What You Should Know About Creating A USMLE Step 1 Study Schedule

It is not unusual for children to dream about becoming doctors one day. In fact, you were probably a dreamer too, once upon a time. You most likely arrived on career day wearing a lab coat and stethoscope on your neck. And of course, the look wouldn’t be complete without a humongous toy injection in one hand. Becoming a doctor is a noble profession, even as children we already know that.

However, the only thing that changes over the years is our motivations to become medical professionals. As a young kid, you were probably enthralled by the idea of helping others and saving lives. While that is still true today, you are also made aware that becoming a doctor has a lot of spectacular benefits. For one, the pay looks promising. If you do well, you also get to enjoy status and authority perks that come with your position. Not to mention, you get discounts and medical coverage from your hospital of residency. We all know how demanding medical costs can be these days, after all. Becoming a resident doctor yourself is a noble and practical profession indeed.

Not that you can easily become one as soon as you wish for it, though.

As much as it is promising, the path of a medical professional is also a thorny one. It is not for the faint of heart. We’re talking about going for long hours without proper sleep, reading dozens of reference and research books way past your bed time, dealing with work assignments, internship trainings, lectures, and many other responsibilities. The path of a medical professional is an overbearing and lonely one. Why? Let’s just say that for the next four or five years of your life, you can give up on having any meaningful social connections. All you’re going to do is get your nose in the books.

But if this is really your dream, nothing I say will discourage you from going down this path. You at least need that much resolve and determination if you are ever to expect passing medical school with flying colors.

The first step to becoming a doctor is getting into medical school. For that, you need to take the MCAT or the Medical College Admission Test first and foremost. This examination is administered by the American Association of Medical Colleges or AAMC. The test focuses on Physical Sciences, Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior and is conducted over the course of 7 hours and 30 minutes. A good score to aim for in the MCAT is 509 or above (out of 528). This will put you in the upper 20% of the scale and will give you better chances of getting into medical schools. Once you have passed, you will need to prepare a letter of intent indicating your desire to take up medicine (your reasons, intentions, etc.) and your CVV to apply to your school of choice.

And yet again, getting in is just the first of your problems. The “fun” really doesn’t stop here. If anything, it just keeps getting better and better. What comes next in a 3-part testing series (four, if you count the 2-CK and 2-CS separately) that will surely measure just how qualified you are to practice medicine. We call it the USMLE.

What Is The USMLE?

The USMLE is an acronym that stands for United States Medical Licensing Examination. It is a test series that is undertaken by medical students at different intervals during their time at medical school and post-graduation. This series of tests is instated and administered in order to make sure that each and every student that gets past medical school is qualified. Medical practice, after all, is a very sensitive matter. You can’t just wing your way past it. For your sake and your future patients’ well-being, certain measures must be undertaken in order to ensure safe and professional practice.

The USMLE is basically divided into three series of tests: USMLE Step 1, 2-CK and 2-CS, and 3. These tests are given at different times during your stay in medical school up until you finish your internship training. Although we would love to talk about all of them today, I’m afraid that it will take up too much of everybody’s time. So in this article, let us first discuss the USMLE Step 1. Particularly, let’s talk about how you can prepare a good Study Schedule for it.

What Is The USMLE Step 1?

Let me just get this out there first: Step 1 is the most crucial of all the steps. It is important that you score high on this test, or at least pass it. Step 1 is the culmination of your 2 years in medical school which means that you take it when you have just passed your second year. While most people would think that this is the easiest part, the amount of material involved for this test is vast. It’s basically a knowledge test of how much you were able to absorb in the past two years. It’s mostly about basic sciences and all the subjects you covered during your first two years in medical school.

Without doubt, the USMLE is far more intricate and explorative than the MCAT so you definitely shouldn’t take it lightly. If you’re thinking of cramming it last minute, you should trash that insane idea as well. There is no way you can pass with such a half-hearted attitude. Remember that your dream isn’t the only thing that rides on this test. It’s the safety and well-being of all the people who will get involved in your practice in the future. You should at least make the effort to get a good passing grade for them.

So, this leaves us with a very important matter at hand: How can you create a study schedule effective enough to help you learn all the things you need to in the best amount of time possible? Well, we can help you out with that.

How To Create The Most Effective USMLE Study Schedule

The first step to success is to think of yourself succeeding. You know what they say, if you want it then claim it! You have to start planning your study schedule with a positive disposition. You should know in your heart that you are going to pass. Anyway, here are some ways you can prepare for the USMLE Step 1 test effectively:

Research & Decide On The Material You Want To Cover

As I previously said, the amount of material you have to cover for this first step is vast and a little overbearing. However, it’s not like you have to read every book that ever existed in the history of medicine. You can go through previous USMLE study schedules, you can review previous’ years questionnaire and find out just what subjects are given more focus on. True enough, the examination changes every year so there’s really no way of telling what will come out. However, researching and deciding on the material you want to cover will at least help you organize your study schedule better, don’t you agree?

Start Early

The early bird catches the worm. Or in this case, the early bird gets to avoid having to cram enormous gigabytes of data on the last minute. Starting early gives you the freedom to allot your studying time more evenly throughout the days. It also helps you reduce the chances of experiencing a “burn out” and make you detest the idea of studying altogether. Instead of cramming it all in (which is impossible by the way), taking little bits of information regularly is definitely more effective.

Never End The Day Without Opening A Book

It’s the little things that matter, really. You don’t need to hit the books 16 hours a day and forget that the rest of the world exists. Even a lot of work would seem minimal if you do little chunks everyday. It is only when you try to take on everything at once that it gets tiring and impossible. Never end your day without reading a page or two. Always try to learn a new concept before you fall asleep. In the end, your hard work will pay off.

Make Use Of Your School’s “Free Study Periods”

Med schools often give students free time to study any material of their choosing (or not study at all). These are what you’d call “free periods” or “study hall.” As a USMLE examinee, you can utilize this time by getting some test-related review done. It would be good to officially include these free study periods in your study schedule as well.

Consider Getting Extra Help With Subjects You Find The Most Difficult

If you ever need help, never be afraid to ask for it. You will have subjects you’re good at and subjects you’re terrible at. Let’s face it; that’s just how things go. You can’t possibly ace everything on your own. If there are any subjects you find extremely difficult, then getting some extra heads to help you study wouldn’t hurt. Luckily, we offer USMLE tutoring courses and review assistance for those in the process of USMLE Step 1 test prep. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with our professional, online USMLE tutors to see what we offer.

Take Mock Tests

Lastly, taking mock exams will help you lose some nerve before the actual test. Aside from the test items, one very formidable opponent you have to watch out for is time. You roughly have 1 minute and 30 seconds to answer each item on Step 1. If you don’t practice reading and shading beforehand, you may find yourself running short on time on the day of the actual exam. Taking mock tests will not only test your knowledge but your speed as well so make sure to include mock testing dates in your study schedule. You can invite friends and colleagues for group testing too!

About the author 

Akshay Goel MD

Dr. Goel is a body-trained radiologist and an expert in medical education and imaging informatics. He completed his Radiology Residency at Columbia University Medical Center and his fellowship at Weill Cornell Medicine. Dr. Goel has guided several students and doctors into successful careers over the past decade. He continues to help Medlearnity tutors optimize their educational methodology to drive the highest tutoring and admissions impact possible.

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