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What are good remedies to avoid exam fatigue?

Activity Forums USMLE Step 1 Forum What are good remedies to avoid exam fatigue?

This topic contains 2 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by Dr. David Delnegro MST USMLE Tutor Dr. David Delnegro MST USMLE Tutor 2 years, 2 months ago.

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    Study fatigue is a real problem many students preparing over weeks for a big exam face. I definitely reached a “saturation point”- took me about two months, and after then it seemed like my brain was full and everything new I learned was at the cost of forgetting something else. This occurred pretty close to my test date, but if you are still a way out, I would definitely build in some solid rest time. Like a solid day or few days of no, or drastically reduced (but really ideally no) studying. Really let your long-term memory coalesce and refresh your motivation/drive. If it’s an option for you, doing something clinical can be a great refresher too. I shadowed in an OR for a few days during dedicated – I loved being reminded that everything I was studying really mattered to those patients, that it was more than just correct answers on multiple choice questions.

    Dan S., MST USMLE Tutor
    Reputation: 30
    USMLE ExpertMD or DOContributor

    I would expand this to say that, in general, to remain well during dedicated study, you will need to schedule in half or full days off. It’s also a good idea to be clear about stop times each evening. You will be more productive and efficient if you know that you are working until 8pm, and then having dinner with a friend, than if you know that you have all evening and plan to study indefinitely. No stop times make it really hard to focus, both because you’re exhausted and because there is no deadline you are working towards (think about how long it takes you to write a paper when you have all week to work on it versus half a day to work on it). Expecting yourself to be focused and productive for more than 12h a day is not a recipe for success.


    I always say prepare for the worst times in the best times. Awfully hard to make more lifeboats when you are sinking in the middle of the North Atlantic, and whatnot.

    Write your study schedule as if you will be 70% efficient every day. That gives you plenty of wiggles if you get sick or burned out. Falling behind is the worst.

    Also, look at mental health and wellness and set goals for it like you would UWorld Questions. 8 hours of sleep, 30 minutes a day of exercise, natural light in the morning, etc.

    Test-taking is similar to a sport, and you are similar to an athlete. OVertraining can hurt you with Step just like sports. Look at this incredible ESPN expose on Chess Champ Magnus Carlsen and his training routine:

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