The United States Medical Licensing Examination, commonly referred to as the USMLE, is perhaps the most important stage of your medical education. It’s also extremely difficult, and food good reason. Passing it means you’re on your way to being a doctor, with responsibility over life or death decisions.
Despite its well-known difficulty, you do not need to be a genius to pass the USMLE. You just need to do the work, and study effectively. Here are some tips to help you prepare for the exam, even if you only have 5 hours per day.
Get to know your own strengths and weaknesses
The USMLE is a competitive exam and has many modules for you to get through. It is important that you have a focus on what you expect to be in the exam and show up fully prepared to avoid nasty surprises.
Preparing for the exam differs from individual to individual, depending on your strengths and self knowledge. Some students are good at writing; some are good at MCQs (Multiple Choice Questions). One who is good at MCQs might not necessarily be good with longer answer questions. So before you sit any exam the first thing is to understand yourself, your capabilities, your weakness and your strengths in answering questions.
Gather information about the exam
Now you know yourself better. It’s the time to understand the main elements that you need to focus on for the USMLE. You have an exam paper, you have a CCS simulation, you have question blocks. So first have a clear idea as to what is that main thing you need to focus in the exam. You can talk to your seniors and get some insights as to how the experience is and what was the framework, so you know now how this game needs to be played. Gathering as much information as you can about the exam will pay off.
Know your timeframe
Look at your calendar. Look at how much time you can spend to study. If you are busy with some other work going on, then you have limited time and limited resources to get prepared. Then that is where you have to strategically weigh your options on time. Whether you need to study in the night or day or in the early morning.
If you have only five hours per day and you have five weeks. That means you have 35 hours per week and a total of 175 hours left for the final exam. If you count in days, basically you have a total 7.2 days of pure study. That may not sound like a lot, but it’s better that you know in advance. Now you can work on dividing up that 7.2 days per subject, according to the modules that you will face in the exam.
It’s important that you prioritize your daily study time according to what will actually be in the exam, and according to your own strengths and weaknesses.
Recall, recall and recall
In a high pressure situation where you have limited time, it’s important to recall fast so that can efficiently answer all the questions. Take 30 minutes everyday to review what you studied the day before, and increase your recall speed. If it took 30 mins to remember 10 pages today, by your 3rd week, if you practice this well, you will be able to recall the same thing in just 10 mins. You are training your brain to remember things faster.
Try to find more time
If it’s possible, try to find more time than 5 hours per day when you are nearing your exam to give it your best. You may have to make some short term sacrifices, but you’ll be glad you did when you pass the exams and go on to become a doctor!
But even if you can’t, and you only have these 5 hours per day, then you still stand a strong chance of passing if you study consistently and intelligently. Research the exam, divide your time according to your strengths, and focus on improving your recall.