USMLE Step 1 preparation can be a stressful undertaking. It requires many hours of dedication. USMLE scores are unfortunately the only real way a residency program can assess an applicant's qualification. For this reason many students feel extreme pressure to get the highest possible score. This pressure is even greater on foreign graduates. For many, they begin behind the eight ball with no US clinical experience, a language barrier and many years of lay off from a traditional class room setting. But despite these obstacles it's worth taking on this challenge because let's face it what really is the alternative? Working as a Pharmacy Tech or Medical Assistant taking orders from someone who is barely a high school graduate? I think not!
So where do you begin? Do you take a USMLE prep course? Do you purchase every source recommended to you by everyone you know who took USMLE Step 1 and Step 2? Do you take every USMLE qbank out there? What's the winning formula? Well, these are the questions every student starting out is faced with. First thing's first, you must evaluate yourself honestly without prejudice. You must ask yourself how much do you know? The best way to do that is take a USMLE Step 1 evaluation exam. There are many good ones out there, which I'll discuss in my next article. But for now, let's just stick to the process of beginning this journey. Once you have taken a USMLE Step 1 evaluation exam and you're looking at the results, this is your moment of truth. This is when you must realize on a practical level where you stand. How much time your current life status will allow you dedicate to getting ready.
Let's say for argument sake that your evaluation score is around 120 equivalent to the actual USMLE Step 1 Exam. That would be at least 3 standard deviations away from a passing score. Based on this hypothetical example, you would be at least one year away from acquiring a level of knowledge that would be adequate enough to pass the exam. But that's not what you're looking for, you want to ace this baby!
So one year to get to a passing score and additional time from there will be for the icing on the cake. This is where it gets a bit dicey. Most foreign grads are married, have kids and have jobs; the usual scenario. The single most important thing a student has to do is set a time line, let's say 18 months for the example given above, and convey that time line to your significant other very clearly and honestly. Without your spouse's (or parents in some cases) complete support you will fail to reach your goal. They need to know how long will it take, where do you stand currently and what's your plan. If you share this information with them openly and completely your journey will be wrinkle free and most of all you will have zero stress from your surroundings, which is invaluable while preparing for the USMLE Step 1 in particular. You must remember studying for the USMLE Step 1 Exam is stressful on the student but it's also stressful on the family. That's why the more they know where you stand and what your plan is the better it will be for everyone involved!
Good luck and study hard. Hard work always pays off. Next time I'll talk about what USMLE Step 1 evaluation exam is worth taking, what sources are the best and how to make a study plan and schedule.
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