You are so close to becoming a doctor. All of the years of studying are about to pay off. But first, you have to pass your medical board exam. This is almost certainly the most stressful time in your educational career.
At the end of the second year of medical school, students will take the first of the US Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE-1). This will test you on the basic medical science you learned in school.
In the fourth year of med school, you’ll take the second exam, which is divided into two parts, the clinical skills that involve patients played by actors. The second part is the written clinical knowledge exam. Finally, the final exam for the boards is taken at the end of the first year of residency and tests the student’s skills in providing unsupervised care.
There are mistakes students should avoid when they are studying for the boards.
Forgetting to Test Yourself
Just like every other time in medical school, it’s critical to take an exam review ahead of the test. This will allow the student to identify their weaknesses and learn where they need to focus their time. A good review will help them understand core concepts, and the questions will mirror those that will be on the real test.
In high school and the first four years of college, cramming before tests was something everyone did. That is not a good strategy for taking the medical boards. That’s because when cramming for an exam, the information is stored in short-term memory, not long-term memory. So, the info is only stored for a couple of days, rather than the length of medical school as needed, because they will be tested on it multiple times.
In med school, the student will be introduced to new material every day. They will have to remember the old material and concepts but also learn the new stuff as well. That leads to the next piece of advice on what to avoid.
Trying to Just Memorize the Material
Do not try to just memorize the material. Memorization does not always equal understanding. The information learned means absolutely nothing if the student doesn’t understand a concept or how that information applies to the real world.
Instead of trying to memorize the material, students should relate all of the concepts to situations they’ve experienced in their clinicals. Applying that knowledge in a practical way helps students store it in their long-term memory. Also, that will really help when taking the second and third parts of the medical exams. Finding a study buddy could be a good way to learn the information because the students can quiz one another or describe different scenarios that they might encounter.
Not Giving Yourself Enough Time
It’s very important to begin studying for the board exams on the very first day of medical school. This helps a student avoid the cramming trap in the days before the exams. Students should set aside time over a few days that allows them to study the material that was previously covered. They should also create flash cards and find ways to retain the information.
Finally, students should not ignore the resources available to them. It’s impossible to know what will be on their tests, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to study for them. Some of the specialties have blueprints that focus on high-priority information that all students need to know.
For example, the pediatric test goes over things like metabolic and endocrine disorders, growth and development, infectious diseases, child abuse, neglect, neonatal care, emergency care, behavioral issues, nutritional disorders, and other important information related to the healthcare of children and babies. It also goes over ethics and things of that nature.