Monthly Archives: March 2015

Update #2

Time for another update: First, I wanted to thank all my wonderful blog readers for the encouragement and comments. I was in a pretty low place last week and hearing how other people felt similarly during their Step 1 prep helped tremendously. Sometimes all a girl needs is a little commiseration.

It has been 18 days and I am pretty amazed at how much material I have been able to cover. I’ve reviewed Biochem, Biostats, Respiratory, Cardiology, Neurology, Immunology and half of Reproductive. Within those I’ve covered the relevant pharm, physio, micro, anatomy and embryology. I’ve also done 2,080 practice questions (yes, I keep a spreadsheet and I kind of can’t believe that is the total so far). I took my first Step 1 self assessment this weekend…and with 34 days before my exam date….it was actually a reasonable score. That took so much pressure off me. I could have done a cartwheel if I was more flexible.

Taking that practice exam was a real turning point because it allowed the release of a giant amount of anxiety. Mainly from the unknown. Up until then I had no idea if the 12-14 hours I was spending per day studying was doing anything. Having that small cushion of comfort has transformed the whole experience for me. I am working my ass off but now I think it may just work. I found something crucial I was missing last week–confidence. Now that I believe in my own methods, I am actually having fun.

Doing practice questions and getting them right–is fun. So much more fun when you know the material. Reading First Aid and saying, yes, I remember that–is fun. I started by tackling my worst topics: neuro, biochem, cardio. At first, the process was frustrating and exhausting because there was so much I needed to review. But once you get through it and a foundational layer of information forms you can actually begin to enjoy the information. It is medicine after all! And if you know anything about me, you know that I am obsessed with medicine. I was so far in the weeds I forgot that I actually like learning this stuff.

Update #2 is much more upbeat. Hooray, I am no longer despondent! I still have a hell of a lot of work ahead of me, but knowing that if I just keep at it, I can do this, is enough to get me through the day. My very long, long day.

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Ugh, and other things I didn’t expect about Step 1 Studying

Here is a recap: I am exactly 12 days into my dedicated Step 1 Study schedule. The days are long and even lonelier. My mental status oscillates between stressed, tired and panic. I have tremendous anxiety about whether or not any of the studying I am doing is actually “sticking.” I wake up, start studying, and before I know it, it’s 4 or 5pm and I am wondering where has the day gone? Some days I forget about lunch. Other days my brain starts its own mini-revolt and I am forced to walk away from my desk and do something, anything other than what I have been doing for days. That’s when I run. Exercise seems to help.

Before I embarked on this task I thought to myself: hey, you’ve done really well throughout medical school, just relax, put in the work and everything will go fine. It can’t be as bad as everyone says. I would hear stories of 15 lb. weight loss, gray hair, ulcers and serious physical illness all from the process of studying and taking the Step 1 board exam. I never imagined that it actually is that bad. Sitting in a room for 12 hours a day, every day for 6 weeks, with nothing but practice questions and review material is agonizing torture. As positive as you try to remain a certain amount of self-doubt inevitably creeps in. Your mind wanders and begins to reflect on the sheer amount of material you need to know and you start getting a deep sinking feeling. Until you snap out of it and do another block of study questions. Yes, I am teetering on some edge.

I am taking my first full length practice exam (8 hours) on Saturday, so I guess I’ll see how the studying is going. At least if I am terribly on the wrong track with my methods I have time to re-group and adjust with enough time before the exam.

I like to end my blog posts with some wonderful revelation and advice. All I can say about where I am right now is that this process is the first time I have truly felt the sacrifice required of my profession. Maybe because all the other sacrifices were so spread out, a weekend lost here or there, a birthday celebration postponed. But right now as I am chained not just to studying, but the anxiety of it all, the process has made me feel very viscerally how hard it is to become a doctor. I know I’ll look back on this time and think, that was nothing, but being right in the middle of it, it feels–dare I say–like the hardest thing medical school has put before me.

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