December 27, 2019 at 9:14 pm #194
Dan S., MST USMLE TutorModReputation: 29
I remember two days before my exam experiencing a sense of panic and a feeling that I knew nothing. Despite six weeks of intense studying and steadily improving scores on UWorld and practice exams, I had a sinking feeling that whatever foundation I had built was built on very soft mud. In that panic, I turned to FA and tried to re-review the entire book in a day. TLDR, I would not recommend this.
Here’s the thing: there is a near-infinite amount of material to know, so there will always be a somewhat vast bucket of “unknown” or “poorly known” stuff, even a day before the exam. Our goal in studying is to know very well the things most likely to come up on the exam, and then to chip away at the mass of other things. In the day or two before the exam, for the anxious among us, our minds will want to focus on the things we didn’t quite get to.
In hindsight, here are the best things to do in the 48 hours before the exam:
1) Pick some specific things to learn, just like any other day. You won’t get much out of a speed read of all of FA, but you might got something out of re-learning the major chemotherapeutic agents, or the roles of the interleukins. Keep chipping.
2) Set yourself an end point for studying. At the latest, 2PM the day before the exam. As I said, there will always be more, but your focus now should be on other things.
3) After your study end point, take care of your body. Exercise, eat, see friends. Look back at your study trajectory as a whole. Does it point towards your goals? If it doesn’t, can you afford to postpone your exam and take more time to study? Many people do this – it does not represent a failure. But if your trajectory does point toward your goals, then re-center yourself on all of the things you have learned, on all of the things you know well, and trust yourself. If you’ve done it in the prep, you can do it on the day.
4) On exam day, trust the processes you’ve built out, trust the knowledge foundations you’ve built, and stay curious. If you don’t know an answer to a question, guess something, flag it, and move on, and come back later with a fresh set of eyes after your brain has warmed up a bit.
Coming at the exam with energy, confidence, curiosity, and some good sleep is key. You got this!
Dan S., USMLE Tutor, Med School Tutors0February 10, 2020 at 2:54 pm #232
Dr. Sana Majid – MST USMLE TutorModReputation: 23
Couldn’t agree more! I still remember two days before my own exam going into a panic because I couldn’t recite from memory all the pages of First Aid, haha. It becomes so easy to doubt all the progress you’ve made in those last few hours. Another useful “confidence boost” can be to quickly flip through some of the “Rapid Review” at the end of First Aid, and to also do a quick question block to see how much progress you’ve made and how much better of you are than when you started!1+
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