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USMLE Exam taker Experience (1)

By Unknown - Saturday, April 30, 2011 No Comments

Got my score yesterday, exactly the third Wednesday after the Wednesday that followed my exam date (03/22/11), at 10:36 am Easter Time. 

I'm very happy with the results 99 (261)
 , and just wanted to passed by and thank everyone in this forum and contribute by posting my study plan and impressions. 

My Study Plan was as follows:
I studied 8-12 hours everyday (only 4-6 on Sundays) very consistently. My suggestion is take some breaks, including some weekends off when you feel burned out (did this one or twice during my prep).
In my opinion, you should stop working if possible. I did overnight shifts two or three times per week which I think possibly affected my performance due to chronic sleep deprivation. But in my case, I was able to study and do a few blocks of questions during work because I worked as a polysomnography technician.

 Kaplan Lecture Notes and Videos: my recommendation with this is do it as fast as you can. Understand every concept, but in my opinion you do not need to memorize everything (I didn't), but definitively understand it. Also read Microbiology Made Ridiculously Simple (good images that will stick in your head) at that time along with Kaplan Micro. 

 Kaplan Qbank: did about 25% of it when I was finishing reading Kaplan. In my opinion, not essential but overall good. 

 FA: in my opinion, the highest yield book that I used. 1st read. Also kind of reviewed Kaplan Lecture Notes again at the same time, to annotate everything I thought was important and lacking in FA (use tiny handwriting, as you will need more space for notes later). The idea is to make FA your primary book. Never opened Kaplan books again. 

4. DIT: very good program overall. Great if you need to reinforce your pharmacology and they definitively make you memorize a lot of HY concepts and topics. They make you go through FA entirely, so this counted as the 2nd read.

5. FA: Quickly read
 first aid again before entering UWorld. 

6. USMLE World: best learning tool ever. This must be done in random, timed, non-specific subjects, non-tutorial and with complete 46-Q blocks. Do NOT make the mistake of doing it by subject or tutorial. This is important because the final score is a good predictor of your performance in the real deal. Very similar questions to real test, but way harder. The idea is to get over prepared.

---- Now here is when everything went wrong for me.... I was supposed to take the exam end of January this year, just after finishing UWorld. Well guess what? I got my Form 186 rejected twice!!! I had to wait 1 month every time it got rejected and ended up receiving my permit in March. Terrible experience. So my recommendation: apply EARLY, at least 5 months.
So I had about two months added to my prep and I used them to review a few additional sources such as
 High Yield Molecular Biology(just a few topics) and Goljan audios (in my opinion, not that high yield, but if you are deficient in path go ahead and do it). 
Once I received my permit, I took online NBME 7 and booked my test 10 days later. DO NOT take offline NBME. The key answers are totally wrong. I don't know who did that but they are wrong, so don't make that mistake or you will get confused.

This allowed me time to:

7. FA: last read before exam. Probably what helped me the most as I had all my Kaplan, DIT and Uworld annotations in it. At the same time I annotated every piece of information that I wans't familiar with in a sheet of paper and reviewed it the day before the exam.

8. Webpath: also very high yield before the exam. Went through all neuroanatomy slides and some electron-microscopy slides.

Summarizing Scores:
Qbank: 66%, in random, timed, not subject-wise, only 25% of it.
UWorld: 77% in random, timed, not subject-wise, did 100% and reviewed some of the incorrect.
UWorld SA1: 254, did it at 50% of the qbank.
UWorld SA1: 264, did it at 100% of the qbank.
NBME 7: 258 (660)

Day before the test:
Reviewed some of my notes. Couldn't stop reading until 8:00 pm. Had a light dinner, watch a movie and took a relaxing tea which I knew would help me relieve the anxiety. Had some trouble falling asleep but eventually did at ~11:00 pm.

Test day:
Got there really early to avoid traffic and get a parking space. People at Prometric center were really nice. Blocks went smoothly. Took breaks between every block. If you are addicted to coffee like me, beware that there might not be a coffee machine available. In my case it was broken, so not getting my boost after lunch REALLY affected me in the 5th block. I was very sleepy.
Overall, I felt confident. It was NOT EASY, but I felt well prepared. About 80% were easy for me. I marked between 5-8 questions per block that either I wanted to read again or I had no clue (1-3 per block). Fortunately, I had between 10-20 minutes left in every block. I trained myself during UW for this. It's what I like to call the "30-30" rule: be at question 30 by minute 30. This allowed me plenty of time in the test to not only review those marked questions, but even all questions.

FINAL SCORE: 99 (261)

Final words: exam is very doable. If you follow a similar study plan, which is a working formula, you will get over-prepared for 80% of the exam content, and will feel confident during the test. Get a great study partner (thanks dude!) and be consistent. This has been a life-changing journey for me and I'm sure will be the same for you. GOOD LUCK!

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