Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Taking the Boards

Recently, I had the opportunity to sit for Step 2 CK. Most of you probably know this already, but every medical student has to take (and pass) these "board" examinations. there is a lot of pressure. For four weeks, I have been studying for this exam. When I asked students who took the test last year about their study methods, it seemed the only universal recommendation from those who had gone before me was to use the USMLE World questions. After that, the answers varied. Some recommended Kaplan while others recommended "First Aid for Step 2" (by Le and Bhushan). I chose to work through USMLE World questions supplemented with "Crush Step 2" (by Brochert). Reading Crush gave me a nice break each day from the monotony of the vignettes associated with the question bank. I studied for at least eight hours per day (including weekends) to prepare.

Everyone will tell you that Step 2 is easier to prepare for than Step 1. I think my own experience coincided with this for the most part. The old adage is "Take two months to study for Step 1, take two weeks to study for Step 2, and take a #2 pencil to Step 3". This is an exaggeration of course, but I did feel more confident on Step 2 than I did on Step 1. I think the most helpful study tool was the USMLE World questions. I will pass that piece of advice down to students in the class behind me. The more questions you can do the better. I used the tutor mode so that I could take notes on questions I missed or important points within the answer explanations. Then I referred back to my notes each evening as a wrap up to the day. This won't be the best style for everyone, but it simply gives an example of what I did to work through multitude of questions.

I always take my favorite treats with me for these marathon tests. My test day lunch bag included a PBJ sandwich with raspberry preserves (yum!), an assortment of chocolates, and enough diet coke to last a week! It's critical to have a small little delicious energy source ready between questions blocks. My best medical school friend always takes a Dove chocolate bar to her boards. Just anticipate that you will be tired and worn out from question after question that day. Be ready to give your mood a lift with a little indulgence!

That's not all. Next I will be traveling to Chicago for the Step 2 CS exam. To help prepare us for this test, my school has set up a mock exam with feedback. I have spent the last two months on Family Medicine rotations which I hope will help me with my exam skills. Additionally, I am using "First Aid for Step 2 CS" to read up on the best way to write my notes and develop my differentials on that day.

I was able to schedule my exam on a Friday so Matt will be joining me and we will be spending a little vacation weekend in Chicago! It will be the fun weekend we both need after I've been studying for boards for the past several weeks.

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