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How to Study Pharmacology?

What is Pharmacology?

Pharmacology is the study about drugs. In pharmacology, we study the mechanical, physical, and biochemical changes inside our body that occur either due to a drug or resulting form the reactions to drugs inside our body.

Pharmacology is a subject that you must understand the process and not to memorize by heart,  like memorizing drug names. So to study Pharmacology, you should make sure that you know basic medical sciences like anatomy, physiology and biochemistry, because they are connected to each other.

However, I would say that Pharmacology is one of the most important subjects you should study if you’re a student in medicine, nursing, or any health related course dealing with human lives. Because, without knowing the drugs and pharmacology, you cannot work as a doctor or treat patients. 

How to study Pharmacology?

Pharmacology is one of the difficult subjects, yet interesting subject in medical school. Your knowledge in Pharmacology will help you throughout your carrier, also one day it will be lifesaving.

We’ve explained all of the most effective methods to study Pharmacology for MBBS and Nursing to cut your study time in half and retain more to score highest marks in your exams. 

1) Create a suitable environment to study

Creating a good learning environment allows you to maximize your learning efficiency. Combination of effective time management, good reading and note taking skills, Illustration skills, creating effective test taking strategies and your hard work will give you a productive outcome. Identify all of your environmental distractions that interfere with your concentration. STARVE YOUR DISTRACTIONS, FEED YOUR FOCUS! That’s the key to success.

2) Know your basic Anatomy, Biochemistry & Physiology

Remember! Anatomy, Physiology, Pharmacology and Pathology are not just for exams, they are for life. You don’t have to be a genius in such subjects, but you should know the basics to understand the clinical medicine and what happens inside the body in diseases. So if you’re going to study the Pharmacology of the drugs that act on brain in coming week, just go through your basic anatomical structure of the brain, surrounding structures and the physiology of the brain. So, when you go to lecture and your professor is talking about Pharmacological management of stroke, you will clearly understand how the drugs lyse the clot that block the cerebral artery.

how to study pharmacology adenosine rish academy
Sample of Pharmacology Essentials Flashcards eBook

3) Know teaching style of your professor!

Every professor is different in their teaching style. Some may give you study notes prior to lectures, so you can have a basic idea before you go to the lecture. Some professors require students to learn by themselves using textbooks and through research. If you have such professors, you can ask your seniors to see how they studied the subject. 

Some professors give you homework and assignments based on the theories that are mainly assessed in the exams. So you should focus more on such topics and related questions.

4) Collect resources to study

There are actually a lot of resources available to you to make your studying endeavors easier. You should use all of the resources and a combination of learning techniques to maximize your studying effectiveness and reinforce the concepts in Pharmacology. You can take advantage of your textbooks, class handouts, reading materials, and lab material your professor provides, and also there are many Online Study Resources & Notes that are accessible to students.

  • Textbooks: Always use standard textbooks for your studies. They provide you the highly reliable resources. Because you can clarify your doubts or read up on a chapter you’re not familiar with.
  • Reading materials: You should always study your reading materials and notes provided by your university. Because they will provide notes from chapters focusing on what you must know for your exams.
  • Google: Google is always our best friend to search on any topic. You can search mnemonics, diagrams, and word associations to make your learning easy. But always make sure that you refer to trusted sources. Because not everything you find in google is 100% true. I always use and recommend websites like Medscape, PubMed, and MayoClinic for high-quality and reliable articles.
  • YouTube: There are many YouTubers who make our learning easy. Many complex topics in Pharmacology are explained in an easy way on YouTube. This is especially helpful for students who are visual or aural learners.

You can get access to our Medical Study Resources Library to get access to more than 570+ medical presentations and all other medical resources that will be helpful for your entire career. 

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Some slides from the presentations from our Medical Resources Library

5) Don’t memorize the facts, UNDERSTAND IT! 

You can’t memorize the facts without understanding it. You can put all the mechanism in a flowchart and you can make study sheet for each drug. If you try to memorize the facts, you’ll forget them very easily. So you have to understand the pharmacological process that happens in a disease. 

6) Take Notes

You don’t remember everything you hear, but when you write down notes, it will help you retain more information. Sometimes you even don’t understand everything your professor teaches in the class. But when you get back to your home, you’ll understand it more clearly when you revise the notes you’ve taken. These notes will be so helpful in understanding the theories in books and your reading materials given by your institute. 

Also, these notes are the secret behind scoring high marks in your exams. You can focus more on these notes before your exams and they will be useful to answer your MCQs from theories that are not covered in your reading materials. 

Professors may also tell you memorizing techniques they have used, so when you write them down it will be more useful for you to revise the subject. Pharmacology is a is a difficult, yet an interesting subject. But taking good notes on your own will help you perform well in exams and in your clinical practice too. 

7) Prepare Good Flashcards

Pharmacology is one of the largest and important subjects in medical, dental, and nursing courses. You can make different flashcards in the form of questions and answers or diseases and Pharmacology etc. Flashcards made in the form of questions and answers will help you to before the exams. 

Make flashcards from chapters that are more important and topics that you tend to forget more easily. So it will make the revision much easier than going through the textbooks again and again.

Also, flashcards have a visual impact on your brain that will help you retain more information. Small theories like “drugs act on the central nervous system” or “Pharmacology of antiplatelets that are used in myocardial infarction” can be very good flashcards for your last-minute preparations. To support your theory, if you draw an occluded vessel with a thrombus to show myocardial infarction, that image will remain in your brain for years. 

