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Time to Party or Time to Step 3

February 6, 2013
Chief Resident 1

Residency Blog

Photo credit: Shutterstock.com

As 2013 is off to a galloping start, we – as all humans do – look to the future and begin to plan what we want to do with the upcoming months. I myself am a list maker – now keep in mind that lists scare me to my very core; but I still make lists. This week I was speaking to a group of medical students after a long 2 hour power hour on the boards, and we started to discuss what they are going to do in the last 6 months of their medical student lives. Many answered they plan on traveling, some stated they are going to “take it easy”, and several said they were thinking of taking USMLE®Step 3. I decided to delve into the last topic with the 4th year students. They stated being on elective rotations gave them the time needed to get Step 3 out of the way. I began to wonder what are the specific advantages and pitfalls to taking the Step 3 early. From the discussion it came about that the decision to take the exam is really a personal one and depends on each person’s individual circumstances. Here is what to consider!

1. Early to Bed – Early to Rise: So the obvious benefit to getting USMLE® Step 3 done early is that you don’t have to worry about it during intern year, which is wrought with sleepless nights, exhaustion, and caffeine abuse. Attempting to study full time is difficult when you have time; can you imagine having to do Kaplan Q-bank questions after 9 admissions and an 18-hour call?

2. Managing the Management – The old adage of 2 months for Step 1, 2 weeks for Step 2 and a number #2 pencil for Step 3 came about because residents learned that the majority of the information you needed for Step 3 was learnt during your first 6 months on the wards. Mind you it was information that you had gone over before as well, but now it was solidified with actual experience. This may steer you into wanting to wait on taking the exam. Also, on a side note, do not take the adage about the USMLE seriously; it is totally misleading.

3. Time to take a course – What about taking a course? Current courses aimed at the USMLE Step 3 are not all built around a resident’s schedule. In fact, many of them, with the exception of Kaplan, are during the weekdays during normal business hours. Therefore, how can you attend? If you are a resident you would be rounding, drawing blood, or simply trying to find a moment to eat.

4. Advantage You! – Just as in tennis the advantage goes to the player who is likely going to win, the advantage goes to you when you apply for residency and the directors know you are finished with Step 3. Mind you this is only applicable for those who have already graduated or are IMGs, but it is still something to consider. A good passing score on Step 3 will raise your stock in the Match process.

5. Complete Focus – Getting the exam done now does have the inherent advantage of being able to focus entirely on the questions and material without having to deal with the workload of internship. When you are 100% focused you can expect 100% return.

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All of the opinions expressed here are the author’s and his alone, and do not represent necessarily those of Kaplan or its employees.

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Chief Resident 1


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