June 10, 2008

Top Ten Tips for Step 1

I've been busy having a lot of fun this summer break (i.e. going scuba diving, getting a girlfriend and suffering the repercussions) so I'm sorry to all my readers out there. In lieu of a more original post, here's the list of tips I sent out to my friends when I was asked for advice about Step 1.... most of it I've said before.

1) Use USMLE World and mark the challenging questions.
2) Go through other question banks Kaplan, USMLE Rx, etc.
3) Revisit the questions you got wrong in World in random blocks and keep at it! Themes for your weaknesses start to emerge, so rehearse this material in the way that suits you best -- for me, it was silly drawings and mnemonics that I scribbled into First Aid.
4) Make First Aid your bedtime reading material. Imagine the question stems related to each subject and some of the tricky answers that typically throw you off.
5) Three weeks before, go to Prometric and take the practice. These questions are representative of Step 1 (albeit 150 questions shorter than the real thing.)
6) Two weeks before, take another self-assessment. I used USMLE World's Self-Assessment ($25, 200Qs) because it gives you the World-class explanations.
7) A week before, take NBME self-assessments to your heart's content. I'd highly recommend doing 350 questions in a day at least once.... I didn't and I found myself wishing I had more "test-stamina" as I had a series of mini absence-seizures by block 6.
8) Keep reviewing your weaker subjects in First Aid!
9) Relax the day before your exam. No matter what you think, you won't learn anything new the day before.
10) I did a quick 25 random Q block before I biked to Prometric on my final day. This warmed up my brain before the grueling 350 question exam.
11) Write down the number of blocks you have (7) on the corner of your blue laminated sheet from Prometric and knock it off as it passes. I lost track and I convinced myself that block 6 was my last one so I missed out on some vital break time.

Sorry, that list turned out longer than I expected.

Some observations I had on the real thing -- there were less calculations and more behavioral sci scenarios than I expected. Common subjects tend to cluster by block (I had literally half a dozen questions on hepatic encephalopathy in block 6 and 7!) The micro was easier than Kaplan's. Review a lot of CTs for your anatomy points. I'd estimate that the questions are 70% like NBME, 30% like USMLE World (in the thinking sense, not the obscurity sense.) Hm... there's a lot more, but the information is draining out of my head as we speak (or more accurately, as I write.)