I’ve hesitated writing about Step 1 mainly because I didn’t want to think about it. It’s over now. What’s done is done. I wish I could say that after 7 weeks of dutiful studying, thousands and thousands of practice questions, multiple practice exams and nothing else in my life– I conquered it. What I feel happened was just the opposite. I walked out feeling like someone just punched me in the stomach.
Over the last two months I’ve had a singular purpose driving me–to do incredibly well on this exam. There wasn’t a single moment when I slacked off, gave up or strayed from my self-prescribed study schedule. I knew this material. I did nothing but study. Over time, as my knowledge base grew I improved my practice exam scores from a 223 to a 252. In terms of studying, I don’t think there is anything I could have done differently. The problem, it turned out, was something I completely failed to prepare for-I was my own worst enemy.
I may have written elsewhere on the blog but when it comes to long, important standardized exams my brain very consistently decides to turn on me. In the comfort of my house, with absolutely nothing to lose, I am able to answer questions with such ease. But being in the exam, everything changed. I let my nerves and the exhausting process leading up to the exam get the best of me. I just didn’t feel sharp. Anxiety is obviously no excuse to not perform to your true potential, so I feel incredibly disappointed in myself and all the work I put in. Instead of eliminating the handful of stupid mistakes I was making on practice exams, I multiplied them. I keep having flashbacks, like some kind of PTSD, of questions I answered incorrectly. Easy questions that my brain has known the answer to for months. Of course, when it counts, like some kind of zombie I picked the exact opposite of the correct one.
I know that feeling like you failed Step 1 is what everybody feels. It’s natural that after 8 hours of questions your brain will focus only on the ones you were unsure of and remember the questions you blanked on, omitting the easy ones you breezed right through. So yeah, that makes me feel a little better. But I also know that my question count of incorrect items is getting high, it seems I am constantly remembering questions and wanting to kick myself for what I put. I have no idea what to expect.
The only thing I know is that no matter what happened with this exam, it was just one moment in time. It doesn’t erase any of the successes I’ve had in medical school up to now or have any bearing on how I’ll do in clerkships. It feels like I had a bad day, but in the end I won’t know anything until I get my score back. I am already looking forward to everything I will learn once rotations start. I am just trying not to lose sight of why I am here. These last 7 weeks I’ve learned so much and created a truly solid foundation of medical knowledge for myself. Whether my exam score shows that or not, I am not sure. What I am sure of is how much I love learning and how that has been consistently shown in my performance in the last 2 years, and hopefully will translate to success on the wards.
3rd year here I come!
Also, I know that several of my readers would love to have a detailed break-down of the study schedule I used and tips and tricks. I’ve jotted down some notes and will get this information out to you once I’ve processed this whole ordeal. It has been so stressful not only on me, but on my husband and family. I think the most frustrating thing of all is feeling like I just wasted so much potential. I definitely need a good week or two to recover. Thankfully, I have family visiting and an exciting trip planned with my husband to help me put this exam behind me.