Beginners Guide to USMLE Preparation

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Here’s some advice from Kaplan’s Judy Schwenker:
  1. Take a comprehensive test to begin as a measure of where your recall is right now. Use the Kaplan diagnostic test if you have taken it.
  2. Once you know your percent correct score for each subject, use this information to decide the relative amount of review time to put into each area. For example, if Physiology is 20% lower than Microbiology, you should be spending at least 20% MORE time reviewing Physiology than you put into Micro.   
  3. As you begin to review a subject, look over some questions on the material before you start to review. This will help keep you focused on what is important to know and show you how you will need to use the information on the test.   
  4. As you move through the material, create your own condensed summaries of the key material so you can review these right before test day. 20-30 pages per subject is a decent size to shoot for, because otherwise you will end up taking too detailed notes and they won't help at the end.  
  5. As you finish a subject, use QBank to create and take a test with maybe 50 items from each subject that you have completed up to that point. So if you have finished Anatomy and Physiology, you would do a 100-item test under timed, test mode assessing those 2 areas. By the end, you will be taking long practice tests under test conditions that cover all the completed subject areas. This helps keep the earlier material in memory, and gives you a more accurate picture of your preparedness. It also gives you good practice for the mental stamina and pacing needed on test day.  
  6. Plan time during the final 2-3 weeks to do nothing but review your own summaries and take increasing numbers of simulated test modules of 50 items each under timed conditions (one hour per module). This is the final "get it all fresh in mind, build mental stamina, and intensive test practice" phase, which should lead right up to 2 days before your actual test date. Our experience has shown that students who are doing 70% or better on our full- length simulated exams (or comparable practice tests created with Qbank or IV Qbank) by their test dates DO PASS, so this is a good level to aim for. You may also choose to take one of the NBME tests to get a predicted USMLE score. If you do decide to do this, be advised that based on feedback I have gotten on the board, Form 1 seems to be the most reliable. 
  7. Don’t study anything the day before. Plan something fun and mindless, because study within 24 hours of the exam actually hurts your ability to recall from earlier reviewing.

Category: Exam Tips , USMLE



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