Thoughts I have while standing in line at Starbucks

At traditional med schools (where the order is Pre-clinicals –> Step 1 –> clinical rotations + shelf exams) the saying goes “Study two months for Step 1, two weeks for Step 2, and for Step 3, bring a #2 pencil.”

At non-traditional med schools like mine (where the order is Pre-clinicals –> clinical rotations + shelf exams –> Step 1), the saying goes “THERE IS NO SAYING. ONLY CHAOS.

One of my classmates cleverly wrangled the entire class a group discount with a popular QBank in preparation for going into clinical year.  And almost all of us – including me – are using it for a Step 2 QBank instead of a Step 1.  It just makes more sense.

After all,  as cute as it would be to imagine that I’d have the drive to memorize HLA subtypes for rare diseases (Step 1 stuff) before a rotation, hahahaha.  But I could see myself reviewing basic diagnostic tests and treatments, so, thus the Step 2 review.  (And hell, more importantly – we’ll be taking our shelves before Step 1 – so it seems necessary to have practice questions for those.)

In short, by the end of my clinical year, we should be ready to take Step 2.

But – no, we’ll be scheduled to take Step 1 instead.  So we’ll have to totally switch study gears and relearn the molecular pathogenesis stuff – which sounds like it would be a huge pain, but would it really?

I”d guess that it would actually be EASIER to look at the big picture first (Step 2) and then add in all the details (Step 1) than vice-versa.  And though I have no idea, at least no one else does either.  As far as I’m aware, this is new territory for everyone who’s not in a traditional curriculum.

If this sounds too confusing (after studying for Step 2, we take Step 1, then re-study for Step 2!) that’s… sort of the point.

To make it even more confusing, I’m currently studying the hell out of Step 3 books because our History & Physical Diagnosis class has a final on Monday, and the “haha, so simple you only need a #2 pencil” nature of Step 3 means it actually… is kind of a good review.

In fact, Step 3 books look like an amazing review for rotations – they’re much more basic than Step 2 books are. “Common orthopedic fractures”.  “Current HTN guidelines.”  “Quick review of renal diseases” – it’s perfect.

So now I’ve decided that the most efficient way to review for my rotations over winter break will be by looking at Step 3 material.  (I know it sounds gunner-ish, but let’s keep in mind that every other med student actually studies for and takes Step 1 before rotations.  Whereas I don’t remember what the lungs are, so, you know.  Perspective.)

In short, I’m currently studying Step 3 books.  Then I will spend a year studying Step 2.  Then I will spend 2 months studying Step 1.

Then I will use my experience and inevitable wealth of “What not to do” stories to write a book called “Stepping Backwards:  How to Study for the USMLE at a 1.5 Pre-clinical Year School” and all the students at all of those medical schools will buy it, because hell, I totally would’ve bought it. 

And I will either A) make back all the money I spent on buying all these USMLE review books, or B) have an interesting failed side-project to talk about at fellowship interviews.  Win/win.

(… and then I bought my latte.)

5 thoughts on “Thoughts I have while standing in line at Starbucks

  1. I know it seems ass-backwards, but really it works best this way. In fact, you may find that you want to take step 2 soon after step 1 (like as in the next month) because you are so on your game from your shelf exams. Or not. I sometimes feel like I should have done step 2 back when I did my sub-i, but then I would have no incentive to study when I go back to med school in a year. Either way, it’s all a matter of getting good at the test, so really you just need to practice.

    • Awesome – that’s really good to hear. Yeah, as confusing as it is, I think it’ll be kind of fun (in a masochistic way) to figure it out and come up with a study plan when the time comes.

      • Check to see whether your school has a “recommended” study plan. Mine did, along with recommended review books and question banks, and I stuck to it pretty closely. It worked well for me.

  2. This is the weirdest schedule I’ve ever seen! I just finished Step 2 CS and I took CK in August after finishing my 3rd year. I can’t imagine having to take Step 1 after a year of clinical training. I wouldn’t be able to do it. Heck, I barely got through it the first time! Good luck with your studying!

  3. My school has 1 preclinical year. I don’t have the USMLE to worry about (Australia) but I’m still kind of screaming internally. That screaming may become audible when I start in February… Good luck!

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