Tuesday, March 01, 2011

How To Study For USMLE Step 1 While Working Full Time?

I have mentioned in the past that many times, readers of this blog write in to scrubnotes@gmail.com with specific questions. However, over time, I've noticed some questions being asked repeatedly, so I thought I might answer one of the common questions on the blog itself (with permission, of course):

Q: Thanks so much for posting your USMLE Step 1 strategy. It calmed my nerves a bit to say the least. I graduated from a foreign med school in 2001, am a US citizen, took a USMLE Step 1 Kaplan Course and failed step 1. Had to start working full-time (non-medical-related field) to pay off debt. Lost my confidence but not my desire to pass the steps and utilize my education. Any suggestions for someone who must work full-time (9-5), 5 days a week and has to start from scratch for preparing for step 1? (I really liked your advice about utilizing First Aid as a primary study tool). I have not, as yet, scheduled the exam. Thanks again.
- T.H., foreign medical graduate 2001

A: Thanks for writing in! I've received many similar questions regarding Step 1 study strategies / schedule. I think what you should do is first define your goals. The strategy to study can change quite a bit depending on what your goal score is. In general, I would say give yourself double the amount of time you actually need, so you do not feel time pressure while studying. Second, lets say you are taking the test on a Saturday - make sure that you take a practice test every other Saturday for let's say, 3 to 6 months prior to the real deal. In other words, practice being in a serious testing environment. Sure, this is painful, but as you'll likely agree, it's less painful than failing. Try to match the real test environment as closely as possible - take it in a quiet place, starting at 8am, only 1 hr of breaks total. To make a practice test, just take qbank sections back to back. Lastly, don't stress too much about the outcome - if you fail again, reconsider your life goals - most people are in medicine for one of two reasons (or both): to help people, make money, or both. If you are not successful at medicine, then you can do many things to help people (teach, nursing, etc) or earn money (business, law, etc).

Hope that helped - feel free to ask more questions by emailing scrubnotes@gmail.com. Good luck!

Updated 2015-12-20


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