Experience @ USMLE: Story 1

This is a story / experience of a USMLE aspirant who has passed it.

Found through surfing net. Posting here for the benefit of you guys.

one thing that helped me out a great deal was reading exam and study experiences. i shaped part of my studying based on how people studied and their results. so i figga that i’ll share my experience in the hopes that it might help someone else in the future. i remember reading a post once where someone said that people shouldn’t share these type of experiences because the people who take the exam in the future are at an unfair advantage. so be it. if people didn’t post before me, i wouldn’t have gotten such a score, so it’s a “you scratch my back and i’ll scratch yours” type of thing (something like medicare, before bush reform).

ok, i’m gonna seperate it into 3 sections: what i did, what i did which i wish i didn’t do, and what i didn’t do which i wish i did. (say that 3 times fast).

1) what i did: i used a variety of review books from different publishers, etc. my books included: 1)path BRS 2)physio BRS 3)ridiculously simple micro 4)Lippincott pharm 5)high yield biochem 6)high yield beh sci 7)high yield neuro 8)BRS anatomy (didn’t finish it)…i ultimately supplemented all the subjects with Kaplan books and the 30-day video lecture pass from Kaplan.

my MAIN NUMERO UNO book was First Aid. honestly, First Aid has got a good portion of the exam covered. basically, i used it as a notebook and noted down anything that i came across in any of my other books into First Aid. (duh, i took notes…lol). you should see the size of my writing in FA, i used ultra-sharp pens and mechanical pencils to get it down to size. that took about 4 months averaging 6 hours per day (reading the books took more time that all that writing). then i spent about a month listening to Kaplan lectures, and taking notes too. at this point i was avg about 10-12 hours per day. these were very hard days.

this next part was probably the most important part. in my opinion, if you’re like the rest of us and are not endowed with photographic memory or an einstein brain, you must do this next step. even if you decide not to take Kaplan review lectures or any other type of review. that is….drumroll please…Kaplan QBank. no i do not work for Kaplan. but they know what they’re doing. i also bought IV QBank, which i thought was a waste of money. but the original QBank was the closest that i could get to the exam without actually taking it.

basically, i sat with the Kaplan medical director and he told me how to take those exams. i did a set of 50 in about an hour. then i spent about 2-3 hours reviewing it. review the correct answer, the wrong answers, why i got it right, why i got it wrong, where i’m weak, what i need to study. if it was just a memorization problem, then i would go memorize. if it was a concept problem i would go open Guyton or robbins or Kaplan or any other book to understand the concept. and this Kaplan dude told me not to lie to myself. if i didn’t know something, i should admit it, and then take care of it. these last two months were especially difficult. my two year old daughter had just about had it with my 12 hour days, and my wife was starting her 7th month of pregnancy.

also, what helped was i did questions outside of the QBook and QBank. namely, lange review for micro/immuno, pharm, physio, webpath, blackwell online exam, robbins question book (excellent book, worth its weight in gold).

towards the end i heard about this man named Goljan. i had about 2-3 weeks left before the exam and i was wondering if i should take the gamble of spending 4-5 days going through his lectures. boy, i am so glad that i chose to listen to him (this after i went through some of the posts on aippg & other forums). this man put almost everything i learned in the past 6 months and blended them in the best way possible. i also went through his 100 page notes, which was more helpful after i listened to his lectures.

that was pretty much it. i averaged 73 on QBank, took 3 simulated exams from Kaplan: i got two 74s and a 77. on the simulated cd that usmle sent i got 41, 44, and 45 a week before my exam.

2) what i did which i wish i didn’t do: there are two books which i purchased which were a complete waste of time and money. one was ridiculously simple for the USMLE step 1 (not the micro one, that book is amazing) and the other was appleton and lange’s questions book. i’ve already told you about IV QBank, and what i thought of it.

3) what i didn’t do which i wish i did: number one on this list is to listen to Goljan a least another time. after i listened to him once, which took about 5 days, i wanted to listen to him again, but i jus didn’t have the time. if i could do it all over again i would listen to him once, then take notes while listening to him again, and then listen to him a third time while reviewing my notes. he’s really that good. oh, i also used his question book (the rapid review series for step1), which is very good. another thing i kinda messed up on was that i started to take notes about 2 months into my studying. i had to do a lot of catching up later on.

i’m really glad about another thing. when i started school i read somewhere that i should study hard here so i don’t have to go nuts later. sounds pretty obvious, no? but you wouldn’t believe the amount of people who will study for weekly exams just by memorizing previous tests, etc. like someone once said on this forum, there’s no way that 7 months or 3 months of studying will substitute for 2 years of medical school. also, no school will teach you everything…especially down here in the carribean. so you need to hit the books and learn all there is to know.

sorry this post was so long, but it seemed that the detailed posts always helped me the most, so i figured i’d return the favor…pass it forward i think they say.

final thoughts…this exam is gonna stick to what every 2nd year med student should know. not what some specialist should know, not what some 3rd or 4th year student should know. stick to high yield books. use First Aid (yes, read that part in the begining that talks about how to study). it truly is a “godsend” as someone put it. my firstaid is falling apart. i remember while i was studying i would keep it in a very high place, and take special care of it so that it wouldn’t get into the sticky chocolate filled hands of my two year old.


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