new: mike tutors and offers personalized advice for the usmle (click here for more info)

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Targeting Your Weakest Area(s) is HY for the USMLE

This one seems pretty obvious but its not always as easy as it seems. Instead of preaching how you should do it, I'll just tell you what I did.

With about 2 weeks before my exam I took a timed NBME exam (link in the sidebar to the right). The results are broken down by subject and your performance is shown as a shaded area in each subject and organ system. For example:

___________________P E R F O R M A N C E____________
SUBJECT ________Lower___ Borderline______Higher

This student obviously needs a lot of work in Behavioral science. That student was me. Much of my other subjects were further to the right and overlapped. If the bars overlap then they should be interpreted as similar.

Now, I think we can all agree that Pathology and pharmacology seem like much more important
subjects for the exam, and they are. But my theory was that if I'm doing pretty good in most and pretty bad in some then it would be much higher yield for me to focus on my weaknesses. It hurts too because nothing satisfies your soul more than reading the same stuff you already know over again 2 weeks before test day. It builds up your confidence (indeedimportant) but also it may induce you to overlook a gaping hole in your knowledge bank as it did for me.

Face your fears today: A good strategy would be to look at the table of contents or quickly flip the pages of first aid. Your body will let you know when you're at the right page. For me, I get a tight feeling in my stomach and hold my breath on inspiration (not long enough to cause a respiratory acidosis though) while my heart pounds through my chest (apex beat is found at the left 5th intercostal space). Bingo! Weakness area found.

As painful as it was to drop pathology and pharmacology, for me it was the right choice. I focused on behavioral and it paid off since behavioral science overlaps pathology and pharm on my actual performance profile from the USMLE.

Take home message is this:
A weak area brings your score down
Fixing your weak area can bring your score up much easier and higher than strengthening other already strong areas to compensate.


Anonymous said...

great post. planning to write step 1 in 2010.

USMLE said...

Your post has the information that is helpful and very informative. I would like you to keep up the good work.