April Class – Accepting Applications for Askdoc’s USMLE Step 1 Prep Course

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For example, the Review of Pathology course in my prep course http://prep.askdoc-usmle.com uses bulleted lists tables and illustrations since the purpose is primarily to help people master the subject. Although for most of the course participants this was not a problem, some people have a hard time using bulleted lists primarily because they have not learned a significant number of concepts. The solution was to supplement reading a more detailed texts like Basic Pathology or Pathologic Basis of Disease which helped them to raise their score significantly. If the lack of knowledge is not too severe, supplementing with Goljan’s lectures or RR Pathology may suffice. However, the need of supplementing learning activities during the mastery phase can significantly prolong the process.

It is also important in the Mastery phase to emphasize recall and that is accomplished by using a combination of  Q banks and flashcards.

The mastery phase can usually be accomplished within 3 to 4.5 months so long as the learning phase was done adequately. Otherwise, the review length can be prolonged.

The last phase is the Test Preparation phase where you try to train yourself specifically for the requirements of the USMLE. This includes learning to answer USMLE type questions, developing stamina to sit for 8 to 9 hour exams, simulating the actual examination day to insure you are in top form, including the amount of rest time you give yourself after finishing your prep to the day you sit for the exam to ensure you are fresh and alert rather than tired and burnt out. This usually can be accomplished in 1 to 1.5 months and includes primarily KR and TP activities.

The actual prep course will only cover the Mastery and Test Preparation Phase and will not cover the Learning phase. Therefore it is important that you have finished the Learning phase before enrolling in the course as not doing so will mean that you won’t finish in 6 months

Although some materials will be provided you on the online course, other materials you will need to procure for yourself. I will publish a complete list for those enrolled in the course. Below, you will find a partial list.

  1. Robbin’s Review of Pathology Q Book – 2nd Edition
  2. Levinsion and Jawetz,   Review of Medical Microbiology and Immunology
  3. Trevor and Katzung, Review of Pharmacology
  4. BRS Physiology – Linda S. Costanza
  5. BRS Behavioral Science – Barbara Fadem
  6. For Biochem, Anatomy, etc. – Kaplan Lecture notes will suffice.

Also good to have a subject oriented Q book like Kaplan Q book. If you need to supplement with textbooks, usually because there is some inadequacy with the learning phase recommend the following;

  1. Pathology – Rapid Review Pathology, Basic Pathology or Pathologic Basis of Disease (choose 1)
  2. Pharmacology – Lippincott’s Illustrated Review of Pharmacology
  3. Medical Microbiology – The review book will suffice and no need for a separate text
  4. Physiology – BRS physiology is good enough except if you have problems with Acid Base physiology. Then use Guyton, Ganong or NMS physiology for Acid Base only
  5. Biochemistry – Kaplan is adequate but dense. IF you need to learn concept, use Illustrated Review of Biochemistry.

You should also be ready to subscribe to at least one online Q bank, either Kaplan or UW especially during the Test Preparation phase. A “downloaded” version is not considered adequate. You should also be able to subscribe to at least 2 NBME assessment test also online and not a “downloaded”  version.

There are certain requirements you need to follow or else it will be grounds to drop you from the course.

  1. You should follow all instructions.
  2. You should follow the recommended course materials
  3. You should follow the recommended course schedule. (The schedule is not very strict, it allows a lot of leeway for you to go faster or slower. However, there is a limit to how much you can stretch the schedule since the course is six months)
  4. You should inform me if you have any problems with the course or with the instructions. I cannot monitor your progress since I am not physically present beside you.
  5. You should commit to a minimum score of 85 and get my permission before taking the actual examination. (There are evaluations you can do to test whether you are ready for the examination. Taking it when you are not ready is a waste of money and time.)
  6. You should regularly attend the weekly chat session
  7. Any other condition which may be imposed depending on how the course progresses.

Due to the lessons I have learned conducting the first prep course and in consultation with participants of the first prep course, I will now be imposing some fees. As some of you may be aware, the current economic crisis in the US was started by subprime mortgages in the housing market. People were allowed to buy houses without any downpayment. At the first sign of difficulty, these people just walked away from their mortgages because they have no equity. There wasn’t even any effort to work through the problem and find solutions.

