It is safe to say that the USMLE step 1 course is an important assessment for any medical student as it tests the fundamental skills and evaluates a learner’s ability to apply knowledge and principles. The exam score also determines your choice of residency programs, and for this reason, students want to make sure they are utterly ready for the exam.
Preparing for the examination can be overwhelming because of the plenty of study resources at your disposal and, in most cases, limited time. The dedicated study periods and techniques vary for each learner since there is no one-size-fits-all strategy. Because of this, it is normal for students to feel unsure of whether they are studying the right way. The tension in the air is almost tangible, and students and over the years, have made several mistakes that include:
Overloading on resources
There are tons of resources that make studying easier but can, at times, become stressful. It is normal for students to hop from one book to another because they fear missing out. However, doing this is a disservice to yourself as you are bound to absorb shallow knowledge. Including a new book, each time will also disrupt your schedule.
Instead of skimming through so many surface-level books, consider selecting one or more top resources. Have an in-depth understanding of its content, and if you have spare time, you may go through additional resources. Sticking to a set number of resources makes learning easier, orderly and effective. Working with a specific number of books is worth getting shallow information on hundreds of resources.
Dismissing the questions you get wrong
No one learns to get a question wrong – especially one of a topic you’ve recently studied. Most students tend to forgo such questions and proceed to the next. However, failed questions are a good opportunity to learn something new or complement the existing knowledge. Create a list of all the questions you didn’t get right and review their topics.
When listing the questions, understand why you didn’t get the right answers. It could be a result of a silly mistake such as misinterpretation. Finding the right solutions to the incorrect questions may also help you cover multiple topics quickly. Instead of sulking about getting plenty of wrong questions, look at it as a learning opportunity.
Forgetting to learn the weak areas
The different amount of topics tested in USMLE step 1 makes studying overwhelming. Most students lean towards their areas of strength – subjects they are good at. While it is okay to explore your favorite topics, it is important to allocate more time for the places you poorly perform. You can establish your weak areas by assessing your score on different subjects.
Allocate more time to your least favorite subjects to develop familiarity and understanding of the contents. Going through your areas of difficulty repeatedly gives you a different perspective of the once difficult subjects.
Self-care care usually takes the back seat, and most students allocate most of their time to studying. However, there is only much that your brain and body can handle. When you neglect self-care, you put yourself at risk for student burnout. The following are some tips to take care of yourself without setting yourself up for low scores.
· Get adequate sleep. You can still get your eight hours of sleep every day while still making the most out of your study. Quality sleep rejuvenates your mind and body, making you charged for the day.
· Take breaks. You deserve breaks in between your study times. You can use that time to calm your mind by doing yoga, stretching or listening to music.
· Eat a healthy diet. Avoid processed foods and sugary drinks like sodas and instead, eat wholesome foods for your overall well-being.
Prioritizing cramming over understanding
Using facts instead of understanding the concept is a common mistake students make as they prepare for the USMLE Step 1 examination. Cramming does not equip you with a deeper understanding of a concept, and you may therefore find it difficult to manipulate information at an advanced level. Most students resort to cramming because of limited time, and for this reason, you need to start your studying earlier to avoid the rush.
Making the above mistakes is a detriment to your performance, but the good news is now that you know them, you understand the things you should and should not do when preparing for USMLE step 1.