Happy Easter. I’m back!
I warned you all that I would disappear for a few months this winter and, lo and behold, I did. This winter was that of my second year of medical school, a trying time for med students. It is during the winter of second-year that studying for the USMLE Step 1 board exam begins, the test that primarily determines our eligibility for residency. It’s like the ACT or SAT for doctors. Classes end in mid-winter and give way to “dedicated” study time which continues through the spring until most students finish boards by summer.This “dedicated” time is rough, so I’ve decided to write a reflection on these past several weeks in case it’ll help another med student or their family understand what it’s like.
My exam is Thursday, 5 days from now, and I’m proud to say I feel ready. A month ago I couldn’t have said it. Although intelligent, I’m not one of those naturally gifted med students that can goof off and do well, nor am I a gunner who will do whatever it takes to be top of the class. I have to work hard, do my best, and at the end of the day, I’m still an average student. Therefore, I set a goal for myself of “beating the average,” aka getting above 230 (an arbitrary score that means average and denotes a decent score for many specialties).
In January, everyone in my class took a practice test and I got a 185, a failing score, since it takes about 194 to pass. A month ago, after 2 weeks of studying 11 hours a day, I only got a 188 on the next practice test. I don’t think anything could have been more disheartening. Was I doing it wrong? Did I have the wrong books? The wrong practice questions? Since I couldn’t afford more resources, so I decided to keep my head down and keep working hard. Two weeks later I had my first windfall, a practice 219. I wasn’t yet where I wanted to be, but at least I was passing. Just last week I took my final practice test and got a 234, right where I’d like to be, with a week left to polish my trouble subjects.
The last few weeks have been nothing but rain here, so studying has been easy. I’m an avid fly fisher, so had the weather been nice I may not have been as productive. I used UWorld, First Aid, and Clinical Microbiology Made Ridiculously Simple, a set of practice questions and two textbooks respectively. My schedule was 5 hours of general studying and 120 practice questions 6 days a week. I usually started around 9am and finished around 8pm. It was a grueling 5 weeks and I still have 4 days to go, but the method worked. For any other med students that may read this, everyone can handle a different amount of work, and all you can do is your personal best, whatever score that leads to.
After my exam I plan to spend 2 weeks in Europe and will return for my next chapter. I will be starting a post-sophomore fellowship in pathology for a year, before returning for third year next spring. A good friend of mine took time off in college to do internships at engineering firms and I’ve always envied her experience, so since this would be my final opportunity to do something similar, I took it. I will basically be acting as a first year pathology resident for a year. Therefore, I will definitely be posting some interesting stuff in the coming months, just don’t expect anything ’til May because I’ll be on vacation.
If you’re a med student or one of their loved ones and are reading this, I’d be happy to answer any questions about what little I know of Step 1, just comment.