How I Use Cheat Sheets to Ace Tests

As a medical student, I was struggling with the sheer volume of information that I needed to learn. The amount of knowledge that was covered and then tested on our exams was massive, and I was constantly running out of time to study everything for them.

I’m in my third year of med school, I found something that has helped significantly – cheat sheets. My brain can only retain so much information at a time. Distilling the most important facts onto one sheet has made my life feel much easier. Here’s how I use them for tests:

Step 1: I read all the information that will be on the test. Or most of the information, since I have to be honest and say that sometimes I can’t get to literally all of the lectures and materials covered.

Step 2: I go back and pick out what I think is the most vital, high-yield information that I can put on my cheat sheet. When I say high-yield, I mean that if I know this base of information, then I can use it to problem-solve my way to the right answer.

Step 3: I make my cheat sheet. I try to make it look nice, and I’m strict about it fitting onto one piece of paper, front and back. I use a lot of diagrams, since I find information easier to remember in picture form, and I use different colours on the page to make it stand out. Also, if the exam has multiple topics, I’ll make one for each. For instance, we had a big cardiology plus nephrology exam, so I definitely needed two cheat sheets.

Step 4: I review my cheat sheet at least 3 times before the exam, and one of those times is the night before the exam.

Step 5: Celebrate acing the test!

I would use this method if I had to do the CASPer® test again. Things I would include (although this may be different for everyone) would be ethical principles, why I want to be a doctor, my strengths and weaknesses, and a list of a few current events that I could use in examples.

I hope this helps, and good luck!