When Rain Doesn’t Ruin Every Parade

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

In the name of God, the Most Gracious, Most Merciful

I was making my way back home, walking on the very familiar path back from work.

It was raining- I could never explain with words how amazing it feels to walk in the cold rain in the middle of June. As I cherished the pure happiness of rain in the summer, I passed by a man sitting on the sidewalk writing something on cardboard. Curious as I was, I leaned over a little to see what he was writing. My heart sunk instantaneously when I saw him completing the “E” in his big, bolded HOMELESS sign. Here I was happy for the cold rain knowing I’d go home to warmth, and there he was, left on the sidewalk with no place to go… Alhamdulilah (all praise is to Allah), how blessed I am to have a roof over my head. Alhamdulilah, how blessed I am to be able to have the all-too-familiar temperature change experience when going from the cold, harsh weather outside and into the warm house. I looked around for any sign of a grocery store or food place to buy this man some food; it was the least that I could do, but I found no store around. I sighed and kept walking, kept saying alhamdulilah for all of the blessings that I have been given without necessarily doing anything to deserve it- This is why we say “All praise is to Allah, who fed me this food and gave it to me without any power or might from me” after eating a meal, or saying the last part for anything we have. I walked on that day, soaking in the rain with this reminder that indeed, everything that I have been given was without any power or might from me, and indeed it is all a blessing from Allah.

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It was almost iftar time, and I had been craving pizza for the past week. Could my building location be any better than literally attached to the best pizza parlor in town? I think not.

The wonderful smell of pizza filled what seemed to be a 20-meter radius from the parlor, and the smell become stronger and stronger as I approached.

Drenched from head to toe, I walked in feeling blessed to be in the presence of a blazing fire oven. I looked up to see a man say something to me; I knew it was a greeting but I wasn’t sure of what it was. I could almost make out a “salamualaikum” on his tongue, but I couldn’t be sure. I got in line and made my order with my mouth watering from seeing all of the pizza toppings laid out before my eyes.

After putting every imaginable vegetable onto the pizza, I got to the cash register. While waiting for the cashier, I looked outside through the glass walls, and in the same instant my stomach voraciously growled from the fast. The combination of the harsh weather outside and my empty stomach reminded me of the homeless man, and all of the homeless and starving people for that matter. I wished that I could do something, so I did.

The cashier came to the desk.

“That’ll be $10.47,” He said.

“Can I ask you something?” I retorted, “do you see any homeless people around here?”

“Yes, there are a few that come by and walk in for the smell of pizza.

My heart sunk. That was probably the saddest thing I had heard all week- that there are people who walk by just to smell food, but who can’t have food because they can’t afford it.

I had to, I had to, I had to.

“If I pay you double the amount, can you make that exact same pizza- with all of the toppings- and give it to the next homeless person that you see walking by?”

“Uh…..Sure. I’ll let my manager know. Thank you.”

And how wonderful it felt to remember these verses, hoping that I too will be included in these people:

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Then I remembered a story of Aisha, one of the wives of the Prophet (PBUH), may Allah be pleased with her:

“….She developed the nickname the Mother of Fragrance, for every time a beggar knocked on her door, she would touch the money with perfume before giving it to him. When asked why, she explained that the charity would reach Allah before it reached the beggar’s hands, and she wanted the charity to be given to Allah in a fragrant condition.

In another report, a needy person knocked on the door. She only had one grape, and gave it to him. When asked what the value of a single grape was as a charity, she quoted the following verses from the Qur’an: “So whoever does an atom’s weight of good will see it, And whoever does an atom’s weight of evil will see it.” (Qur’an 99:7 – 99:8).

She rationalised – how many atoms are there in a grape?”

After paying, I stood by the fire oven where I waited for the pizza. Working at the fire oven was the man who greeted me when I came in. I watched him as he skillfully tossed pizzas around. Then he noticed me there.

“How is your fast?”

I beamed at his question… So maybe he had said “salamualaikum” when I walked in…

“It’s good,” I replied.

“Where are you from?” He responded.

“My mother is Russian and my father is Syrian.”

“Ahlan wa Sahlan” (Welcome)

I don’t know why, but my face was stuck in a smile at this man’s openness. And yup, he definitely said salam when I walked in. 

“Are you fasting as well?”

“Sure, of course,” he replied.

“While making all of these pizzas all day?!” I was completely taken aback by how cool this guy was to be surrounded by the aroma and site of pizza all day long while fasting. “MashAllah, that is really amazing.”

He continued baking pizzas while I continued to watch. He took out a pizza from the fire oven and began preparing its box. It was for a customer in front of me. He took his pizza cutter and began cutting the 8 slices as per usual, and as I watched him do it I realized there was ham on the pizza.

I began low-key freaking out- this guy was super fast at baking and cutting pizzas and I really needed him to not use that same cutter on my pizza because it had just touched ham. I looked around for any sign of another pizza cutter but I couldn’t find one, and the next thing I knew he had my pizza in his hands. I opened my mouth to ask if he could wash the pizza cutter, but before I could say anything I saw him take out a new one from under the table.

I let out a heavy sigh. “You changed the pizza cutter,” I said, unsure if he had done so because he, too, realized that one should not be used on my pizza, or for some other reason.

     “Yes, for you,” he responded, “you are my sister, I know what you have to go through.”

I couldn’t help but smile so widely. It was such a small gesture but it meant so much– to know that people are looking out for you, even the pizza man who could have easily shrugged you off as any other customer– meant so much.

He gave me the pizza. I stayed standing there, still smiling endlessly by how cool this guy was. When I realized I had the pizza in my hand, I said “JazakAllahukhairan (May God reward you with goodness)” and walked back out into the rain.

I couldn’t help but think of the reciprocality of it all- people doing good for other people who then do good for other people. It was all too perfect an experience. It was all too perfect a day. Alhamdulilah.

Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “A Muslim is a brother of another Muslim, so he should not oppress him, nor should he hand him over to an oppressor. Whoever fulfilled the needs of his brother, Allah will fulfill his needs; whoever brought his (Muslim) brother out of a discomfort, Allah will bring him out of the discomforts of the Day of Resurrection, and whoever screened a Muslim, Allah will screen him on the Day of Resurrection. ” [Bukhari, 2442]



بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

In the name of God, the Most Gracious, Most Merciful 

For my Class of 2021 fam (and anyone else on the web):

I hope you are all doing well! Some people have asked how I studied for the MCAT, and then R and M gave me the idea to just blog about it and share the link with everyone rather than having to rewrite a response to each person, so here we are 🙂

This is directed to my fellow Class of 2021 peers because we all went through the same curriculum, so I kinda know what our background is like, and undergrad background is very influential when it comes to deciding how to prioritize your time for studying.

Also I just want to say this from the beginning, this is just how I prepared… You don’t have to prepare the same way, maybe you are stronger in some areas and don’t need to review them, maybe you are weaker in others and want to do more practice there. It’s completely fine, please don’t feel that you have to follow what I did... I am just writing for those who ask how I studied. 

