It’s been 33 days and 3,771 practice questions since I started my dedicated board studying. Although I spent the first two weeks in an emotional state of panic, I think I’ve finally relaxed enough to enjoy this unique opportunity. During no other time in my life will I have the chance to simply review medicine and put everything I know into neat little boxes. The first two years of medical school go by in a blur. The chaotic pace really doesn’t lend itself to digesting what you are putting in your brain. It’s just facts, facts, facts–how fast can you learn these facts? With tests nearly every week you are forced to move on to the next, losing the ability to compartmentalize information and put the pieces together that make up the human machine.
These last 33 days have been exhausting–but I am finally starting to put the pieces together. Connections that I totally missed the first time around are lighting up like a giant map that had once been drafted in pencil, now replaced by glittering fiber optics. Each day I am simply filling in details.
To be honest, the excitement of what is to come in the next two years (and the rest of my life really) is the only thing that is driving me. While studying things like the approach to cricothyrotomy (gotta go through the cricothyroid membrane) my mind wanders as I imagine my first emergency intubation in the ED. I go to bed unable to sleep not because I am nervous about the exam, but because I can’t wait to start my rotations. I lay awake thinking about my future patients and colleagues. Imagining all these scenarios I’ve waited my whole life for…
In terms of exam prep, I’ve noticed that tackling Step 1 is all about pattern recognition. Once you re-learn the material you start to figure out how questions on a particular topic are going to be asked. With limited time and 8 hours of questions, beating the exam becomes as much playing their game as it is about the knowledge. Of course, you have to know the material to recognize the pattern, but once you have that down, it is kind of fun every time you recognize a question.
One source of material that isn’t talked about much is “USLME Secrets.” I have found that book to be a really great resource after I finished reviewing a particular section as way to check myself, and review some of the “golden” USLME-loves-to-ask -these-types-of-questions.
My practice score is still about 10-15 points away from my “dream” score but I feel pretty good about getting there in the next 20 days. We shall see. Right now things are falling into place–of course, there is always the danger of forgetting what you’ve already covered, so I just have to make sure I am continually reviewing.
I am very fortunate to have a loving, supportive husband who gets me enough to know that the next 20 days are 14 hours of medicine, and maybe 1 hour of making sure our house is livable. I am so grateful that he’s there to encourage me and give me the freedom to just live and breathe medicine. I really owe him once this is all done, he’s basically had a shadow of a wife. Just one of the small sacrifices of the profession. I’ll be back in 20 days, I promise!