MedSmarter Improve USMLE Step 1 Performance in 2 Weeks

You may think that there is no way to improve your Step 1 Performance in as little as two weeks, but, as the cliché goes, anything is possible! 

It is certainly achievable with some determination, effort, and a focus on our goals.

Why are the last two weeks important for Step 1?

The last couple of weeks before the exam is often the most challenging. Sometimes, it feels like everything we have studied over the previous several weeks and months completely leaves us. 

Other times we are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of knowledge we have gained. 

Whatever the case, don’t take this critical time for granted. Use these last two weeks to your most significant advantage, and it will pay off.

Okay, now how do I do it?

I’m sure at this point in your journey, you’ve realized there are no actual shortcuts when it comes to USMLE. 

But, here are some valuable ways to maximize your time: plan, prioritize, test, review, relax, exercise, and BELIEVE IN YOURSELF.

1. Plan

It is crucial to simulate the testing environment as closely as possible in these last two weeks. 

USMLE Step 1 is an 8-hour exam. The more you get used to these rigorous hours, the better. However, it’s essential not to take it too far. 

We wouldn’t want ourselves to get burnt out right at the last minute. So, study when you can, take your breaks and keep your eye on the prize. You’re almost there!

2. Prioritize

We’ve all heard it: Work smarter, not harder. So now isn’t the time to cram a whole chapter that you’ve never touched before or do 500 new Anki cards. 

Ideally, you’ve studied everything you need to at least once. Make a list of chapters that need extra work and focus on the highest-yield topics from those chapters. 

Here’s a list of some high-yield chapters:

  • Biochemistry
  • Immunology
  • Pharmacology
  • Microbiology
  • Musculoskeletal
  • Neurology

3. Test yourself

UWorld and other question banks are your best friend. These offer the best preview of what the actual test will look like and what your performance will be. 

Question banks allow you to fine-tune your review. However, they are a rich source of concentrated information so make sure you’re leaving enough time to read through the answers.

Regularly doing questions will make you familiar with the test format, and there will be no surprises on test day.

4. Review

Take an honest look at your preparations. Two weeks before the exam isn’t the time to be learning material for the first time. 

Now is the time to go over weak spots and reinforce previous knowledge. If you feel deficient in any areas, it may be time to consider rescheduling your exam. 

You want to go into test day prepared to the best of your ability. Before the exam, some good review topics are lists of organisms, equations, and disease hallmarks.

5. Take Care of Yourself

Amidst all the studying and pressure, it’s easy to forget about yourself at this time. I know it’s hard, but try to maintain a healthy sleep schedule, eat well, and work in some exercise if possible. 

Even five minutes of meditation or a daily short walk can go a long way to helping you maintain a calm state of mind come exam day.

6. Relax

Relax! Don’t fall prey to last-minute jitters that could affect your performance. 

Remember the mediation we just mentioned? If you get nervous close to your exam, pausing to take a few deep breaths can help relax you.

7. Believe in yourself!

You’ve worked hard; you’ve practiced; you know what’s coming on test day. You are ready for this! Step 1 is a daunting milestone, but trust in yourself and your efforts, and they will pay off!

Finally, you are not alone. If you find that you may be struggling during any time of your Step 1 prep, reach out to your professors or friends. 

They can help guide you, whether with exam material or social support. It’s a long journey, but even Step 1 can seem like no big deal with the right tools.

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