The act of knowing or cognition, otherwise known as knowledge is the result of the process called learning. For knowledge to be acquired, you must first learn it. Therefore, for medical students to learn a specific body of knowledge, it must be taught.
The process of teaching and learning can happen in by various means. These include traditional lectures, interactive experiences, self-directing reading and reviewing, or self-directed quizzing via a USMLE question bank which can be done in an individual or group setting. For example, a medical student can learn from using his senses, like observing how to draw blood during a venipuncture. The supervising physician, can only measure whether the medical student was able to grasp the knowledge or skill through evaluation. This evaluation can be done using a written test or an actual application of the skill on the wards, or through repeated demonstrations of competence.
In the same way, many formal USMLE review courses that a student may enroll into are akin to the academic lectures that you attend. The only difference is that, you already have a working knowledge of what will be discussed during the review sessions. These USMLE reviews will function as a sharpening medium before the actual USMLE Boards.
So where does the USMLE question bank come into play? Many students start a USMLE question bank about 6 months before sitting for the USMLE Step One exam. The question bank, also called a USMLE Q-bank, is used by student to both review material and to test his or her knowledge. For the best review, you should select a USMLE question bank that has thorough explanations for both the correct and incorrect choices to a question. For the best self-testing, you should select a USMLE question bank that best represents the questions you will actually see on the USMLE Step One exam.
For many, self-testing with a USMLE Q-bank is invaluable. You will find out that there are any subjects or topics you should that you should re-learn. This also helps you determine where your should expend the majority of your time and energy while studying for the USMLE Step One. Not all knowledge can be retained in one sitting or reading of an entire book or chapter. Even the cognitive skills that should be used in the learning process is something that should be taught, improved and honed. A Q-bank will let you know what is retained and which cognitive skills need to honed.
During your USMLE review process, these cognitive skills, namely: concentration, perception, memory and logical thinking will be both taught and sharpened while self-testing with a USMLE question bank. After reviewing a certain section, many students take a set of questions from a USMLE question bank in order to measure the actual comprehension and application of their knowledge. Through this repeated process, the four cognitive skills are developed further: concentration more sustained, perceptive skill is improved through practice and experience, the memory retention process is reinforced, and logical thinking sharpened.
The author, Gerald Faye Johnson, is educational content consultant for Apollo Audiobooks, LLC and Premedical Solutions, LLC. He wrote this article based on research, interviews, and experiences of real USMLE test takers, medical students, physicians, and professionals in US medical education. When students and educators share their experiences with us, some of their data is objective and some is subjective (i.e. opinion) and should be taken as such by the reader.
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