In order to be prepared for the USMLE Step 1, you must have a good grasp on many topics and concentrations. The best way to cover all of the information is to use highly effective study methods.
Each person has his or her own preferred way of studying. You will have to decide what will work the best for you. High-yield study methods all have one feature in common: The more active you are with the material, the more content you will ultimately retain. Remember, your goal in studying is not just to put in the most time, but to be efficient. Many of the best students make use of the following techniques:
Sources of Multiple-Choice Errors
|PROBLEM TYPE||SOURCE OF ERRORS|
|Format problems||Particular questions about subtype|
|Anxiety problems||Questions containing numbers, or done early in the review sessions|
|Fatigue problems||Questions done late in review session|
|Reading errors||More common in long questions|
|Directionality errors||Questions that ask prediction of consequences|
|Group delineation errors||Questions that present material in a unique context|
When you do your practice questions, do them under a time limit similar to the actual exam. In general, your rule should be one minute per question. This is roughly the amount of time (82 seconds) you will have during the real exam. Get used to the time constraint. It is one of the unchangeable realities of the USMLE.
1. Do not do questions without preparatory studying. Review material first until you feel you know it, and then use questions to test yourself. If you study by doing questions before you are ready, you will erode your self-confidence and fail to develop key linkages within the material.
2. Do not get into the habit of lingering over a question. You do not have this luxury on the real exam. Remember that you have just over one minute per question. You should spend about 75 percent of that time reading and analyzing the question stem, and the other 25 percent selecting an answer. Be honest when you do not know an answer; move on, and look it up when you are finished.
3. So-called “retired questions” and many published questions in review books are not representative of questions featured on the current USMLE Step 1. They are a reasonable way to review content, but often do not reflect the length or form of the questions on the current exam.
4. Do not do questions individually. Do them in clusters under time pressure, with five to ten as a minimum. This will get you used to moving from question to question. Do not lookup answers after each question. Instead, check yourself after you have done the full set of questions.
5. When you start working on questions, do not panic if you do not get the correct answers. Learn from your mistakes. Questions are a part of the study process; they help you see what else you need to learn. You will get better at questions as your studying continues.
Try This Question-Mastering Exercise
Cover up the options to the question and read the question stem. Pause at each period and paraphrase what you have read. When you finish reading the question, cover the question and reveal the options. Select from the options without looking back at the question stem. With practice, you will get faster, and this strategy will become a habit. This strategy forces you to get the information out of the question as you read it and does not allow you to waste time by going back and rereading. Remember, you only have time to read each question once. Learn to make your reading time as efficient as possible.