So to study for the MCAT, the first thing I did was read the Kaplan review books. Even though I did not have a lot of time, my logic was that I’d rather review everything and THEN do practice tests. That way, I would actually know what I knew and didn’t know. If I did practice tests without reviewing, I wouldn’t know if I got questions wrong because I simply hadn’t read it in the review book yet, or if it was something outside of the review books that I needed to look into with another MCAT prep source. Essentially, I wanted to read everything, then take practice tests to give me the most accurate picture of what I didn’t know from the material we were given, so that I could then focus only on these areas.

So first I read and took notes on the Psychology book (it was during winter break, so it was a nice way to start the break with a lighter subject than with something heavier like biochem). Then I read and took notes on Biochemistry, General Chemistry, Biology, and finally Physics. Here are somethings about this:

  • For Physics, I would really recommend starting with chapter 7 and moving forwards. If you notice, each chapter in the Kaplan books have stars beside them based on how likely the are to come on the exam. For physics, I remember the first 7 chapters were not that high yield, with 3 or less stars, but the last chapters were 3+ stars. For physics I started from chapter 1, and enjoyed all of the easy stuff until chapter 7. By the time I got to chapter 7 I was tired of reading physics, but I still hadn’t covered all of the important stuff for the exam! So start with Ch 7 and read forward. Then, if you have time, read chapters 1 through 6 (I say this because our physics background is pretty good, and you might not even need to read these chapters- but again, if you would like the review go ahead).


  • In terms of reading and taking notes, find a way that you can read the material actively. Don’t just highlight… Try as much as possible to be able to remember what you read. I did this my folding a paper in half longways. On one side I would ask myself questions and on the inside I would write the answer- all while trying as much as possible to NOT refer back to the book. I would read a section- try to understand/memorize it- then go to my notes to ask myself and answer my own questions to see if I really internalized what I was reading. Of course many times I had to go back and reread sections while note taking, no problem. Just try to be as mindful when you read as possible to try to remember what you read later on for the exam. The key is, even if you don’t have time later on to review these notes, at least at one point during your review, you thought deeply about the content. This is super helpful because many times during the exam when I was stuck, I remember myself thinking “Ohhh I’ve seen this before…” and then within 30 seconds of trying to remember where I saw it, the information came back to me- because at some point earlier in the year I had internalized it.


  • If you notice, I did not include Orgo or Critical Reading. If you did relatively well in our orgo and orgo lab classes, I think you will be fine. Many current Med 1’s told me that the classes were more than enough for the orgo sections on the exam, and I (and I’m sure the other 3 students who took the exam with me) agree. If you want to be sure, go ahead and try a few of the orgo questions from the online Kaplan resources we have from student affairs. That is a good way to gage if you need to read the books or not.


  • For Critical Reading, I do recommend doing practice passages if it is not your strong spot. I had been practicing for critical reading since last summer, and I really didn’t have time throughout this semester to practice it, but it is worth doing a full Critical Reading section to time yourself and see if you can finish within the time limit, as well as how well you do in the section.


After I read through the content and took notes, I did practice exams. Kaplan has practice exams, AAMC has practice exams (and both of these are provided for us by Student Affairs). If you want even more, there are other test prep companies that make practice exams. From then on I just practiced, reviewed my notes that I had written from the review books (especially psych), and reviewed what I missed. Since you guys have more time, I would check out the videos from the Kaplan sources we have online. I watched a few of them and they were great. Maybe for you all the best is to first do what you know you need to do before the exam- reading the material and doing practice exams. Then, if you have more time, use the videos in areas that you are weaker in. Some notes about this:

  • I used Khan Academy for Psych/Soc topics that I was getting wrong on the practice exams. KA is so helpful for all of the subjects, but to me they were too in depth. Thus, I kept KA as a resource for the end for areas that I knew I needed more help in (and I knew what areas I needed help in based on what I was getting wrong on the practice tests).


  • Review your practice exams! Learn from your mistakes! Understand why you got the question wrong- did you read the question wrong? Did you actually not know the concept and now you need to review it again?

Finally and MOST IMPORTANTLY: There are two ESSENTIAL things you really really really NEED TO DO for the exam:

  1. Know how to do math without a calculator-and it’s not as hard as it sounds. Below this paragraph I have posted a link to a LIFE SAVING website. It’s called Leah4Sci, and it has 9 videos with the math tricks you will need to solve the calculation portion of the exam. Some videos are more in depth than others, and I don’t think you need to know every little math trick she has… But definitely know how to add, subtract, divide, and multiply numbers in scientific notation. That will always be SUPER IMPORTANT. The other math tricks, I definitely recommend learning them, but don’t freak out if you don’t have every little thing memorized from her videos. Here is the link: http://leah4sci.com/mcat/mcat-math-without-a-calculator/
  2. The 2nd best thing you can do to prepare for the exam is SEE what the TIMINGS of each section is like for you. Since you have quite some time before the exam, maybe your first move should be taking a diagnostic test MAINLY to see if you are able to finish each section in the amount of time that is given. Don’t worry too much about the score you get on your very first diagnostic test- you are still going to review the content so don’t worry. But do use the diagnostic test as a gage for how much time it takes you to answer the questions and finish each section. Then, later on when you are doing practice tests, again take note of what sections you seem to have EXTRA time in and what sections you know you need to work faster in.

I hope that helped! If you have any other questions feel free to contact me any time!

All the best! I’m sure you will all do great 🙂 Have a wonderful summer vacation 🙂


An Active Reflection

They say looking back makes the lens that looks forward clearer. That is the beauty of reflection; how can you become better if you aren’t aware of what you’re  doing wrong? On the other hand, how can you celebrate your success if you aren’t aware of where you began? 
So this is a reflection that I thought would help others. Specifically, this  is the number one thing I didn’t pay enough attention to last year, and I want to outline how I am fixing it this year; in essence, I’m writing this so that you don’t make the same mistake I made and, instead, use these techniques from the start of your year.

My biggest problem last year was not getting consistent physical exercise. The key is consistent: 

In my 1st semester all was good because I played basketball 3 times a week. But when the season ended, instead of taking up a sport I told myself “eh, I’ll exercise on my own time”. The problem was that I didn’t hold myself accountable to it. Basketball was a commitment I couldn’t forego, but when I took it upon myself to exercise regularly, it was too easy for me to say “I’m tired, I have too much work, etc.”


And throughout the second semester I knew I wasn’t getting enough exercise but I thought “eh what could one semester of no physical activity do?” It did a lot. I felt all of my muscles get weaker, I couldn’t carry as much as I could before, I was more irritable, my back muscles were not as strong, and in general I felt…too sedentary, too static, and too ‘bloby’- is that even a word?? 

