you’re looking at the exam format for the first time. If you were to spend weeks studying an entire syllabus before attempting an exam paper, you would probably find yourself stumped. That’s okay! It happens to the best of us! 

In fact, it has happened far too many times for comfort for me. Med school has a vast, almost endless syllabus, and I’ve realized that in order to pass the exam, charting the entire sea isn’t going to work. What students need is a map and that’s exactly what past papers are.

I remember during my A Levels, I used to have big, thick books of printed past papers. Even then, I used to reverse study, however, A Levels would have at least a month or two before the exams. And that’s how I decided to change things up a bit with reverse studying. 

I used to take the book and split it neatly in half. The last half (the older past papers) were the ones I would reverse study on. Often, the entire booklet would have at least five or so years worth of past papers, so questions and content would repeat enough to give me a pretty good idea of what topics the exam loved to ask.

Once I was done with half of the book, I would solve the rest of the papers (the most recent ones) exactly the way I would in the exam. I would sit down at the table, turn on a stop watch and time myself while solving the entire paper. 

By the time the actual official exam rolled around, I felt pretty confident in my ability to solve it! 

While I’m not in A Levels anymore and the same kind of tactic can’t be used in med school (but it’s definitely the most popular way to study for the USMLE), reverse studying is probably one of the major reasons I’m passing  my exams. It’s simple, efficient and makes you feel familiar with the exam when it comes around.

My next exam is scheduled for the 3rd and 5th of April and I’ve been hard at work with my reverse studying! I’ve been uploading on my other instagram, in case you want to stay updated with my study schedule! While I haven’t been really writing captions, I plan on sharing study objectives and personal feedback on future posts!

Thanks for reading! Good luck studying!


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