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

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*Note: Enrollment for September Classes have started. Please go to this link

I would like to announce that I’ll be accepting applications for the June Batch of Askdoc’s USMLE Step 1 Prep Course which will start on June 1, 2009 and end on November 30, 2009. This is the 4th batch of enrollees for this course and again due to experiences with the previous batches, changes are being implemented to the program for this batch.

As you may well be aware, the first batch started last September, 2008. No fees were collected, however, the applicants were required to have failed Step 1 at least once. Tong, the first to take the exam from that batch has passed with a score of 97/232. The second, Marlene just passed with an 88/213. Most of you may know Marlene. She was the one who was ardently negotiating a position in the prep course on this blog last July to August when I first announced the course. Well she finally made it. You can read more about their exam experience here.

The February batch is mostly on schedule to take their exams in June and July, except for two who have requested to be move the June batch and one who is MIA. So a total of 4 will be taking their exams soon.

Most of the April batch is currently way behind schedule. Which is the main reason that the June batch will be affected. As you may well know, I limit class sizes. The main reason is to maintain the quality of the prep as too many students means that I cannot look after everyone. So despite the fact that a total of 21 people applied for the April batch, I accepted only the first 10. That is also the reason why you have to keep to schedule when you join the prep course. Because any delay means that I will have to limit even more the number of students I accept in the next class which in this case is the June batch.

Because of this, I will only guarantee to accept five students for the June batch. If in the next 2 weeks, somehow the April batch will speed up, I may accept 2 or 3 more into the batch for a maximum of 8. This is due to the 2 students who transferred from the February batch. Of course new rules will be imposed to prevent this situation from happening again and rules will be tightened on the April batch to make sure they speed up and do not affect the August batch due to unnecessary delays.

In order to make people understand better why we have rules, 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. If you ask my current students, proper methodology increased their scores dramatically. In fact, a few chapters into the course, some students have a tendency to start wanting 99’s whereas just a few weeks before all they wanted was to pass the exam. However, 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. Also, I can see where you tend to err in answering questions and I can help you change that tendency so you tend to score higher.

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.

7. You need to follow schedule. You cannot be prepping forever. Plus any delay in your prep means that there are less people who can join the course. Every batch so far, more people enroll than I can accommodate. If you do not keep to schedule, you are depriving others the chance of realizing their dreams. So there is a need for me to maintain a limit as to how long someone can keep that slot occupied at the expense of others.

8. If you are an old grad who have not opened a basic science book in years, then YOU ARE NOT READY for this prep course. This is because you have not finished your learning phase. I will explain later the difference between learning, mastery and test prep phase. Contact me first and I will tell you what you need to do to be prepared for this course. Nearly half of the reason why people cannot meet the study schedule is because of this. If you have recently prepped for the exam, whether you eventually took it or not, it is possible that you can take this course. Again, best to pm me ahead before applying.

9. The minimum time needed to finish this course is 4 months. If you can devote the right amount of time to the prep. The only way you can finish this in under 4 months is to devote at least 12 hours a day 7 days a week and have a very good memory. And if you can prep for under 2 months and pass Step 1, you do not need to enroll in my course at all. (You can’t imagine how many people keep on asking if they can finish the course in 2 to 3 months. I mean if you can pass the USMLE by prepping in 2 to 3 months, you do not need me, right?)

10. This course is not easy. Any real course that will help you pass or score high in the USMLE can never be easy. Because the USMLE is not easy. People have dropped out of this course. People have scored high with this course. People who have failed multiple times before have passed with good scores with this course. Old grads have passed with this course. But they did what others were not able to do. Stick with the course and finished it. Those who dropped out failed to even start.

11. You need the self-discipline to study on your own. If you need the someone to be physically present to prod you to study, you are better off applying with one of those boot camp prep centers like Kaplan or USMLE Pass. My students have suggested that I open one in the US soon. With the price they are charging, I might be able to offer something for half the price. 😆

If you want a sense of how the prep course is running. Register in my forum at http://forums.askdoc-usmle.com. You can then access the site used by my students. Read their prep journal to get an idea of how the course goes.

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

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