Acing the USMLE Step 1
Yeah, you may have survived Preclinical Sciences but there’s only one tiny thing left before you can move onto your clinical rotations: the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 1. This monster of a test clocks in at nearly eight hours and has 322 questions, testing everything you learned in Preclinical Sciences. Sure, there are breaks but what good are they if you’re already exhausted and overwhelmed? Here are some basic tips so you’ll feel confident on test day:
This test will determine if you’ll be able to move onto clinical rotations and a great score would look good on residency applications. Don’t let that trip you up, though. Keep this far out of your mind as you study. The more you dwell on how vital this test is, the less you’ll be able to focus on being a good test taker. Worse, chronic stress can harm your mental and physical health. Make sure to take some time away from studying and enjoy the little things in life. Read a book. Eat a burger. Watch a movie. Anything that makes you content is an outlet you’ll need to prevent stress from piling up.
Besides prepping for the examine, you’ll need to set some time aside to stay healthy. A healthy mind and body are essential for life and, most importantly, test day. Junk food is good every once and awhile for energy but don’t make it part of your staple diet. Your mind will operate better and you’ll feel less exhausted with a well-balanced diet and consistent physical activity. Running, basketball, weight lifting anything that keeps you in shape will decrease the chance of exhaustion on test day.
A good way to get into the mindset of test day is to take practice exams. This will give you a feel for how questions are worded and give you an idea if you have the endurance necessary on test day. Think of the test as a mental marathon. You’ll need to get some endurance training in before you can sit down and start doing the test. Even if you finish your questions early, sitting in a room for eight hours could be an ordeal. Set aside eight hours (with breaks of course) and take a practice exam at least once a week to get a feel for it.
After you practice, see where you were weak in and focus on those subjects as you study. That way you can help fill the gaps in your expertise in case a test is geared more towards those questions. This will also help you with the most important part of prepping for the USMLE: studying.
Most importantly, you’ll need to remember what you learned in Preclinical Sciences. That’s why you need study for the USMLE at least a few months before you take the exam. Make a schedule for when you will study and stick to it. This will ensure that you don’t cram all your studying in the day before the exam. You’ll only be exhausted and you won’t be sufficiently prepared to answer every question to the best of your ability. In fact, the day before the exam, just take a night off and have a good night’s sleep.
American University of Antigua (AUA) College of Medicine uses the Fifth Semester of medical school to prepare our students for STEP 1 and clinical rotations. However, this isn’t protocol in every medical school. If you want to pass the USMLE or excel at it, you will need to dedicate yourself. Even if you know Preclinical Sciences like the back of your hand, the USMLE is an entirely different beast.