Before I go on, I feel the need to express why physical activity is so so so so so important as a college student. You spend hours sitting and studying. This isn’t good for your brain, mood, muscles, bones– physical inactivity is detrimental to your entire being! Getting exercise every day- even if it is a small amount, but everyday- makes you smarter, gives you a break from your work so that you return to your studies refreshed, boosts your mood, makes you stronger, builds confidence, and the list goes on (don’t believe me? Here are 100 reasons: http://www.sparkpeople.com/blog/blog.asp?post=100_reasons_you_should_work_out_today) .

You might think this isn’t important, but think about yourself in 6 years: how much stronger, more confident, and in shape will you be if you take just 7 minutes a day to exercise vs if you don’t? The inacvtivity will build up and your muscles will become weak and your immune system will become weak, which will make you more prone to disease. There is a ton of research on the endless benefits of consistent exercise. Seriously, search it on PubMed, Google Scholar, etc. Also, you can refer to 


If all of this isn’t enough for you, check out the research that shows exercise increasing the number of synpases in the brain and promoting the development of new neurons in the hippocampus (region of the brain for memory storage). (See: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4565722/) In high school you studied that neurons can’t be made after puberty? Well think again- search all of the research showing that you can maximize your brain plasticity through exercise. If that isn’t enough motivation for you as a student, I don’t know what is. Even my psychology book agrees: 

So this year I asked myself: why couldn’t I consistently exercise last year? The answer is I wasn’t holding myself accountable. In order to accomplish anything, you must hold yourself accountable. 
So to fix this I started 3 things:
F14285379_1278877352163800_959406748_o.pngix 1: Block scheduling my exercise in Google Calendar.

At the beginning of each week, I put an hour of exercise into each day of the week. I have the widget on my phone so that I see what I have scheduled, and I get a notification before the time starts. Why does this work? Because scheduling it beforehand is like making a promise to yourself. You’ve told yourself ‘hey here’s an hour I’ve dedicated for you to exercise.’ When the hour comes, you see the notification and either you go ‘ok time to keep my promise to myself’ or ‘I’m not going to 14273545_1278878268830375_94845192_o.pngexercise and past me was just wasting her time putting effort into scheduling this’. Guess which response makes you feel better? This way you get twice the feeling of accomplishment: one, for exercising, and two, for sticking to your schedule. 

Fix 2: 7 minute workout. Every morning I do 7 minutes of exercise with the app, 7 minute workout. Do you see above I’ve written that the problem was I wasn’t getting consistent physical activity? Sure I would work out once for a longer period of time on the weekend, but it wasn’t effective if I was sedentary the entire week, then active on one day. This app, though, is seriously the easiest way to make sure you strengthen your muscles every single day. Doing it every morning will put you in a good mood for the rest of the day and provide you with all of the benefits of exercise 🙂 Just doing 7 MINUTES A DAY is all it takes! 7 minutes a day is BETTER than 2 hours on the weekend! Consistency is key! 

Fix 3: Fitocracy. Here I can log whatever exercise I do. It’s another form of motivation. How good does it feel to put in the work and then log it? Pretty good. Plus other people support you with giving you props or commenting on your activity. Not to brag but yesterday I got props for my 7 minutes workout B) Do you know what would make me really happy right now? If you go make an account and add me (tazmaz314) and we’ll motivate each other 🙂 

In all seriousness though, your body/mind has rights upon you. You must take care of them. Don’t neglect yourself. The strength, confidence, and endorphin release are all things that you need and deserve. Don’t lie to yourself that you don’t need exercise, please. Just do 7 minutes a day- start small, yet consistent 🙂  

Study Less, Remember More

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

In the name of God, the Most Gracious, Most Merciful 

We can all agree that studying takes a lot of our time, yes? This means that we have to figure out the best method of studying that’ll minimize the amount of time spent while maximizing how much we gain/remember of what we study.

The answer: The Spacing Effect.

The Spacing Effect, a well-studied mental phenomenon, states that you are more likely to remember information that you study in spaced out intervals rather than in massed sessions. Sure it’s obvious that cramming the night before doesn’t work, but why does spaced learning work?

This is how Benedict Carey puts it in his book How We Learn: “Some amount of breakdown must occur for us to strengthen learning when we revisit the material. Without a little forgetting, you get no benefit from further study. It is what allows learning to build.”

What this means is that to study smart, you have to begin early and revisit your notes regularly. This is why it is best to first review your notes right after class –> here, inevitabely there will be some things you remember and some things you forget –> then when you study them again the next day, you firstly reinforce the parts that you remember and secondly “relearn” the parts you forgot = building your learning –> When you come back to your notes a third time, you re-reinforce what you know and work on what you forgot.

It’s a little unsettling to think that forgetting is a good thing, but it’s just like any “bad” experience in your life: you learn a good lesson from it (no pun intended hehe). Here, when you forget and revisit the material, you are AWARE that this is a topic you once learned and now forgot, and therefore you CONSCIOUSLY focus on this topic until you have a firmer grasp on it.

You’re thinking to yourself, “Sure this technique is more effective than cramming, but it’s ok, I do fine on exams even when I cram.” The thing is, the real purpose of your studies isn’t to just do fine on an upcoming exam, it’s to be able to internalize the material so that you do extremely well on the upcoming exam, extremely well on any future exam that will certainly have older information integrated into those exams, extremely well on the final exams, extremely well on the exams you’ll have in classes that overlap with your current class (such as organic chemistry), and most importantly, extremely well in your entire life.

The other day I was talking to my organic chemistry professor, and I asked him if we were expected to know what the chemical formula for lithium aluminium hydride was (it was written like this in a problem, without the molecular formula given). In astonishment he said, “Of course you are. Were you thinking you could just throw out all of the general chemistry you learned last year?” He was right, and the funny part is, we can never run away from the fact that there will always be something from one class that we will need in another class. And even more true than this, there will always be something you experience in your daily life as a medical student/physician/researcher that will relate back to the basic sciences you learned.

Kent University Psychology Professor Katherine Rawson puts it very eloquently:  “[Students] cram right before an exam, and to be honest that’s probably OK for doing fine on your exam. But the problem is that it’s horrible for long-term retention. Students don’t realize that they’re really undercutting their own learning.”  http://www.apa.org/gradpsych/2011/11/study-smart.aspx

You might think that having to review your notes every day is inconvenient, but in reality starting early and dedicating just 15 minutes a day to reviewing your notes will make your workload more manageable, give you more free time to do fun stuff, and make studying for your finals much, much, much, much, much easier. Even better, if you establish this habit now, it will become second-nature when you REALLY need to manage your time and studying (aka in med school). Almost all medical students can attest to the fact that premed is the time to learn how to learn. It is the time to establish the most effective study techniques that will minimize time spent without compromising how much of the knowledge you retain, because the biggest problem medical students have is running out of time to study. Study in small bits over longer periods of time so that when you get to a point where cramming won’t be a viable option, you will have already become skilled at managing your time and studying most effectively.

