Kaplan's Tips for USMLE Test Day

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1. Arrive at the Prometric Test Center 30 minutes early so you are not rushed and have time to get organized.   You will be given a locker to store your personal items and then assigned a computer station. Remember that you have a total of seven hours to complete 350 questions, and a total of one hour to be used throughout the day for breaks and lunch. 

2. To cope with fatigue, you will need to schedule breaks.  Our recommended schedule for the exam is:
Question Block               Break time at end of Block 
Block 1                                             No break 
Block 2                                             5 minute break 
Block 3                                             5 minute break 
Block 4                                             30 minute lunch break 
Block 5                                             No break 
Block 6                                             10 minute break 
Block 7                                             Done! 

This allows you 10 minutes extra to use as needed. Remember that you will need to sign in and out when you take breaks. You should also be aware that if you leave the exam room during a block, it will be marked as an irregularity in your testing session. Therefore, you need to consider after each block whether you want to take a bathroom break. 

3. Start with the beginning of the question block and work your way to the end.  The idea here is to get into a rhythm that will help create what one psychologist calls a "Flow" experience. The flow experience is a state of optimal concentration and maximal performance. 

4. Do not skip any questions.  If you don't know it when you come to it, you are not likely to know it later. Skipping around wastes time and can end up confusing you. Deal with each question as you come to it, answer it as best you can, and move on to the next question. 

5. Limit your use of the marking feature to no more than two or three questions per block.   Of course you should answer each question as you come to it, but you may want to double-check yourself on a few questions. The marking feature lets you return to review and reconsider questions if you have time left over. Used correctly, marking will help you revisit questions where you have a high probability of getting the answer correct. Misused, marking causes you to not give a question your full attention the first time around. You simply may not have time to go back and look at questions you have marked, especially if you mark a lot of them. 

6. Be cautious about changing answers.  In general, your odds of changing a correct answer to a wrong one are so much higher than the reverse that it is simply not worth the risk. If you change an answer, you are most likely making it wrong! Your first impulse is usually the correct one. Stay with it unless some clear insight occurs to you. 

7. If you finish a question block with time left over, go back and "check" only those answers that you have previously marked.   Checking almost always leads to changing and tends to reduce your score. If you have a spare moment, make sure that you have entered an answer for every question in the block and then, relax. Sit, take a break, and mentally prepare yourself for the next block of questions. Focus on the questions to come, not the ones that are past. 

8. Monitor your time.  Know how much you have left, so you do not find yourself rushed at the end. Work on your pacing from the beginning of the question block. Check your watch every 10 questions to make sure you are on the correct pace to finish. If you pace yourself throughout the block, you should not be squeezed for time at the end.

9. Relax.  During the breaks between question blocks, try to relax and not think back over the exam. The desire to recall questions is strong, but not helpful. Those questions are in the past; you will never see them again. Focus on relaxing and making the most of your break. Remember, you will always tend to remember those questions you get wrong.

Category: Exam Tips , Featured , USMLE



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