Practice makes better

by Lorien E. Menhennett

In about two months, I take the USMLE Step 1, the first of my board examinations. Yesterday, I took an abbreviated practice exam in our main lecture hall with my classmates. This was not by choice — it was a mandated exercise. And I took it begrudgingly.

I plan to study full time for five weeks for the real exam. At this point, I haven’t studied at all. What I have done, though, is plow through three semesters of medical school. While I’m in no way ready to take Step 1 now, the practice exam didn’t have the demoralizing effect I expected. First of all, I remembered more than I thought I would. That suggests that if I do apply myself during my study period, I will be ok. The level of detail required, though, reminded me how much I do have to review. And my difficulty in sitting through even an abbreviated exam reminded me that I need to build test-taking stamina to make it through the real deal.

So as much as I griped about this, I’m glad to have taken it. I know I have my work cut out for me. But I’ll be trying to work through those five weeks of studying with a mindset of calm, not panic.