So what now? Now you include “review notes chemistry, review notes bio, review notes statistics” in your to-do list. Start with just one subject: pick one subject, and start with just 30 minutes every 3 days to review what you have covered in the semester so far.

That’s it: Every 3 days, do an all-encompassing review of the content you’ve taken up to this point that will be on the upcoming exam.

When test day/finals/next year comes, you’ll find your recall to be much better than if you reviewed your notes only days before the exam.

Send me a message or leave me a comment if you have any study strategies to share! or if this helped! 🙂


Motivation from Moza

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

In the name of God, the Most Gracious, Most Merciful 

             Moza is a current Premed 2 student. After completing high school at Alkhor Independent School,  Moza joined WCMQ as a foundation student. She completed both foundation and premed 1 with outstanding work, landing her on the Dean’s Honor List in both years. Moza’s favorite thing to do is laugh, and she can never say no to chocolate. She looks forward to the next 5 years, but don’t ask her what kind of doctor she wants to be, because she still doesn’t know and just thinking about it makes her break out in hives. 

Amidst all of the wonderful and incredibly useful advice that Tasi is posting on her blog, you, dear reader, might not understand the relevance of this post, especially as we are just starting a new semester and we’re all excited and motivated to do our best. However, there will come a time, for at least some of you, when that excitement is going to wear off, and you’ll start looking for motivation everywhere. This post is to help you through that time (or those many times, if you’re anything like me).

I want to preface this, though, by saying that motivation is not something that you should be relying on to go through your day-to-day life and to do the things that you’re supposed to do. After all, you’ve got to do what you you’ve got to do before you start doing want you want to do. Motivation is very fragile and short-lived. It helps us think of our long-term goals and decide on the big decisions that we need to make to achieve them, but for everyday boring tasks, what we should be focusing on, instead, is discipline. We all have our personal motives to becoming doctors, and these get us through the first few weeks of classes, but eventually we start to realize that we can’t depend on motivation to make us use different colored pens everyday. So what we can do is harness that beginning-of-the-year motivation and build useful, productive habits with it that keep us going the entire year because we are just so hard-wired now to use colored pens that our brains can’t register pencil anymore.

But for the days where you really need to fall back on that motivation, think of why you want to be a doctor. In fact, think of them now, write them down, put them in a safe place, and refer back to them when you need them. For now, here are my reasons to help you find yours.

First and foremost, I want to be a doctor to help people. I figure it’s my way of giving back to society. I know we’ve all been encouraged to stay away from that sentence in doing our interviews and writing our personal statements, but now that we’re all here, hold on to that sentiment. If you’re not pursuing medicine to help people, you’re not in it for the right reasons. You get to decide who those people are; they can be a sick family member, people who don’t have access to healthcare, a certain group of people with a rare mutation, or even yourself, but if you don’t want to help someone/anyone with the degree you plan to get, get out now, seriously, the years of studying will not be worth it for you.

My second reason is not a very positive one, but I feel like it had a huge impact on getting me here. I am in Cornell because I am so very stubborn and headstrong that I just can’t quit because I have to prove the people that doubted me wrong. I hate to encourage outlooks like these but to be honest, this is what fuels me most days (lol). I decided to be a doctor kind of on a whim; I first wanted to be very rich so that I could explore the world on yacht and have nice food everyday, but then I realized that that wasn’t a solid plan, and so when my friends asked me what I wanted to be in 7th grade, I went with what pretty much everyone else said, “I want to be a doctor.” I then had time to think about it, and slowly started to like the idea, and I started telling more and more people about my new  “dream job.” Most of my family members hated the idea. See, many people get into medicine because their families pressure them into it, but not me. I didn’t come from a family of doctors and scientists; I came from a family of we-barely-passed-highschool-ers. “But, you’re a girl!” “You’re going to spend the rest of your life studying!” “Who’s gonna want to marry you then?” were all concerns my family members had. I was determined to prove that this little 5 ft tall girl could do it.

I mentioned that I began to warm up to the idea of becoming a doctor once I started thinking about it, and that was mainly due to the nature of the job.  Most people want to do something important, to leave a mark in the world, and to be remembered when they die. Being a doctor allows us to do something important every single day. Yes, you might not find a cure to a terminal illness or have a protein named after you at the end of your career, but at the end of every day you will go to bed knowing you’ve bettered someone’s life in one way or another. You will also be constantly busy all day everyday, which will distract you from impeding thoughts of your inevitable doom as a weak mortal being that is vulnerable to various forms of destruction including emotional distress.

There you have it, some of my reasons for wanting to be a doctor; I encourage everyone reading to make a list of their own and to keep it for days when they need it the most.




How to Biology: Part 1, Lab

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

In the name of God, the Most Gracious, Most Merciful 

On the first day of classes, I went to the Biology Teaching Specialist and asked, “How do I do well in Bio Lab?”

She clearly and concisely said: “Be an active learner during lab.”

Take this very seriously: the key to your success is how attentive you are during lab.

Your lab component of the biology course will go a little something like this:

  • You’ll be assigned a lab for the week. You will have the reading for that lab ahead of time.
  • You’ll have a quiz that includes concepts relating to the lab (as well as the reading materials for the iRAT/tRAT session) on Sunday.
  • On your lab day, you will start with a small lecture at the beginning of the class.
  • Then you will carry out the actual lab, and you will make sure to be an active lab member and make sure to be involved in carrying out the procedures alongside the instructor
  • Discussion of final conclusions of the lab

This means that your efforts are two-fold: First, in being well-prepared before going into lab and second, in being active during the lab.

So here is what I used to do, and what I think would be a great way for you to stay on top of the material for the lab part of the course:


  • Dedicate some part of the weekend to reviewing this week’s lab by:
    1. Have a one-subject notebook, pencil, colorful pen(s), and this week’s lab material with you to take notes.
    2. Read and take notes on the conceptual parts of the material. You might notice that the lab manual is divided into two: the procedural parts (the steps) and the more conceptual parts (like the introduction and any paragraphs within/at the end of the procedures) When reading the lab, be sure to include these things in your notes:
      1. Any bolded term, with its definition, whether found in the procedural section or conceptual section of the lab text
      2. Any concepts discussed in the conceptual parts of the lab text.
  • Put a big circle or question mark next to anything you don’t understand. Ask your instructor about it the next morning.

You basically treat the lab text as your study material, but you do not take notes on the very, very technical procedural parts. Your instructors are not going to expect that you understand every detail of every step; they just want you to have a good understanding of the concepts applied DURING the lab. These concepts are what you should be taking notes of.

What to do for NOTES:

  1. Divide your pages like this:this one.jpg
  2.  Take notes in the big space, and keep the narrow space blank until the end. In the big space, where you write notes, be sure to include:
  • Diagrams and Graphs! Illustrations are more important in lab than in most other courses! Be SURE to sketch them, annotate them, and have a solid understanding of every illustration, its titles, and captions. You should be able to explain what is going on in any illustration/graph/flow chart in your sleep!