During the first prep course, no fees were collected. This proved to be a mistake as on the first sign of trouble, some of the participants just chose to walk away. As I stated, just enrolling in the course will not raise your score or help you pass. You need to study and follow a schedule. Some participants just walked away when they could not keep up with the schedule. Others walked away when they were being prodded to start Chapter 1!!! Therefore to insure that this thing does not repeat, a non-refundable enrollment fee of US$ 100 was eventually collected for all those enrolled in the second batch of the program. This is to make sure that the enrollee is really committed to finishing the course and raising their USMLE scores.

However, it seems $ 100 prove not to be enough to compel people to even start the course. After a month there are still 2 out of 7 who haven’t even finish chapter 1. There were those who from the start opined that $ 100 is too low and therefore for the third batch, the enrollment fee is now $300. I really hope this will be enough to force people to study. If you do not study, then you would have wasted the $ 300 but if you do study hard, it may yet be one of the wisest investment you will ever make.

A second change to be implemented is the creation of an online boot camp. Actually some of my students have suggested creating a live boot camp that can force students who lack self-discipline to study. That’s the reason why some students prefer to attend live courses. I may yet do that in the future. However, at present, we have to do things online, so students under boot camp are required to log in everyday, Monday to Saturday and maintain a progress log. They are required to follow strictly a schedule created by me in order to finish the prep. Failure to log in for 2 consecutive days will earn a long distance call from me to get them back online and studying. They are required to give me their cellphone number (home phone will not do).

I am a firm believer that people should study at their own pace, since that is most effective. But not starting even 1 chapter in a month I believe is excessive. So any student who have not started the course by the start of Week 3 or have not finished at least the first 12 chapters by the end of week 4 will automatically be put on boot camp. This is considered last resort and failure to comply at this point will result in being dropped from the course.

Another problem I encountered are people taking extraordinarily long time to finish the course. This course is six months long. And if you apply yourself properly, there should be no problem finishing the course in 6 months or less. Taking more than six months means you are either not studying regularly or you have completely botched your learning phase and are not ready to get into the mastery and test preparation phase. Therefore, I will be imposing a penalty of US $100 per month starting on the 7th month or a fraction thereof. This is to insure that people will not take their sweet time and really concentrate on finishing the course on time.

For this third batch, I am accepting a maximum of 10 new enrollees to the course. If you are not accepted, your enrollment fee will be refunded. However, once the course starts, the enrollment fee will be non-refundable

The reason for limiting the number of enrollees is that shadowing and mentoring individual students is very time consuming. More so when you have to spend time encouraging, pushing and even threatening them so they will begin to study. So in order to make sure everybody can be attended to, the number of students is limited.

Applicants will be accepted on a first come, first served basis. If you are interested in applying, please send an email to applications@askdoc-usmle.com. Include the following information

Your Name or nickname

Your preferred callsign (for use in logging in to the prep course and forum)
Year of Graduation: (old grads and new grads require different prep)
Country of Medical School:
Country of Origin:
Country currently residing (ie. where you will be reviewing – your time zone)
Sex (only so I don’t make a mistake of addressing you wrongly)
Age: (only if you want to, however, I may have to make adjustment to how to couch you depending on whether you are older or younger, so if you don’t want to state actual age, give me an idea )

Cell Phone No: ( To be used only if you are transferred to boot camp. You can opt to submit this when you are transferred to boot camp. But at that time failure to comply will mean being dropped from the course.)

You should also click the link below to submit your enrollment fee ($300) through PayPal. Be sure to put the above information before submitting your enrollment fee on PayPal, so I know you have submitted your enrollment fee. (Put either your name or your callsign).  You will only be considered to have applied once you have submitted both your application and your enrollment fee.

If  your enrollment is not accepted, the fee will be refunded through PayPal.

Please submit your application and enrollment fee on or before March 20, 2009. As acceptance to the program is first come, first serve, there is no guarantee that slots will remain open up to that date.

Once you are accepted you will receive an email from me that you have been accepted and you will be given instruction to follow. I will process the application weekly So you should be able to receive an email within 7 to 10 days from the time you submit the application. If you have not received an email from me, please search your spam folder. Last time, 2 applicants weren’t able to find their email  because their emailboxes put them in the spam folders. If it’s not there, email me to follow up.

Please be sure you are ready to start on April 1.

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