The USMLE exams, whether you are writing Step 1, Step 2, the Step 2 CK, or even the Step 3 are very challenging and exhausting. If you are getting ready to write any of these, or you’ve already written and are looking to the next step, there are a few changes you may want to make that will not only help you achieve a much higher score, but they will help you do better by working fewer hours.
The key to success with the USMLE exams is to get more information into your head without having to spend 20 hrs every single day cramming and reading your class notes, hospital notes, or study notes. I was given a 3-step process by one of my medical school professors which put a new twist on the popular qbank-technique for studying for the boards, and it is outlined below:
Step 1 – Do a question bank or two very thoroughly taking notes
Too many students will aim to get through a certain number of questions before writing their exams. A popular number in my school was 5,000-10,000 questions before sitting for your exam, but the thing about this is that people assumed that when doing this many questions they would encounter similar questions over and over again, thus helping to reinforce things that were previously either forgotten or not understood. Instead of taking hundreds of hours and spending money to do 3-4 question banks, a new approach is to take your time to slowly go through each and every question, extracting every bit of information from each question. The thing about the qbank questions is that every single one gives explanations about both correct and incorrect answers, so you can get several bits of high-yield information from each question. So instead of having to repeat similar questions, you can take your time, take notes, and then simply review the notes so you can actually learn the information in just a fraction of the time.
Step 2 – Create a detailed notebook from your question bank
Grab yourself a 300 page notebook and fill it with as much information as you can from your qbank. If you do a standard question bank, you can get it done in 2 weeks if doing 4-6 hours per day and you should be able to fill one of these notebooks completely with high-yield information.
Step 3 – Combine your qbank notes with a study guide
The last step to making the most of this technique is to read through a quality study guide and to insert the qbank information in the appropriate sections. This will allow you to find high-yield information in your study guides and then go deeper and fill in more in-depth information from the information extracted from your question banks.
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