Good EMT Study Habits to Ace your Exam










Good EMT study habits are developed over time. They are necessary to get a passing grade on your certification exam and can be useful for life's other endeavors. To ensure your success in the classroom you must plan your study time, use study strategies that work for you and have the right motivation to study.


As an instructor I have heard from student who failed (too many times I might add) "I don't understand why I failed! I spent 20 hours studying!". You have to put in the time but if you don’t understand what you read or why you are reading it you might just as well as studying the phone book. For most people, especially the longer you have been out of school, you need to put all your senses to work to study. This way your "Body" remembers instead of your mind.

Explain it to Grandma

It has been said that you really don't understand your material until you can explain it to your grandma. This is true for EMS as well. A good EMT study habit is to take the information you have learned and rewrite the information so you can explain it to a non-EMT.

This is a lot of work but well worth it in the end.There is no one-size-fits-all method for studying. You need to choose a strategy that works for you and perhaps picking more than one..


Strategies for studying

An old professor mine (Dr. Anders - Seton Hall University circa 1980) once said to me "Read the ink off the page" while studying. What I think he meant was that I should read and reread the material until I got it. This sounded good but I found that if I did not understand the basic material I could reread it until the cows came home and it would not matter. So the first and foremost EMT Study Habit is to seek out a live person to explain it to you if you are confused. No sense going over material that just confuses you, it just reinforces the confusion.

Highlighting and Underlining

Marking the content of a chapter can be helpful the first time you read through the material. Especially if the concept is confusing. the goal is to pick up the most important parts of the section. If you read the material before class then this section is likely to be positively reinforced in lecture.

If you are highlighting so much the page turns yellow (assuming you are using a yellow highlighter) and the page begins to crinkle, you probably don't understand enough of the material to pick out the important bits.

Margin Notes

When you read something that is significant it is useful to make a note in the margin in the book. You should own your text book so you can mark it up anyway you like. This note can draw your attention to this section when you review.

Study Notes or study cards

Making study notes or study cards is a good EMT study habit to get into. It forces you to select the important information from the text. You should re-write the text in your own words - telling it to grandma in effect.

This engages more than your sense of sight. You first have to think then write. More of your brain is involved than just the cognitive part. New memory connections are made.

That same old professor of mine, Dr. Anders, also said to make as many notes as you need. Then rewrite them on less paper. Rewrite them again on one piece of paper then finally throw them away. After writing the notes down three or four times, I never forgot the material.

Make Categories

One problem in EMT studies is that you need to learn and memorize comparative values. For example you need to know the average blood pressures for adult males, children and infants. Making a table of these values and compare them to female average values is a good way of sorting out the information in your head.

Use visual Representations

For some subjects, such as anatomy and physiology, it is hard to just study text. Use pictures and diagrams to help reinforce what you learned. When I needed to learn the order of vertebrae in the spinal column, I made a stick figure and labeled each section accordingly. To this day I still see that stick figure when I instruct my class.

Study Groups

Study groups can be very useful if used correctly. It is similar to "Teaching it to grandma". You may have picked up a good piece of knowledge and know it very well. Teaching it your group helps them and reinforces your knowledge. The same goes for others. You should set some ground rules for such groups and who gets the beer and pizza.


You will have to find your own way to learn EMS. Your study habits will be different from those around you. Don’t' assume that their method is better than yours. The tests and quizzes you take will help you assess whether your EMT study Habits are well formed or not. If you are struggling, seek help.


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