October 25, 2019 at 2:29 pm #155
Dr. Michael Levin MST USMLE TutorModReputation: 18
When students have asked me about whether they should get a tutor for Step 1, I think of it in terms of the task at hand. In general there are 3 test-related areas that must be optimized to succeed on Test Day:
1: Foundational Medical Knowledge
Attempting to teach my students which rheumatological diseases are associated with which HLA subtypes, or which genes are abnormal in which inherited disorders, or other rote memorization factoids is not an effective use of our time together. I identify their weak areas based on NBME and UWORLD result reports, choose resources that I regard as high-quality, and then put together a schedule for them to address these deficits. I also encourage my students to use anki decks in order to drive home these facts. I agree that one of a tutor’s key roles is to support the student in developing a study schedule, and I develop a schedule weekly with my students and am in regular communication with them in order to revise and improve that schedule.
2. Concept-heavy content, like physiology
This is an area that requires a skilled teacher, in one form or another, to really master. For some students, the explanations offered by Boards and Beyond or Pathoma videos are enough. For others, their pre-recorded, standardized content falls short- those students may need to have the back-and-forth Q&A with a tutor in order to develop the fluency with these topics that Step 1 requires.
3. Question approach
This is an area that a tutor can definitely help with. Learning to think like a test-writer, tricks to save time in how you read and think about questions, and how to glean more information from the selection of answer choices, can make a BIG difference on test day- especially for students who have studied the material and know it really well but can’t seem to cross a plateau performance on UWORLD or predictor tests.
The other thing I would strongly advise is expectation setting with your tutor. I do this with all of my students in our first session- what I can and will do, and what I cannot do. I will do everything in my power to help, support, teach, etc. my students, but I cannot take the test for them. Although every student I have worked with has had huge score increases, “the plural of anecdote is not data,” and I cannot guarantee score increases. Indeed, I raise an eyebrow whenever a tutor or tutoring service makes such promises.
If you think you might benefit from one-on-one tutoring, see if you can get a trial session with different services or tutors. I think that this practice generally indicates a tutor or service’s confidence in the quality of service they provide. And if you don’t hit it off with the tutor you are paired with first, you can ask to be assigned to another. You can also decide after the trial if you’d rather work with a different tutor or service, or none at all.1+
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