Here’s a tip: Before starting, look through the lab text once and put a star or a circle by every diagram/graph/flowchart that you see. This way, when you are taking notes, you will remind yourself to give a second thought to the illustration. I’ve experienced many instances of reading through the lab manual and forgetting to spend time understanding these illustrations (and regretting it later on).

  • Colors. There is a ton of research supporting that colors aids in memory. For each concept that you writing down, write the most important word or phrase of that concept in a different color than what you are using to write with. (See what I did there? Guess what stood out to you in that sentence? “most important” because it is colored!). Look, you should be trying to HELP yourself understand and become familiar with the content as much as possible– if that means using colored pens to mark important vocabulary/ideas, you should really do it.

3. Once you’ve read through the material and have taken notes, go back to the start of your notes. Do you see the other, narrower space? In this space, make questions out of the notes that you took­. For every important detail that you’ve written down, make a question out of it- open ended, true or false, yes or no– The quality of your question is important; make questions that will force you to EXPLAIN the concept, not just know the name of it.

4. Once you’ve made the questions, use your hand or a book to cover your notes so that you can only see the questions. Test yourself with the questions and challenge yourself– make yourself have to explain the ideas. This is the best way to prove to yourself that you actually understand what is going on. Once you’ve said the answer to yourself, remove your hand and see if you were able to include all of the points that you had written down in your notes about the concept. If you got them all good job! If not, this is the time to be fixing your gaps in understanding. Review the lab text again to solidify your answers.

Do you know why this method of studying is so great?

1) You will be able to tell where you lack understanding. When you test yourself with “explain the importance of the law of segregation” as one of your questions, but then you realize that you aren’t able to produce a coherent answer because you don’t really understand the law of segregation, won’t you be glad that you caught this weakness BEFORE the exam? This is the fabulous metacognition that goes on with this technique: it shows you what you do and don’t know.

2) It makes you explain concepts out-loud. The more times you practice communicating an idea, the better you will be at being able to put your thoughts into logical sentences. Why is this important? Because on the time-stressed exam, you must be able to produce concise, coherent, answers. The more you practice explaining ideas out loud in logical sequence, the easier it will be to organize and produce your explanations on an exam.

3) You basically have some of the quiz/exam questions! It really is that simple– Let’s say this week’s lab includes the law of segregation in it. If you took notes on it, and then tested yourself at home to see if you actually knew it, and then found out that you actually didn’t have a good grasp of it because when you tested yourself you couldn’t explain it well enough, and then you fixed those little areas where you had gaps of understanding, guess who’s going to be able to quickly and coherently explain the law of segregation on the exam? You are 🙂 .

Screen Shot 2016-08-24 at 5.00.04 PM.png

  • After taking notes, do the “Questions to Prepare You for Lab”. If you are struggling with any, make note of it and go to your instructor the next morning.
  • If you have any questions from the lab text, go to your instructor the next morning. Seriously, don’t shrug off anything- it will come back to bite you on the exam 🙂 🙂 🙂


Be engaged, Be engaged, Be engage.

Did I mention to be engaged?

One more time? Be engaged.

  • Take notes during the instructor’s mini-lecture.
  • Understand why you are doing any given procedure. Anytime you feel like you don’t really know the point of a given step, ask!

It is really important that you do this because you will be given experiments on the exam that you will only know the answer to if you understood the fundamentals of the lab: why did you do that step? What does this result mean? What would it have meant if you got a different result? Why did you see a red color and not a purple one? Why do you see cloudiness in this well but a pellet in the next? Always try to understand why and how things occur.


  • Do the worksheet as soon as possible. Why? So that you have time to visit the instructor if you realize that you have questions or need help. DON’T put it off until the last minute. Why would you do that to yourself? Make it a rule from right now on that you absolutely will not wait until the day before it is due.
  • Once the slides from the lab class are on Canvas, take notes on them, especially the notes that the instructor puts below each slide. Take notes on them the same way you did for your lab manual and test yourself, too.


  • Attend the review sessions! Ask any questions you have, and listen to the questions that your peers ask. Take notes here too!
  • Revise from all sources: notes, worksheets, lab manual illustrations, powerpoint slides, lab text, etc. While revising, make a list of any questions you still have. Go to the instructor as soon as possible to ask these questions.
  • Do not assume anything is trivial. If you see a concept and think “I don’t really know this that well, but I doubt it’ll come up on the exam.” Think again; it probably will come up on the exam. Ask ANY Premed 2 student if this has happened to them, and I’m 100% their answer will be yes.


Binder VS Notebook VS Folder??? Part 1

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

In the name of God, the Most Gracious, Most Merciful 

Yes, I know what were thinking when you read the title of this post:”Seriously? A stationary post? What difference does it make.” True true, in the end your, A in chemistry (inshallah!!) isn’t due to the stationary you used. BUT, I don’t want your back to be broken by the end of the semester, and I have a really funny story to share at the end of this so just go with it 🙂


Ok, so first day comes and you start your classes. You realize that your “classes” are divided in two: lectures and labs (and obviously in both you’ll be taking notes like the good student that you are, duh). So this post will focus on what I used for lecture classes. The next one will focus on what I used for lab classes.


LECTURES: The smartest thing I did all year was use one big 5 subject notebook at a time. Here’s a picture of one.


You can get these at Carrefour, and here’s a really good tip: first buy one or two and see if you like using them. If you do like them, the next time you go to Carrefour buy a LOT all at once. You will be surprised how quickly you use up one book, and you don’t want to be in the midst of a crazy semester needing to start a new notebook but not having enough time to go out to get one. So that’s what I did over the summer, I bought a bunch. Another tip: you should really buy a lot because your friends will ask if you have any during the semester. Speaking of which, look what message I woke up to this morning 🙂 ❤

I love you Sarah

These notebooks are toooo perfect because never will you have to carry a lot! Think about it: let’s say you have one notebook per subject. Since you have all subject lectures on Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday, imagine how many notebooks you’ll be carrying- and that’s only for lectures not including the material you’ll be carrying for lab. Instead, you can carry just one notebook at a time.

This is what I did:

I ascribed the first 2 sections to Chemistry (because I took the most notes in it), then 1 section for Math, 1 section for Biology, and 1 section for Health and Disease (but there are less notes to take in health and disease, so you could have 2 sections for bio).

The point is, rather than your notebooks differing based on subject, they will differ based on timeframes of the semester. The benefit of this are:

A) Only carrying one notebook at any giving time during the semester  

B) lets say you have a bio and chem prelim in the same week. You will still only have to carry one notebook because it will have the content for BOTH subjects in it.

Other benefits of this notebook:

A) The pages are so wonderfully wide!! You can fit a lot of info across the page, leading to using less pages. I don’t know about you, but these notebooks play a nice trick on my mind because, to me, I’d much rather review 1 page of notes-no matter how packed the page is- rather than read 20 pages of notes with less densely packed information on it. 

