Three Phases of USMLE Prep

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Biggest Mistake in USMLE Prep

One of the biggest mistakes people make in prepping for the USMLE is underestimating the time it takes to finish the prep. It seems a lot of people start their USMLE prep by opening a book and then start reading. They have no estimate on how fast they have to go in order to finish the whole prep in the time they originally allotted for it.

Proper scheduling is very important in order to do well in the USMLE exam. The main reason is that after studying for some time, you will burn out. Your rate of learning will slow down while your rate of forgetting remain constant. This is called plateauing. When your rate of learning becomes slower than your rate of forgetting, you go into decline. And for most people optimum review time is 6 to 8 months.

Therefore it is very important to understand the steps we need to go through in order to prepare properly for the USMLE Step 1. This is a very long topic and it will take a series of post to cover everything.

Three Phases in USMLE Prep

There are three important phases in prepping for the USMLE exam

  • Learning Phase: This is where you learn all the medical concepts tested in the USMLE. You cannot review what you do not know, you cannot master what you have not learned. At this stage the best resource to use are textbooks and lectures.
  • Mastery Phase: This is where you try to memorize medical concepts tested in the USMLE in the right level of detail needed for the USMLE exam. You also need to make sure that you can recall them in a timely manner. The best resources to use are reviewers, study notes and flashcards.
  • Test Preparation Phase: This is where you learn how to take USMLE type examination. The USMLE exam is unique in many aspects and you need to make sure you are ready to take this type of examination. The best resource to use is still online qbanks

It is very important to do the three phases in order as one phase builds on the other. Problems in the Learning phase affects Mastery and Test Preparation Phase. Problems in Mastery phase will affect Test Preparation phase. It is also important to use the proper resource for each phase as they are optimized for use in fulfilling the objective of each phase.

We will discuss all this in more detail in subsequent posts.

 

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About the author

    askdoc

  • rahil says:

    very well said!

    the idea is to find the right balance..course is unlimited..make sure you know the level of detail tested and what not to read 🙂

  • Jackson says:

    Regarding your phrase about most people requiring 6-8 months. Are you talking about students fresh out of the basic sciences or older grads? My school only allows 3.5 months at most to study for the exam after the basic sciences and even First aid states that most people take between 5-7 weeks.

  • askdoc says:

    Hi Jackson,

    If you are a 3rd year AMG, you have no problem taking the exam in the time period you indicated and passing. But if you are not, then you need about 6-8 months of review.

    Askdoc

  • Jackson says:

    Im a caribb student just out of 2nd year. Why would I need to be an AMG? I still think 6-8 months is insane for anyone except old grads. If everyone adopted this strategy no one would do an MD in 4 years.

    Again you didn’t address the fact that FA as well as many other sources say the average prep time for students is 5-7 months or maybe at most 2-3 months.. never 6-8 months.

  • akib says:

    Hey Askdoc, i fully n completely agree to ur 3 phases of prep.. however, I hv got a question – since the 3 steps happen to be interrelated n there are a lot of things to be recalled, what would be the best method to schedule the Test Preparation phase ? I mean one can’t be only practicing questions n NOT practicing recall at the same time, b’coz there is a vast amount of knowledge which would continue to be forgotten if not revised again . so what must be the BEST strategy/ plan to be in the 3rd phase, in order to make sure tht one can keep up with the knowledge recall as well question practicing….since at the end – it has to be the questions which we need to answer n it is very importnt tht we train to answer exam style questions n NOT merely recall based ones ?? Plz advise .


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