First, I would like to welcome you to my blog and my newsletter. My name is Mike, also known as Askdoc in the USMLE prep community. Some of you may have already heard of me. For those who have not, I am an old IMG who in 2006 was 17 years out of medical school who aced both Step 1 and Step 2 CK with a score of 99/256 and 99/258 respectively. You can look at a copy of my score report for Step 1 and Step 2 CK.
I know what it feels to be an old IMG. I know what it feels to want to score high and ace the USMLE to get into a good residency program. And I am here to tell you that if I can do it, so can you. You just have to know how.
Let me tell you my story. Let me tell you how I aced the USMLE Step 1 (and Step 2 CK) in one take.
If you would take the time to read my story, you will begin to understand what you need to do in order to pass the USMLE Step 1 in one take. And if you are really good and follow the plan judiciously you may even ace it like I did.
When I started thinking about taking the USMLE Steps way back in 2004, I had no idea what the exam was about. I was actually naive enough to buy a few copies of the NMS series of reviewers and started reading them. Fortunately, part of me realized that I don't really know what I am doing so I also started researching about the exam through the web. My first stop was of course the ECFMG website. I had to dig up my old ECFMG number which I applied for way back in 1989.
Going through the ECFMG website, the first thought that struck me is how amazing it is that the website could give me so much information about the USMLE and at the same tell me so little about how to pass it or ace it. I mean you would have thought that it would give you some pointers or tips on where to begin looking. But Nada. Nothing. It tells you about how to apply for the exam. The requirements. Where you will take it, etc. But nothing on the most important information of them all...
How do I pass this thing?
They didn't even warn me that I should pass this in one take or my chance at a US medical residency is gone. I had to find that out somewhere else. There wasn't even a warning that I should not attempt both Step 1 and Step 2 CK at the same time or within a few days or weeks of each other as that will surely result in me failing either one or both of them. Going through the USMLE website itself revealed the same thing. Nothing really. What's worse, the sample exam they gave was so easy, that you are lulled into thinking the actual exam is that easy. How I wish!
Maybe that's the reason why so many people insisted on using the most popular study plan advocated in forums. If its that easy, why should I bother to study really hard. And that is what the most popular study plan is telling everyone. Study as little as you can and you will ace what is probably the toughest exam in your career.
This particular study plan was being touted as the way to go even way back in 2004. And the main reason so many people like it is because it promises success without doing much work. It's like those get-rich-quick schemes, crash diets and work-outs without working out. It's easy. It promises success without any real effort. And of course, it never works.
You would have thought that physicians with their proportion of high IQ individuals would be less vulnerable to such preposterous claims. But the sheer popularity of that concept belies that. Everybody knows that unless you go to the gym and work out judiciously, that unless you watch what you eat daily and that unless you work hard everyday, you will not succeed. You will not get a great body, you will not lose weight and you will not get rich. (See Crash Diets and Good Habits in USMLE Prep)
But without studying, you can pass the USMLE, a very easy exam to ensure that everyone who wants to practice medicine in the US can get in without even trying. You can become the highest paid physicians in the world by taking it easy. Studying hard is for fools and stupid people. NOT!!!
And yet too many people seems to believe that. I still get search queries in my blog that goes like this. 3 week study plan to ace the USMLE Step 1. (Even geniuses need more time than that and if there ever was an effective study plan that can do that will it be available for free in the web) How easy is the USMLE Step 1. ( USMLE is hard. You ask how hard it is not how easy). Can I ace Step 1 by memorizing First Aid cover to cover? (I wish)
Big Audacious Goals worth achieving never comes easy. It needs a lot of Hard Work.
Even way back in 2004, I kept on asking myself if it's really true that the USMLE is that easy. So many people repeating it, it must be true, right? But if it's that easy, why is the failing rate for first time takers running at ~40% and for repeat takers ~ 90%. Are there really thousands of physicians out there who are that stupid?
Don't get me wrong, there were a lot of voices out there cautioning people about believing that the USMLE is easy. But they were being drowned out by voices that say its that easy.
Maybe that's the reason I made the Prep4usmle forum as my home forum back then. It was not the most popular forum. In fact, at that time it was a relatively small forum compared to a lot of others. But it has the biggest group of posters who seem to advocate the need to study harder if you want to do well in the USMLE. They seem to accept well-reasoned explanations of why you need to study a certain way in order to learn better and don't shout you down or call you crazy because you are advocating something counter to what is popular.
To be fair, when you ask these same people if the USMLE Step 1 is hard, most of them will say it is. But when you start asking them how they are prepping for it, you get the feeling that they only say it's hard, but they really think it's easy.
Action speaks louder than words. It's like a person preparing for a 24 km marathon. When asked how much preparation he is doing, he says he runs 2 km a day 3 times a week and he hopes in 3 months he can finish the marathon. In fact a few of them dream of winning it. That's 24 km and he thinks practicing 2-km runs 12 times is enough to prepare for it and even win it. You think?
They pick the shortest books they can find. Plan to read them only once, so they can finish prepping in 2-3 months. For an exam that tests how much they know about medicine. For the toughest exam in their medical career. Some even dream of acing it. You think?
Two roads diverged in a wood,
and I — I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
An AMG may be able to get away with that since they only need to pass it to match. IMGs who just pass this exam can kiss their US medical career goodbye.
That is all for now. In a future issue we will discuss " Why IMGs have to Study Harder than AMGs." Too many IMGs adopt the study plans of AMGs and wind up scoring low and even failing. For old IMGs the results are even worse.
Looking forward to seeing you all next issue.
PS. If you have not yet done so download a copy of my free guide "How to Create a Study Plan for the USMLE".
P.P.S. Next issue we will discuss 7 Things You Need to Know About the USMLE if you want to do well. Please read the "Know Your Enemy" section of the free ebook.
An in-depth written guide on how to prep better and score higher for the USMLE Step 1. Read the book. Better Prep. Easier Exam. Higher Scores,
A 48-module lecture seminar on how to prep better and score higher for the USMLE Step 1. Listen to the Lecture. Better Prep. Easier Exam. Higher Scores.