 B) The colors are so pretty 😍 Honestly you have to try the notebook out because there is some psychological effect that the color on every page has on you; it’s like you want to turn the next page because of the burst of color 😍

See: https://youtu.be/gOd-TNWzqHs

So you start the semester with one notebook. Since your lectures are one after another, you start each day by just taking out the notebook and tada, you just turn to a new section whenever you have a new lecture 🙂 Once the sections are filled, you move onto a new notebook. Disclaimer: obviously not each section will be filled before others. Maybe there will be one week when you might carry 2 notebooks OR you could just start a new notebook whenever one section ends (and use any extra pages from other sections for scratch paper).

     So for Chemistry, I wrote lecture notes (in class notes) in here AND PowerPoint notes (at home notes) in here as well AND did my homework in here. This is very important: keep all of your notes and work together! I can testify to hearing people last year saying they wish they had put their homework with their notes because seriously things get lost and you have a lot to keep track of already.

      For Biology I did the same, but understand that I am talking about the LECTURE course here, not the lab course. That is to come. So I would take notes on the modules (at home notes) in here as well as lecture notes (in class notes) in here.

       For Physics, I only put lecture notes in here. I took notes of the chapters in the book as well but I didn’t put them in here because it was too much (that’s for a later post).

       For Math I did all of notes (in class and home) and real work in here; by this I mean that I didn’t do extra practice problems in this notebook, I did them on scrap paper.

Try them out and tell me what you think! Please do leave comments below 🙂

Oh, here’s the funny story: (Ok it’s not that funny)

        So last year we all began the semester, and I used these notebooks from the very beginning just because they were so cuuuute. All of my other classmates, though, were using other notebooks or doing the 1 notebook/subject thing. Then as the semester progressed I kept seeing my exact notebook everywhere, thinking they were my notebooks that I had misplaced, but they were just my classmates’ notebooks… By the end of the semester everyone was using the notebooks and we were all mixing our notebooks because they all look the same, and it became tradition that whenever someone was about to start a new one, they wouldn’t take off the plastic wrapping until they were in lecture so that we could all experience the magnificent unwrapping of a new notebook together. #justpremedthings


Lecture Notes

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

In the name of God, the Most Gracious, Most Merciful 

Note-taking during lecture is a very, very, very important art. I probably learned 40% of the chemistry material just by taking notes during the lectures.

Why? How? Because as you are physically writing, your brain is filtering and organizing the information. Filtering and organizing information = understanding and remembering information later on.

So where do you start?

  • Always date your notes. There were waaaaaay too many times last year when I was too lazy to write the date at the top (or forgot to) and thought “Eh, I’ll remember where these notes are; no biggie”, then as weeks passed and my notebook continued to fill, it would take me 20 minutes  to find any one set of notes- which is 20 minutes I could’ve spent doing something else.


  • Don’t take notes on things written on the powerpoint slide- you can include this info in the notes that you write at home when you are looking through the powerpoints again. The key to note-taking DURING lecture is to take notes on the things SAID or on the things WRITTEN ON THE BOARD, aka the things that you won’t have access to later on.


  • Speaking of things written on the board, always write whatever the professor is writing on the board. Professors don’t write on boards for nothing. If he is writing, you should be writing.


  • Put a ginormous question mark or circle beside anything you didn’t catch / anything you don’t really understand. Try to go to the professor right when the lecture is over to ask him these questions! It’ll save you time later on! If you don’t ask the professor your questions right after the lecture, there’s a high chance you might forget to ask or be too lazy to ask. Then imagine how bad you’ll feel when the first question on the Prelim is related to that concept- if only you walked 2 steps out of your chair right after lecture to ask! 😉 But if you can’t ask right after lecture, make sure you remember to visit the professor and ask 🙂

Now the real advice is on the speed of taking notes. It is imperative that you become a faster note-taker because you are going to come across professors / patients / doctors who will talk extremely fast and expect you to record everything they are saying. You might be thinking “Nah, I’d use technology to record what they are saying” but trust me, there will always be a time when you will have to take fast notes. Here’s an example: Do you think students use technology to record everything that the researchers they are working with say? No, they don’t, because both you and the researcher are moving around, pipetting things, holding things, walking to places, etc.

The best way to become a faster note-taker is to practice taking notes. The more you practice, the easier it becomes to simultaneously hear what is being said and write it on paper. Becoming a faster note-taker = being able to record more information in less time = improving the chances of recording important information AND decreasing the chances of falling behind and missing something that the professor says.

You might be thinking “But if I write fast, I won’t be understanding what I am writing.” Sure, it is nice to be able to take notes and simultaneously understand the concepts that you are writing, but to me the goal of taking notes during lecture is to record whatever is not readily available later on. You can review  the notes and think more critically about them to understand them after the lecture, while the most important thing to do during lecture is to write.

The second way to become a faster writer is to NOT write unnecessary words, like “and”, “is”, “the”, “a”, “an”, etc. Most articles and linking verbs are unnecessary. Instead of using a linking verb, just use an equal sign; instead of writing “and”, just draw the and sign:

For example:

For gases, volume & temperature = directly related

There are a ton of symbols and shortened forms of words that you can use to write faster (My favorite symbols aren’t on the list below, but they are the 3 dots that form a triangle that represent “as a results”, and an arrow to represent anything that follows another concept).

Use these and see how fast your note-taking becomes

Whenever I am in the midst of writing and I notice I am becoming too slow / I can’t keep up with the lecturer, I begin randomly dropping letters from words, especially vowels, to pick up the pace.

For example:

electrngtvty ncrses acrs prdc tbl

When I go back to my notes later on to study, I can still understand what I was writing; the actual content of the lecture is not missing even though the vowels are (and sometimes, I go back and add the vowels, just because it looks weird without them hehe).

I remember in 10th grade, I was taking AP Biology and my dad was making me take hand-written notes on every chapter. Every time he saw me write a single unnecessary word, he would interrogate me as to why I wrote it. From then on, as I took more and more notes, I gradually developed the skill of using the least amount of characters/words possible while still maintaining the integrity of the concept that I was learning.


Now imagine yourself having just finished 50 minutes of lecture and having just written the most beautiful notes in the world. Now what?

  1. You should IMMEDIATELY review these notes! Right after the lecture! Ok I’ll confess something; it was seriously my goal at the start of both semesters to just take 3 minutes after each lecture to look through the notes I took during the lecture because studies show that it has a very significant impact on memory.

“A famous study on forgetting textbook materials compared the percentage of material remembered after different intervals of time. The results were as follows:” (http://faculty.bucks.edu/specpop/memory.htm)

After 1 day 54% was remembered.
After 7 days 35% was remembered.
After 14 days 21% was remembered.
After 21 days 18% was remembered.
After 28 days 19% was remembered.
After 63 days 17% was remembered.

