*Note: I wrote this a while back in prep4usmle.com. You can access the original article here.
I’ve used this framework for analyzing my weak points throughout my review.
We can divide our whole preparation into 3 parts,
1. Knowledge Acquisition(KA) – This is where you put information into your Knowledge Bank(KB) Most new graduates are extremely fine here (Except if you’re one of those who barely made it. Crammed for every test and promptly forgot everything afterwards. 😛 Most Old graduates and some IMG graduates usually have problems here. If your deficiency is primarily here (like me both old and IMG 😥 ), I’m sorry, I don’t think there can be any successful prescription but to hit the books.
2. Knowledge Recall or Review(KR) – This is how well you extract information from your KB. Most new graduates have some problem only here. FA and the QBank makes a fantastic tool for improving Recall. So people with problems here usually give fantastic ratings to FA and Qbank.
3. Test Preparedness (TestPrep) – If you are not familiar with CBT, MCQ or clinical slant to questions, this is where your problem is. Problems with sitting for 8 hour exam is also classified here. Difficulty in answereing 2 to 3 step thinking questions also fall here. This is where QBanks are the most effective.
If the problem is primarily in KA, answering 100 thousand Q’s will not help, IF your KB is full and you have problems only with KR and TP, hitting the books will be a waste of time. QBank, FA, HY and Flashcards should be the way to go.
How do I know where my primary problem is?
Well a quick way to know is to use an evaluation examination, preferably one that’s very near like to the actual exam. (The Kaplan CD examination comes to mind)
If you find while answering the questions that either the choices, the question itself or the pictures makes you think out loud “What the Heck is this?” You have a KA problem.
If most of the time it is, “I know this, but I can’t recall how you differentiate between drug A and drug B (or symptoms, presentation, treatment, mechanisms,etc.)” You’re having a KR problem.
If you thought you had the answer, then find out it’s wrong, but after reading the explanation, you are surprised that you had misunderstood the question, It’s a TP problem. Running out of time answering questions is also a TP problem.
As the medical adage goes, from the Diagnosis all things flow. After you’ve correctly diagnosed your problem, then the treatment is routine.