Best Techniques to Improve Your Reading Comprehension for Medical School | Iris Reading
Best Techniques to Improve Your Reading Comprehension for Medical School

Best Techniques to Improve Your Reading Comprehension for Medical School

Best Techniques to Improve Your Reading Comprehension for Medical School

Interleaving and active learning are the best techniques to enhance reading comprehension in medical school. Taking a memory course and elaborative interrogation will assist you in applying knowledge in real life. 

Medical school is challenging with complex and immense information. Reading and comprehending all the information can be tough. 

Memorizing all the content in your medical books is good. However, comprehension beats memorization since you can apply knowledge in real-life situations. 

Are you struggling to read and comprehend content from your medical books?

This article will break down top techniques to improve your reading comprehension for medical school. 

1. Active learning

Active learning involves rigorously engaging with medical texts. Active engagement in books is asking questions, testing the author’s books, rereading uncomprehended texts, and linking knowledge to prior knowledge. 

High-level writing and the excess content in medical books make reading strenuous. Hence using only the rereading method will not help you comprehend the texts. 

Active reading engages your mind and helps you interact with medical texts before and after reading. It helps you comprehend and retain information. 

Many learners use techniques that don’t engage the brain, such as copying notes by word or scanning through books. Without active engagement, these strategies won’t bring retention and understanding. 

But active reading has techniques that engage your mind and force it to understand the texts.

Below are the steps for active reading before, during, and after text:

Before reading

  • Have a goal: Are you writing an essay, reading for an assignment, or a multiple-choice exam? It’s necessary to figure out the information you need to comprehend after reading.
  • Incorporate prior knowledge: Think about the knowledge you have on the texts you’re about to read. Note down your second-hand knowledge or personal experiences that relate to your text.
  • Scan the text- Preview the diagrams, headings, summaries, pictures, bold words, tables, and critical questions in the text.  Also, go through the intros and conclusions to comprehend the main idea.  
  • Break texts into chunks: Break the parts you want to read into manageable chunks while taking 5-15 minute breaks in between to enhance focus and comprehension.

During reading

Active reading reduces distractions, mind-wandering and confusion. The following techniques will help you focus on the text:

  • Self-monitoring: If your mind drifts, stop and consider your needs. You can play background music, change your environment, or engage in activities that increase concentration.
  • Annotating: Note down significant points and unclear words, phrases, or keywords.
  • Summarize: Write down key details in your own words after going through a few paragraphs.
  • Ask questions: Use critical thinking questions to engage your brain, such as the features of a specific object?

After reading

It’s crucial to use strategies to enhance understanding and remember what you read long-term:

  • Self-check your comprehension: Check what you understood by cross-referencing the text you read with easier writings on the same topic. You can also discuss with your peers.
  • List what you know: Outline what you read in the text from your memory by listing the main concepts. Go back to the text to see what you missed.
  • Investigate further: If the text isn’t clear, locate other resources that can help you understand the text.
  • Self-test: Use flashcards that you create to test your reading knowledge. It will help you realize what you remember and understand.

2. Interleaving

Interleaving involves learning different topics together to enhance understanding. For instance, when preparing for a medical exam, you mix up different questions instead of one type of question at a time.

Blocked learning is the opposite of interleaving. Blocked learning is a specific practice where you focus on one topic at a time.

Interleaving facilitates learning in different domains, including academic and other fields. The interleaving effect is a psychological phenomenon in which you know more efficiently when you interleave instead of practicing blocked learning.

Advantages of interleaving

A study on the meta-analysis of interleaved learning and its moderators shows that interleaving boosts information retention and enhances mastery of your abilities.

Here’s how interleaving can boost learning:

  • Mixing two tasks boosts performance on the activities than practicing each activity individually.
  • Interleaving examples while studying different sections boosts technical skills.
  • Learning different concepts decreases confusion that comes up from studying matching ideas simultaneously.

Interleaving also improves your ability to focus, notice mistakes, and set goals. Mixing up concepts forces your mind to recall continually, leading to long-term retentions. You will easily differentiate concepts, and transfer learned knowledge.

How to use interleaving

It is crucial to know which material to interleave and how to interleave it because the technique is not suitable in all situations. If you want to interleave effectively, decide what to interleave and how to interleave.

What to interleave

There are guidelines to keep in mind when deciding which concepts or questions to interleave:

  • Use logical criteria: If you aim to avoid being confused by medical terms that look similar, pick a criterion that helps you. For example, you can look at the spelling of each word that looks similar.
  • Avoid interleaving concepts or items that are incredibly similar. Interleaving items that are too similar feels like blocked practice. It will not be beneficial for long-term memory.
  • Refrain from interleaving concepts that are incredibly different. Interleaving can hinder learning if the subjects or topics are too different.
  • Interleave related concepts: For example, you can interleave cardiology and pulmonology (i.e., study cardiology today and pulmonology tomorrow).