I unfortunately got too lazy every time- but this year I will do it inshAllah! And you should do it too! Ask me about it in the upcoming weeks and see if I stayed true to my word 😉

2. The final thing to do with your lecture notes is the easiest: just keep reviewing them. From the day your took the notes to the day of the assessment, you should be revising your notes, first ACTIVELY, and then, once you know them extremely well and can teach them to someone in your sleep, passively.

When you are first reviewing your notes at home, you should have a highlighter/pen with you and you should be…

A) Highlighting/Circling/Boxing/”Star”ing really important concepts.

B) Taking note of watch outs!

C) Adding extra commentary/notes to existing ones

Do/write anything that will make your learning interactive with your notes, thereby  familiarizing yourself with them. When you familarize yourself with them, they become stored in your memory and are easier to recall later. Most importantly, constant review of your notes will improve the grasp that you have of the concept.

You MUST review these notes on a regular basis (at least once per week) and until you feel like you can TEACH them to anyone in your sleep! Each time you review your notes, do something different with them. I play this game where I take small sticky notes and pick one concept on each page that I think is the most important or that I think I might forget and I put the stick note there. That way, when I am studying right before an assessment, just looking at the “tabbed” concepts refreshes my memory of the most important concepts.

A friend of a friend of mine uses three different highlighters when she reviews her notes. The first time she reviews, she uses yellow, the second time pink and the third time green. Going from lightest to darkest, she can keep track of how many times she has reviewed the notes while also highlighting important concepts to easily recall them later on.

So find what is best for you to interact with your lecture-taken notes 🙂

I hope this was helpful; if there is anything else you’d like to know about what I do for lecture note-taking, please feel free to leave me a comment (“Leave a comment” is above near the heading).

A page of my notes. Notice the pencil is me during the lecture, and the pen is me later on, reviewing the notes. Also notice the annotations of the PROBLEM being solved. Annotate everything to familarize yourself with the logical steps of the solution to a problem.

How to Chemistry

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

In the name of God, the Most Gracious, Most Merciful 

Guess what’s the first thing you’ll be told to do in Chemistry class.

“Listen Attentively and Think Critically.”

Simple right? On the first day, yes. On the second day, sure. On the 27th day? Maybe not so easy- The key is to develop habits that will keep you fully attentive to the lecturer no matter what day it is, whether it be the first or the last. These are habits that encourage you to treat every lecture as if it is the most important lecture of the semester (or of your life 🙂 ). If you don’t give a lecture its due attention, you will end up not learning the content of that lecture as best as possible, which will lead to you to being behind while the work and other lectures continue piling up, which will ultimately lead to you staying up the night before the big exam, wishing you had been paying attention during lecture.

Don’t fool yourself into thinking that lecture is the time for you to sit back and relax and that the real studying begins at home- if you make use of lecture time to engage with the content and understand as much as you can, you will save yourself a lot of time that can be used in other ways later on (such as free time to do whatever you want!). 

By  actively engaging during lecture and following it up with daily review of notes and practice problems, by the time assessments come,  you will be ready to easily review your notes and practice applying your knowledge with practice problems. 

So here are the things that I did to help me stay attentive during lectures and then to help me prepare for assessments in Chemistry:

  1. Sitting in the first few rows and not in the back.

Do you know that feeling when your in the movie theatre and there are people behind you talking during the movie? The noise from the source other than the movie doesn’t allow you to get the full movie experience, and you feel only half engaged (or not at all) in the movie. Well it’s the same thing during lectures, and you can probably guess that the farther you sit, the more likely you and the people around you are going to be inclined to talk- And y’all already know that won’t fly in chemistry, because every word that your professor says is golden.

“Studies show that students who sit in the front and center of the classroom tend to achieve higher average exam scores (Rennels & Chaudhari, 1988). One study discovered a direct relationship between test scores and seating distance from the front of class: students in the front, middle, and back rows of class scored 80%, 71.6%, and 68.1% respectively on course exams (Giles, 1982) … The higher academic performance of

students sitting front and center is most likely due to the fact that there are learning advantages provided by these seating positions, such as the following:

1) better vision of the blackboard,
2) better hearing of what is being said by the instructor,
3) better attention to what is being said because there are fewer (or no) people between them
and the instructor to distract them, and
4) greater eye contact with the instructor—which may increase their sense of personal
responsibility to listen to, and take notes on, what their instructor is saying.” (https://www.altoona.psu.edu/fts/docs/SeatingPositionGrades.pdf)

Do you see how beneficial sitting in the front is? It’s like a buy 1 get 1000000 free: just by sitting in the front, you have put yourself in “time to focus” mode, and by doing so you do two things: 1) You avoid a ton of sources of distraction because you won’t be inclined to them if the professor is right in front of you and 2) You retain as much as information as possible from the lecture, ultimately leading to having more time to dedicate to other things in your life later on. For me, the front is where I like to be because the eye contact and face-to-face engagement with the professor somehow makes it a million times easier for me to understand and recall what I learn.

     2. Taking Notes During the Lecture 

It isn’t enough to just sit in lecture. You have to be actively integrating the information given to you, and you certainly won’t integrate all 50-minutes of lecturing just my staring at your professor. The simple act of having to transform the words from the mouth of the professor to my brain to my handwriting and onto the paper is the best way for me to feel like I really get what is going on in class, like I really have a grasp of the concept. I take notes during the lecture because again, everything your professor says is golden, and also because having to write it down makes it more familiar. This familiarity with the concepts is key because it makes it easier to expand on the concept later on when studying/reviewing notes as well as easier to recall it on exams.

Now here is where I differ with many people; my idea of “effective” notes for GenChem is writing almost everything that the professor says (can you guess why? Because everything he says is golden), but other students may write more concise notes. The key is to write as much as YOU THINK you need to make the concept familiar to you to an extent that you can describe the concept to someone else, or to the extent that if someone were to test you on the concept in a way that required a little more critical thinking, you would be able to answer the question.

To me, that means writing almost everything the professor says and then later on re-evaluating my notes and finding the most meaningful parts of them and focusing on these parts.

How well you do in college is strongly correlated to the study patterns you adopt. This is what I think is the cycle you go through as a student who listens attentively in lecture:

Screen Shot 2016-08-17 at 1.47.39 AM

3. Homework, Homework, Homework 

Do the homework. When it is assigned.

Do the homework. When it is assigned.

Do the homework. When it is assigned. 

Pleeeaaasseeee just do the homework when it is assigned! 

I cannot even describe how STRONGLY CORRELATED doing the homework is with doing well on the assessments. Seriously though, dedicating a good few hours to STRUGGLING with the homework and really trying to understand the underlying concepts within each problem and the tricks within each problem IS KEY to locking the concepts in your brain.

