Comprised of three tests, the USMLE is required to become a medical practitioner in the U.S. The test’s main goal is to confirm that a medical graduate can apply textbook and classroom knowledge to real-world scenarios. An individual’s ability to pass all three steps of the USMLE directly translates into good patient care and health improvements.
In our blog post, ‘Breaking Down the USMLE,’ we cover what each of the three tests comprises. Additional details, such as the number of questions and time frame individuals are given to complete them, are included. While these details are important, they can sometimes be overwhelming. This leaves medical students and graduates unsure of how to prepare for such an important exam. Below are some tips and best practices you can utilize as you begin to prepare and study for the USMLE.
Create a Schedule
Your study schedule should account for when you will be taking the test and vice versa. It is best practice to allow yourself three to six months to prepare for the USMLE. Once you have determined how much study time is right for you and your test is scheduled, you should plan how often you will study.
In most cases, it is recommended that individuals not study more than 6 hours daily. If you are planning to study multiple days a week, in smaller chunks, be sure to give yourself at least one day off. Another item to consider is how much time you will spend on certain topics to ensure all the material is covered. Try assigning a different topic each week and then circling back to review a few weeks later. This will allow you to build on and retain knowledge efficiently.
Once you have determined a practice schedule has been set, it is important to stick to it early on. The more days you take off this schedule in the beginning, the more work you will have down the road. If you stick to the schedule early on, studying will become a habit and even part of your routine.
Sometimes it can be beneficial to study with a friend or group. If this is something you plan on doing, be sure that your time is still spent well, as it can be easy to get off task. Additionally, it can also be easy to focus on another person’s success or knowledge rather than yourself. Be sure to take turns asking each other questions to ensure both parties are equally prepared for the exam.
Take a Test Prep Course…Or Two
Students who have successfully passed the USMLE generally utilize multiple resources to help them prepare. In addition to thoroughly studying notes and materials addressed during their formal medical education, many choose to invest in Q-Banks through Kaplan, UWorld, and other providers.
The key with these resources is to run through their content more than once. That’s right, you want to complete Qbanks and practice tests at least twice. Doing this will help you to review the mistakes you made the first time. It can help to ensure that you are learning and correcting rather than going through the motions.
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Some students might take advantage of the fact that the USMLE allows individuals to reschedule their test if done at least 31 days before the testing date. In most cases, putting off the test puts off studying.
When you pick a testing date, be sure to stick to it. This will encourage you to prepare early and sufficiently for the exam. In most cases, students who put off the test said the cramming they did during that time probably had little effect on their success or failure with the exam.
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