There are many problems that the typical Old IMG faces when preparing for the USMLE. It is important for the Old IMG to be aware of this fact. As these problems of the old IMG has a big impact on the way he should plan his prep.
An Old IMG is anyone who has been 5 years out of medical school. Some have remained in clinical practice, while some have been out of practice for a while. Meanwhile the typical USMLE taker is a fresh graduate or third year medical student.
While it is true that an Old IMG will have a harder time, prepping for the USMLE, it is not an impossible task. While it is true Old IMG will as a group have a lower score than fresh graduates, getting 99’s is not impossible as I and a few Old IMG’s have shown. The most important thing is to have a good study plan and prep properly. And so long as the common problems of the old IMG is addressed, they should have no problem doing well.
What are the factors that usually affect the Old IMG?
First, there are knowledge factors that trouble the old IMG. Old IMGs graduated a long time ago. In my case I remained in clinical practice, but a lot of others have been out of medical practice for some time. A few have never been in clinical practice. These results in the following problems.
- Relearning What Has Been Forgotten Due to the time that has passed since medical school, most old IMG have forgotten the details of the basic and clinical medical concepts tested in the USMLE. Therefore there is a need for them to study longer than the usual USMLE taker. This was absolutely true for me.
- Obsolete Knowledge. Again due to passage of time, some of what the typical Old IMG knows may be obsolete and he may have to unlearn them in order to learn the more modern medical knowledge tested in the USMLE. Due to advances in medical knowledge, what I thought was medically correct has changed.
- Old IMGs may have some specialized knowledge which unfortunately is irrelevant for the USMLE. For those who were in practice, you may have kept up to date through CME’s but focused on your field of specialty. USMLE is about general medical knowledge and a lot of times, those specialist knowledge do not even appear in the examination.
Second, there are prep factors that trouble the old IMG. It’s been a long time since we graduated from medical school, meanwhile the average USMLE taker is a third year medical student or a fresh grad. The result is the following problems
- Have Not Studied for Exams for a Long Time. They have not studied continuously for sometime. It takes time to get used to studying for long hours at a time. It requires concentration. Most medical students are used to long hours of study. Most Old IMG’s have not studied long hours for years. Therefore it takes time to get used to studying long hours again. Studying long hours is crucial to doing well in the USMLE. I remember falling asleep with the books open the first time I tried to study anatomy.
- Old IMGs are not used to taking exams. It’s been sometime since they participated in any written examinations. Taking examinations is also in part a skill. Therefore, not having taken long examinations for some time can affect your actual performance in the exam. You have to get used to the time pressure, the type of questions, the format of the exam and the user interface. It has been years since most Old IMG’s have sat for long examinations while medical students eat, live and sleep exams.
- Lack of Reviewers and Prep Materials for old IMGs. Most of the Reviewers and Prep Courses available are geared towards the typical USMLE taker which are either fresh graduates or third year medical students. Since old IMG have unique problems that need to be addressed, they need reviewers and specific courses that are geared to their special needs. Yet this is unavailable in the market. In fact, I had to pick and choose and tweak them to suit my needs.
- Lack of Study Plans for old IMGs. For Old IMGs who wants to study on their own, there is a lack of formal study plan that will fit the typical old IMG. Most of the study plans discussed in forums are for the the typical fresh graduate or third year medical student and therefore inapplicable for the Old IMG.
Lastly, there are more social and motivational factors that trouble the old IMG. In fact there are so many motivational and social problems facing the old IMG, that there is a special section for it. Start with the article “Social and Motivational Issues of the Old IMG” and proceed from there.
Therefore, there is a need to be aware of these basic problems and plan around them.
We will discuss the various solution the Old IMG can do to address the specific problems stated above in future post. You may want to subscribe to our email list so you can be informed of future blog posts. (Remember if the text is blue and underlined, it means posts have been written and you can access them by clicking on them).