Accepting Applications – Askdoc’s USMLE Step 1 Prep Course

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*Enrollments for June Classes already started and will be open for the whole of May, 2009. If you are interested in enrolling please click on this link.  Thank You!

I would like to announce that I am now ready to receive applications for Askdoc’s USMLE Step 1 Prep Course which will start on January 19, 2009 and end on July 19, 2009. However, before submitting your application, please be sure you are really committed to finishing the course, since there really is limited space available.

Due to my experience with the first batch, I believe I have to describe the course in more detail including expectations and the amount of work needed so there is no misunderstanding.

  1. The course covers USMLE Step 1 which is seven subjects all in all. The course is 6 months long. Therefore telling me that you do not have enough time to finish 1 subject in 4 to 6 weeks means you won’t have time to finish the course period. Therefore please be ready to invest the time needed to do the course. Nothing less than 4 to 6 hours a day at least 5 to 6 days a week is needed. If you are unable to commit this time, then this course will not help you.
  2. The reason you would want in on this course is that it will teach you how to prep for the USMLE in the proper way. Therefore you must be prepared to follow instructions. You would be surprised at how many people insists on following their own methods of studying rather than those outlined in the course. If you will not follow the course’s review methodology, why bother enrolling?
  3. Enrolling in the course does not automatically raise your scores. YOU STILL NEED TO STUDY. I cannot magically put information in your head, only you can do that. Since this is an online course, I cannot stand behind you and monitor whether you are studying or not or force you to study. Although there are quizzes and progress reports in the online course, I cannot force you to take the quizzes or write down your progress reports. So if you are not ready to really study, then this course will not do you any good.
  4. You need to give me feedback. Per experience, the course methodology works fine for most people, however, for some people they need adjustments. Therefore, giving me regular feedbacks about how you are faring will help so that I can adjust your study methodology to suit you better. This is done by doing the quizzes. If you fail to achieve the required score then we need to review your study methodology and adjust them.
  5. You have to attend the weekly online chat. The weekly online chat is set up so you not only have an idea of how others are doing, but also to discuss any questions you have about the review process itself. Since an online course has no formal “class”. This is a good substitute.
  6. One on one chat is only available on a case-to-case basis. This is simply because of time constraint. The participant however, can pm me in case they have individual problems.

If you have read my post, you will know that there are 3 phases in the typical study plan. The “Learning” phase, the “Mastery” phase and the “Test Preparation” phase.

The learning phase is where you try to learn all the different concepts tested in USMLE Step 1. When reading, you can attempt to draw a mental picture of what you are reading to understand the concept or you can repeatedly read through the material to memorize it. In learning phase, your purpose is to understand the concept and not to memorize them.

The mastery phase, is where you concentrate on memorizing and being able to recall medical concepts in detail and at the right speed needed to be able to answer questions in 1 minute or less.

The test preparation phase is where you train yourself to answer USMLE type questions and to be able to sit through an 8 to 9 hour long exam.

There are also 3 types of activities that you use in the 3 phases. Knowledge Acquisition (KA), Knowledge Recall (KR) and Test Prep(TP).

KA includes all activities that tries to put medical knowledge into your knowledge bank (KB). This includes mostly reading and listening to lectures.

KR includes all activities that tries to improve your ability to retain and recall the information the information in your KB. This includes repeatedly reading through the course materials, using flashcards, answering questions and doing word association drills with study mates. It is rare for people to repeatedly listen to lectures when doing KR. They usually prefer to write down notes for the lectures and repeatedly read through them instead.

TP includes all activities that improves your ability to do better in USMLE type MCQ’s. This includes simulating USMLE exams, speed building, increasing stamina, etc.

Learning phase usually involves only KA activities. It is the most variable in terms of length of time needed to accomplish. It depends on how much you already know in the first place. Even fresh grads differ in the medical concepts they have retained even if they graduated together More so for people who are older grads.

People may wonder what it means to have learned something as opposed to have mastered something which is what the Mastery phase is all about. Well to have learned a concept means you understood the concept, while to say you have mastered a concept means you know it in such a depth and will be able to recall it fast when needed

To illustrate, for example the coagulation cascade. During the Learning phase, you may have read all the details of the coagulation cascade, but to consider that you have learned it, you probably need to know it this way.

1. It is a series of enzyme conversion that results in clotting
2. The final step is the conversion of Fibrinogen to Fibrin
3. This is accomplished by Thrombin
4. There is a common pathway
5. There is an intrinsic and extrinsic pathway
6. The two pathways converge on Factor X before forming the common pathway
7. The extrinsic pathway involves Factor VII and Tissue factor
8. The intrinsic pathway triggered by Factor XII triggering multiple other factors
9. Extrinsic pathway measured by Protime
10. Intrinsic pathway measured by activated Partial Thromboplastin Time

If you do not know most of the points above, you cannot consider yourself to have “learned” the concept even if you’ve read all of the above or even more details.