Decide how to interleave

Now that you know what to interleave, the next step is to decide how to interleave. You need to consider how often to interleave and which pattern to use.

It would help if you decided which interleaving practice works best for you. 

For instance, when going through questions, you can ensure different questions follow each other. Or answer three similar questions at a time.

As for the pattern, you can interleave systematically or randomly. Let’s say you decide to follow a systematic manner and choose the order. You can decide to interleave medical terms from different random categories. On the other hand, you can interleave from specific categories.

Remember that you need to assign enough time for each concept. Don’t use interleaving as an excuse to switch to another topic or subject. Dedicating enough attention to one topic at a time will enhance a deeper level of understanding.

3. Elaborative Interrogation

Elaborative interrogation is a studying technique that involves asking why or how questions and finding the answer. Teachers use the method mainly, but you can use it while studying individually or as a group.

The elaborative interrogation strategy focuses on boosting memory. After reading your material, you will identify the facts you’ve learned by asking yourself why. 

Once you ask yourself the questions, write down the possible answers and go back to the material to see if you got it right.

When you answer the ‘why’. You will clarify how the predicate and the subject relate. You build on the information in the statement and add features to existing memory. 

The best time to practice elaborative interrogation

A study on elaborative interrogation examined at encoding and retrieval shows that elaborative learning is effective with prior knowledge. When you have a rich, interconnected knowledge base, you can effectively answer why and link information 

If the encoded memories are rich and distinctive, you will effectively elaborate statements. 

Rich means the link between related prior knowledge and new concepts. On the other hand, distinctive means distinguishing between prior knowledge and further information. 

Elaborative interrogation is also more effective when:

  • Previous knowledge is greater 
  • You generate your elaborations instead of going back to the books
  • You answer differences and similarity questions
  • The elaborations are specifics

Benefits of elaborative interrogation

Asking ‘why’ or using elaborative interrogation boosts learning by helping you link existing information with new information. You can picture everything about a topic and understand which parts are relevant. 

One study on the effects of metacognitive strategy investigated whether self-questioning can improve student learning. Students were given one of four conditions:

  1. Self-questioning during and after a lecture
  2. Self-questioning during the lecture. Then questioning and answering with a classmate afterward
  3. Discussing the content in small groups
  4. Reviewing the content on their own

The students attended five lectures and took one test immediately after the lectures and another after ten days. Results showed that students in the first two groups (self-questioning) did better in their exams. 

How to use elaborative interrogation

  • Ask yourself questions while reading about how processes occur and why. Find answers in your texts and discuss them with a classmate.
  • Link different concepts and explain how they work together. Take two ideas and look at their differences and similarities.
  • Describe how the current information applies to your experiences or memories that you learned in class
  • Ensure that your description is accurate and not overextended by checking class materials. However, it is best to work your way up by explaining it from memory then checking class materials. 

4. Take a memory course

A memory course provides techniques that improve your working memory subsystems. You will focus on your medical studies or research. On the flip side, poor working memory can cause educational underachievement.

A 2017 study showed that mnemonic training reshapes brain networks to support superior memory. The study revealed that memory training could change your brain connections to resemble memory champions.

Memory training has the following benefits:

  • It helps you store and retain information faster than you do. You won’t forget your medical terms or processes during the exams.
  • Vitalizes brain neurons, making it easier to link new information and prior knowledge
  • Boosts problem-solving skills, which means you can answer questions efficiently
  • It helps you filter out unnecessary information instead of memorizing an entire medical book.
  • Improves general memory and intelligence, including short and long-term memory, creativity, and working memory skills

Iris Reading offers a maximizing memory course that improves your memory. You’ll get practical techniques that help you understand and remember what you read and memorize crucial information.

Comprehend your medical studies with Iris Reading

Medicine incorporates science, practicality, and methodology. The amount of knowledge you have to take in throughout the course demands strategies to help you retain and understand all the information.

One effective strategy is interleaving – incorporating different topics or concepts together to improve understanding. Interleaving boosts performance and technical skills and decreases confusion while studying.

Do you want to comprehend your medical studies effectively?

Iris Reading is a provider of speed-reading training where we teach Speed Reading & Memorization Techniques to students and Professionals Worldwide. Our goal is to make you an efficient reader and learn how to approach your reading effectively. 

You can take our productivity course to help you boost productivity and cover all your medical materials. It is for busy students looking to improve their reading experience by increasing productivity.

Take our productivity course now!

4 Reasons Why Your Memory May Be Poor (And How To Fix It)
How to Summarize a Text in English (7 Easy Steps)


  • raj369


    I want to improve my reading comprehension & writing skills in a practical way is there an online course that i can attend. Pl let me know