During my studies, I used to make beautiful flashcards that explain the mechanism of action and properties of each drug. I’ve made it as a high-quality PDF eBook, so you can download it online and print it yourself. 

8) Make drug cards

Make drug cards for each drug or a drug card for each drug classification. This helps you to remember and recall the pharmacology of each drug easily. You can see the drug cards I designed to study Pharmacology. 

how to study pharmacology drugs flashcards
Sample of Pharmacology Essentials Flashcards eBook
Click the button below to download Pharmacology essentials Flashcards eBook. This eBook has 12 chapters and 122 pages.

9) Study the classifications of medications

Try to study the classifications of medications instead of studying each drug separately. This will allow you to understand all medications within a drug class, their mechanism of action, the indications for the use of the drugs, the interventions, and the adverse effects. This process is less confusing and helps you remember easily and will give you a long-lasting memory. 

10) Prepare Study Sheets

Making up study sheets for each exam can be very useful like flashcards. Using other resources like lecture notes, textbooks and flashcards, you can make a note in one page that should cover every important point of that chapter. So it will help you revise the note in a short time before the exams. 

For example, if you’re making a study sheet on the pharmacological management of Ischemic Heart Disease, you can add more sub-sections like Stable Angina, Unstable Angina, Non ST Elevation Myocardial Infarction (NSTEMI) and ST Elevation Myocardial Infarction (STEMI), and you can add the drugs used in such diseases in one page. So you can compare and understand the disease progress. 

11) 1. Know your Endings, Prefixes, and Suffixes. 

Drugs are categorized based on how they affect the body. I used this strategy to recognize the different types of drugs, based on the endings of the names.

For example:

Ramipril: ends in “pril”; all “pril” endings are classified as ACE inhibitors which all have the same effect as they act on the heart and kidneys

Metoprolol: ends in “olol”; all “olol” endings are beta blockers, which all work on the heart, lungs, GI, and kidneys

Amlodipine: ends in “pine”; all “pine” endings are calcium channel blockers

12) Create Mnemonics

For me, mnemonics has played a great role in my medical career and great memory aids. In Pharmacology, you have to remember diseases that are very similar, so using mnemonics will help them remember separate. There are so many mnemonics available if you search on google about the topic you’re working on. Using Mnemonics will help you remember numerous facts in short period and you can use this simple technique for any subject in medicine from Anatomy to Surgery.

You can create your own mnemonics and write them down, so they’ll help you learn the particular chapter faster and easier. During my medical school period, I used a lot of mnemonics. You can download them as eBook. 

Click the button below to download Rish Academy’s Medical Mnemonics eBook. The book has 12 chapters and 97 Pages. 

13) Use word association to remember facts

When you study Pharmacology, you will come across many unique and difficult words that may be hard to remember them. Word associations will help you a lot in that process.

For instance, you can connect the words Thrombus and Embolus as,

  • Thrombus is Tight – Thrombus is fixed at a place.
  • Embolus Escapes – Embolus dislodge and travel to a distance place.

I absolutely love these easy methods like mnemonics and word associations to study any subject. My friends always make fun of me for creating interesting mnemonics to remember hard topics, especially in pharmacology. But we never forgot them even after the exams. They’re long lasting methods to remember any chapter. 

14) Learn what type of learner you are 

Figure out what learning style suits you well. This is not only for Pharmacology, but also for any subject in medical or nursing schools. Do Mnemonics, Flashcards work for you? Are you a verbal learner? Most students are a combination of learning styles, so you have to figure out your suitable learning style to be more effective. Then maximize your study efforts in your own way to score high. If rewriting notes don’t work then don’t use them. If flash cards helps you remember, then do that!

15) Record the Lectures

I recommend this for every lecture, so you can listen to something you may have missed during the lecture. So if you’re allowed to record the lecture, you can try this method.  Recording your lectures will help you revise it again. You can listen to them in your free time to boost your knowledge. This will definitely help in the process of memorizing the important theories, discussed in the lectures.

But do not focus too much on recording and listening to it again. Listen to the lecture and try to make a note during the lecture itself. Because if you try to make a note after coming to the home, you’re spending your time twice. Because time management is very important in medical school. 

16) Study actively

Studying Pharmacology is not just like reading a story book. Active study techniques are very important, especially when it comes to learning about human the pharmacological mechanisms that happen inside our body after administering a drug.

It takes so much of your time when you study a complicated subject like Pharmacology. So you have to listen to your professor lecturing, use reading materials, books, flowcharts, short notes etc.

17) Work in groups

You don’t always understand the facts at the very first time, especially in complex subjects like Pharmacology. So for some students working in groups can be of benefit. Sometimes having your friends to give you explanations for the complex pharmacological process or to quiz you or discussing the past papers can help you retain more and more. At the same time, having a group of friends for studies will keep you motivated to study. Peer teaching has been found in studies to be very effective in helping retain more material. 

18) Repetition

The more you learn, you’re more likely to forget many complex mechanisms. So what you should need to keep everything that you’ve learned on your mind is to repeat what you’ve learned again and again. You can revise your notes daily, weekly or monthly, but repetition is essential to sharpen your knowledge. 

19) Quiz yourself

Test your knowledge again and again. You can make your own questions with your friends and quiz each other or use past papers or model papers provided by your institute or teachers. This is a must-do activity if you want to score high marks, because you exactly know what you’re supposed to study. 

20) Review your mistakes

Truth is, when you do self review and when you make a mistake, if you correct it by your reference materials then you’re very unlikely to forget it. So always pay extra attention to what you got wrong.

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