During the mastery phase, you should know the concept in even greater detail and be able to recall them really fast. To illustrate.

  1. You need to know the steps in greater detail. For example the intrinsic pathway includes Factor IX and factor XI. You also need to know that there are factors that act as catalyst to the reaction (Factor V and VIII) and factors that moderate or inhibit the reaction (TFPI, anti-thrombin and APC). These are just some of the additional details you need to memorize and be able to recall to consider that you have mastered the concept.
  2. You need to be able to recall facts much faster. For example, knowing that PTT measures intrinsic pathway and the factors in the intrinsic pathway will allow you to deduce the factor deficiency that causes abnormal PTT. However, it may take time for you to recall the facts if this is how you retained the information. You may need to memorize the actual factors that can cause abnormal PTT and protime directly. This is done during the mastery phase.

Of course, you need to know more than the above to truly master the concept of coagulation cascade, but the above will suffice for illustration purposes.

The Mastery Phase is composed of both KA and KR activities. Your main purpose here is to memorize, retain and recall tested medical concepts. You still do a lot of reading for KA. However the type of reading material you use will differ. It is easier to learn concepts by using narratives. Hence textbooks are more effective. But it is easier to memorize bulleted lists, tables and illustrations as well as recall information that way.

To illustrate using the coagulation cascade. It is easier to memorize and remember the concept using a combination of illustration and bulleted lists. However, trying to learn the coagulation cascade using only illustrations and bulleted lists is a challenge. It is better to use narratives that explain the whole concept first and once you’ve learned and understood the concept, use illustration and bulleted lists to memorize them for easier recall.

A reason for using tables concerns concepts that you need to differentiate from each other. It is a known fact that an important key to scoring high in the USMLE is the ability to know the key difference between diseases rather than memorizing the key features of a disease. For example, in the exam if you get a case of inflammatory bowel disease, your problem will be if you are dealing with Crohn’s disease or Ulcerative colitis. A well-constructed question will first present features common to both and just add one or two features usually buried in between the other features that distinguishes one from the other. If you had memorized the features of each diseases either reading them in text form or in bulleted lists, you will have to review in your head, the features one by one and try to sort out the features that distinguishes the two. This not only eats up a lot of time, but you could even wind up with the wrong answer. If you had memorized it as a table that differentiates the two, your ability to answer that question correctly and fast have just increased exponentially. Ditto for example a case of lung CA. A table differentiating between, Squamous Cell Ca, Small Cell Ca, Bronchioalveolar CA, etc. is a better way to retain and recall the data than just from a plain bulleted list or even a full narrative.

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21 thoughts on “Accepting Applications – Askdoc’s USMLE Step 1 Prep Course

  • January 9, 2009 at 5:03 am
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    I would like to join the step1 course.
    kindly e-mail me the details

  • January 12, 2009 at 5:19 am
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    The instructions on how to apply for the prep course is on page 2 of this post. Please refer to that for details. You must email your applications to applications@askdoc-usmle.com. You should submit your enrollment fees through the PayPal link in the post.

    In light of the fact that January 20, 2009 is the inauguration day of the the new US president, the start date of the course will be moved to January 26, 2009 instead.

    Thank you for your interest

  • January 14, 2009 at 1:35 pm
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    Dear askdoc,

    I have sent you an email which includes my application.
    I was wondering do I need to pay for the application before you accept me into the course. Please do reply and consider my application.

  • January 15, 2009 at 4:12 pm
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    iam still in the learning phase but ofcourse i won’t wait till next year to join your course do i have any other option
    anyway i have 8 hours daily to study

  • January 16, 2009 at 7:33 am
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    To dr amr,

    There will probably be another class open by end March or early April. By that time, most of the first batch which have started last September would have taken their examination so I can handle another class by that time. Thank you for your interest.

  • January 16, 2009 at 12:33 pm
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    To Askdoc,

    I have been waiting for your email since past couple of days. Do you have any more vacancies in this upcoming batch.

    I am willing to joing this group. I already sent my application. Please do reply.

  • January 18, 2009 at 7:26 am
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    To sam,

    Sorry for the late reply. See your email.

    Askdoc

  • January 18, 2009 at 1:32 pm
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    To ask doc

    I wanted to know if you received my application and paypal . Please confirm to let me know . Thanks

  • January 19, 2009 at 3:47 pm
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    Did you receive my email ?

  • January 20, 2009 at 10:47 am
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    look at your email

  • January 23, 2009 at 9:25 am
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    I would like to announce that all positions of the course have now been filled. The next class will start on April and enrollment begins sometime in March. Check back by that time if you are interested in joining the course.

    For those accepted to the course, please log in to the forum at http://forums.askdoc-usmle.com. Access the forum -> Askdoc’s USMLE Prep Course Forums ‹ Askdoc’s USMLE Step 1 Prep Course ‹ Group 0901 ‹ Course News and Announcement and read the first topic. There will be 2 more posts there on Saturday and Sunday respectively. You will get your instructions there. You are allowed to post reply but not to start topic. If you need to contact me, you can pm me through the forum or post in the appropriate forum on the site.

