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.



Filed under Medical School Experience

5 responses to “Ugh, and other things I didn’t expect about Step 1 Studying

  1. KCJ- MS3... soon to be 4.

    You can do it!!! And one of the things re: STEP study that is seldom said… at some point your agony/ anxiety/ uncertainty will turn into enjoyment. I know. Hard to believe. As everything comes together you’ll start to appreciate this time as one provided to you as an opportunity to integrate all that you’ve learned. A big picture will develop… and it. WILL. FEEL. AWESOME! Good luck and keep the nose to the grind stone. Great things await on the other side! 😀

  2. Best of luck man! We’ll cheer you on all the way from down under (Australia)

  3. Good luck! I heard everyone feels the same way. so you are doing ok.

  4. been there done that. i feeel ur pain and i’m kinda sorta going thru it again while studying for step 2. but heres something i wanted to share with ya, studying for step 1 and making good notes is the best prep for step 2! I can’t emphasis this enough…make sure you keep your notes because you’ll likely go over them again and again for step 2 and even ur rotation shelves (if ur school has those). anyways, good luck, u can do it.

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