It’s already February and there are only four more units (behavioral sciences, women’s health, musculoskeletal, and nervous system) before one of the most important tests of my life, the USMLE Step 1. The USMLE Step 1 is an eight-hour exam made up of seven 46-question sections for a total of 322 multiple choice questions. In a way, it is a little daunting that the test will gauge my foundation of basic sciences knowledge and the resulting score will be the gatekeeper for different residency programs and the more competitive specialties. At the same time, by finishing and passing this exam, I am able to move onto my clinical rotations and see patients on a daily basis, which I have been looking forward to since starting medical school.
Although I have known about the exam since the beginning of my first year, it has always been something that I had put away in the back of my brain, cataloged for the near distant future. With only four months until my test date, the exam has definitely been on the forefront of my mind, in addition to my classmates’ collective thoughts. Everyone has been talking about it, worrying and stressing about it, or some combination of the two modes. For me, I have been focused on getting prepared and finding ways to avoid burnout, though, I definitely worry/stress/talk about Step 1 in between! I have already registered for the exam and purchased a few of the resources, from board review books to practice question banks. I plan on using these resources throughout the spring semester and during my summer crunch month, which is the dedicated study time that my school gives to prepare for the exam. Moreover, I will be meeting with Dr. Linda Costanzo, the Step 1 guru at my school, to devise an effective study plan for crunch month.
Most importantly, I have been working on figuring out a routine that fits my schedule and gives me the balance that I need, instead of wasting time on being afraid of the exam. For most of second year, I have pondered too long on the what ifs. What if I don’t remember first year material? What if I don’t pass? What if I don’t have enough time? I know that this exam will test more than my knowledge; it will test my perseverance and mental well-being to withstand eight, non-stop hours of test-taking. By following my study plan and trusting myself, I aim to overcome my irrational fears and do the best that I can do on this one exam.