    To saif: I emailed you, please look at your email.
    To atif: look at your email. Follow instructions and email me back if you want to get into the course.

    Thank You,

    Askdoc

    PS. The first member of the first batch of enrollees last September is taking his exam this January 27, 2009. Our prayers are for him to achieve the score he is aiming for and that he will get the score as predicted by his NBME assessment test results.

  • February 4, 2009 at 1:40 pm
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    Hi, you have awesome writing capabilities. I have read your ebook and that was very inspiring. I will apply for your preparatory course in march, maybe.

  • February 16, 2009 at 5:30 pm
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    Hi, Askdoc:

    Do you have an outline of your course, so I can get an idea of what your course is like? Also, if any sample lessons/notes can be previewed before enrolling in your course, please let me know. Thanks.

  • February 22, 2009 at 8:41 am
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    Hi Johnny,

    If you want some idea on how the course goes, log on to my forum at http://forums.askdoc-usmle.com. Read Askdoc’s Method of USMLE Review and the exam experience poste by a student from my first batch. He took the exam last January 27, 2009 and got a 97/232.

    If you want to access some of the sites in the forum used by my current students. Register and log on to the forum as they are only available to registered users.

    For a sample of the notes and quiz used, register at my Prep site at http://prep.askdoc-usmle.com. Enroll in the Pathology Demo course. It’s open to all. That is the actual Chapter 1 of Review of Pathology. Originally the course calls for using only commercially available reviewers and texts. However, some of my students had a hard time distinguishing between high yield must know concepts vs. lower yield concepts, so I wound up rewriting my own notes for their use. Then I also found out that some people just have a hard time memorizing and recalling information, So the summary notes was made to help people organize the information in their head for easier memorization and recall. Another important point is to memorize the information in a way that makes it easier to get the right answer to questions.

    Askdoc

    PS. I am only accepting 10 students for the April Class. As of now, 10 applicants have emailed me to reserve a position for the April Class. However, I don’t accept reservations so I have told them to apply early once enrollment starts in March as it will again be first come, first served.

  • February 25, 2009 at 10:49 am
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    Hi, Askdoc,

    Thanks for the information. I will check out the links that you’ve provided.

    Is there a class that would start in March, if enough people will enroll?

    I’d like to take the exam in June-Aug of this year.

  • February 25, 2009 at 11:03 pm
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    Hi Johnny,

    Actually, it is possible to make it for an August exam date even with the April class. The program can be finished in 4 months if you strictly adhere to 6 to 8 hours of study time, 6 days a week. In fact an NBME assessment test is scheduled just after the 4th Month and if you are satisfied with that score, then you can sit for the exam. The extra 2 months is there for various reasons. People who wants 99’s will probably have a hard time being ready in 4 months though not impossible. Most people tend to drag their feet when studying and for them 4 months is not enough. Lastly, there are people who have glaring problems and deficiencies which may take sometime to fix, therefore extra time may be needed.

    When the enrollment starts on March, and you enroll early, you can start the course ahead of the others if you want. The materials are there for you to use. The reason I want people in classes is because it is easier to monitor people when they are more or less covering the same stuff. Also I do discuss ways to tackle USMLE questions (ie. being able to get the correct answer even if technically you don’t know the exact answer) using questions in the course itself. If people are at different sessions, then those behind would know the answers to questions they have yet to encounter in future chapters. The reason that classes are 2 months apart is that the first month or so the busiest as I have to correct bad study habits and glaring deficiencies from the new students. Some gets corrected in a week or so, others persists much longer and therefore occupy a huge amount of my time. By the end of the second month, most problems should be resolved and the students can usually now study by themselves with just occasional advise from me.

    So my suggestion is enroll early, inform me and I will let you start ahead maybe as early as third week of March

    Askdoc

  • February 26, 2009 at 7:47 am
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    Ok, thanks for the detailed email.

  • February 26, 2009 at 7:49 am
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    Dear askdoc,

    In the future, instead of my real name, can you use my screen name, “bestmedicine” instead?

  • March 4, 2009 at 5:33 am
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    Hi bestmedicine,

    No Problem. 🙂

    Askdoc

  • February 7, 2011 at 11:35 am
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    Hello

    I am interested in doing the USMLE step 1 in November 2011.

    I live in Toronto, Canada.

    Do you offer a prep course in July or August of 2011.
    Please let me know! Thanks

  • February 8, 2011 at 6:26 am
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    Hi Doron,

    The course is offered year round. So you can enroll anytime. Lectures are on two month cycles, so Jan-Feb, Mar-April, etc. For most IMG, they need 4 to 6 months prep to pass this exam. For old IMG, its even longer. So if you are just thinking to pass and you are fresh grad, starting in July would be OK, otherwise, rethink your timeline.

    Askdoc

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