When you can: A) easily and logically flow through the answer of a homework problem, B) not fall for the little tricks in each problem and C) know where each step in the answer comes from, that is when you know you have mastered the concept and are ready for an assessment  🙂

So, if you are rushing to do the homework the NIGHT BEFORE the exam, do you accomplish A, B, and C? Probably Not

If you are doing the homework while also watching TV and talking to your classmates on Facebook, do you accomplish A, B, and C? Probably Not

If you do the homework but don’t go to homework review, do you accomplish A, B, and C? Probably Not

So go someplace quiet and give yourself a good 2 hours to just sit and solve the homework problems. Write any questions you have about the problem to the side, and ask them at the homework review. Go to the homework reviews and COMPARE how YOU solved the problems to how the PROFESSOR solved it, and take NOTE of the logical flow of the solutions –> You should actually JOT these things down; make sidenotes to yourself, like “See: use train tracks for unit conversions” or “See: converting to moles then solving the problem is easiest to work with”. Also take notes of any tricks that are in the problem with a big star! And exclamation marks!

4. Watch Out List 

This has to be my favorite part of studying for Chemistry.

While taking notes during lecture, AND while re-evaluating my notes at home, AND while doing practice problems, AND while attending any review, there was always a “scanner” in my mind looking for things that I easily miss/things that typically trick students in problems. Every time I would find something that I thought would trick me on future assessments, I would write a big WATCH OUT beside it. Then, while studying at home, I would make one big page of “Watch Outs” where I would list all of the things to watch out for. So I would look through all of my notes and gather these watch outs to put them all on a page; that way, I could have them all in one place to easily dedicate 10 minutes to keeping those points in my brain.

What’s the point of this though? The point is that on a time-stressed exam, you are more likely than not to miss certain things and to be tricked by certain details in the question. So if you have TRAINED yourself to SPOT the tricks before hand, then when it comes up on the exam- when you SEE something that was on your list- a siren will go off in your head and you’ll be so proud of yourself for noticing it :).

This is really inoortant because many times it is that one little trick that, when you realize what it means, will help you solve the problem easily. Many times the questions you come across are easy, but only easy once you hage found a detail that means something important for the question. The key is that what starts off as a tricky part of the question actually becomes a detail that you now integrated into your list of things to look for when solving problems.

An example of a Watch Out page for one of my quizzes (notice the big letters and exclamation marks!!!!)


So in the end, this was my routine: 


  1. Take notes during lecture, writing “watch out” near anything I thought would trick me/anything I would forget in a problem, putting huge question marks besides anything I didn’t understand.  
  2. Go home and open the Powerpoint slides. Take colorful notes of the information on the slides, still noting “watch outs”, putting huge question marks besides anything I didn’t understand
  3. Re-evaluate BOTH, my lecture notes and powerpoint notes, reviewing concepts and details. 
  4. Starting the homework (or doing it all in one sitting if I could, but I also liked splitting it up over 2 days), still noting “watch outs”, understanding the logical flow of the answer, and putting huge question marks besides anything I didn’t understand.
ppt .jpg
An example page from my “Powerpoint Notes”


  1. Going to the professor and asking him about the things that have huge question marks besides them. Taking notes of the explanations.


  1. Watching how the professor solves the problem and comparing it with how I solved it:
    1. A) Finding things that the professor does that are easier and quicker than the way I do it. 
    2. B) Understanding the logical flow of the solution 
    3. C) Putting stars beside things that the professor repeats/focusses on/says is important
  2. Asking any questions I still have. 
An example page from my Homework. Pencil = me while doing the homework, Pen = me during the homework review, taking note of the things that the professor emphasized/did differently.


  1. Looking over all notes multiple times, each time doing something different. EX:
    1. One time using a highlighter on important ideas. 
    2. Another time talking to myself, explaining to myself the concept and making sure I mention all of the points that I have both sets of notes (lecture and powerpoint). 
    3. Maybe another time with sticky notes, placing one sticky note on any one place in the page that I thought had the MOST IMPORTANT concept of that entire page on it. 
  2. Doing as much practice as possible, including:
    1. Doing the homework problems again, at least those that have tricks in them or those that I struggled with or those that the professor says are very good questions 
    2. Doing the sample problems that are found throughout the chapter 
    3. Doing the problems from lecture over again! (Are in the powerpoint slides) 
  3. Creating my WATCH OUT page with things to remember/look for in problems. 
  4. Going to the professor and asking any questions I have


  1. Review my all notes over and over again until I could explain them to someone in my sleep! 
  2. As much practice as possible! Doing the homework again, doing past exam questions, doing extra problems from the end of the chapter, etc. 
  3. Asking the professor any single question I have, asking the professor to clear any doubts or re-explain any concept that I feel a little weak on/ any concept that I can’t fully explain to someone while in my sleep 
  4. Reviewing the Watch Out lists! 
  5. Just flipping through all of the powerpoint slides one last time 
  6. Doing all of the practice problems on the powerpoints one last time
  7. Sleeping enough!!! (I would be in bed by 9 PM because I knew it would take me at least 30 minutes to fall asleep) 
  8. Waking up to pray Tahajjud and Fajr and making duaa for an easy exam!


  1. Not cramming 
  2. Reading Quran/Doing things that keep me calm 
  3. Finally saying “Tawakaltu 3lAllah” (I have put my trust in Allah), knowing that I did as much as possible to prepare and knowing that whatever happens is for the best. 

So that is the main gist of how I studied for GenChem. I hope this was beneficial for you. REMEMBER that you don’t have to do all of these steps! Maybe you don’t even have to do ANY of them except for taking notes during lecture and doing the homework- The point of me detailing all of this is to show you that if you really don’t know where to start from, try my method starting with what to do the day of the lecture and then from there you will know what next step YOU should take,  whether that be the same next step that I have outline above or a different step that you think will be better for your preparation. 

If you have any questions about anything please feel free to leave me a comment (“Leave a comment” is above near the heading). 




Starting Again

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

In the name of God, the Most Gracious, Most Merciful 

A year has passed, and now I’m a Sophomore. What’s funny is that last year when I began this blog I realized I didn’t have much to say because I didn’t have any experiences that I thought were meaningful to anyone.

But throughout this week I see the new Freshmen, wide-eyed and anxious, and I wish I could describe to them how amazing their year is going to be. Yet we all know that no matter how much you explain to people what to expect, they won’t really understand what you mean until they experience it for themselves- and this applies to both the wonderful experiences that you will have and the challenging ones.

So if I can’t convince you to relax and take it easy (and I won’t blame you- I too couldn’t sleep on many occasions out of nervousness in the first few days), what I can do is this: tell you what I did in my first year that maximized the wonderful times and minimized the challenging ones.

The posts to come are simply that, just me telling you what worked for me. Not every technique works for every person. If you don’t think something works for you, don’t stress about it; you might develop an even better, smarter, and more effective technique (feel free to share!). If you feel that anything I’ve said was helpful, please do tell. If you feel that anything I’ve said makes no sense whatsoever, please do tell as well.

I ask Allah to accept this endeavour for His sake alone as a source of help for anyone who needs it, even if it is a single person. I ask Allah to place His Blessings in my time so that I may continue to post throughout the year and not get caught up with my work/life.