It’s been a little over two months since I took the most dreadful exam of medical school and with the time that has passed, I think that I have gained the ability to reflect on the prolonged experience. I remember when I walked out of the Prometric center, the proctor joyfully said, “See you next year!” At the time, I wasn’t so sure that my next testing encounter would be in a year, considering the feelings of impending doom and failure that I had immediately after I clicked “End testing session” on the screen. Looking back, I should have had a little more faith and I too would get through this hurdle, just like the Prometric proctor had foreseen.
Unlike the majority of my classmates, I ended up studying for Step 1 for a longer period of time, beyond the initial 4-6 weeks of dedicated study time that my school gives us. I didn’t exactly plan it that way though. Initially, I wanted to stay the course: keep going through my review books, doing practice questions, and assessing my progress via NBME practice tests. As my first scheduled test date quickly approached, however, I just didn’t feel ready. The material still didn’t seem to stick well and I didn’t feel like I was making good enough progress. In those the few days before I was scheduled to take the test, I got advice from faculty and classmates on postponing my test date. A lot of people discouraged the postponement, saying things like “Do you really want to miss out on the start of third year?” and “How much more can you really gain from a week or two?” In the end, I only listened to the people who wanted me to do my best on this one exam and did what was right for me: delaying the test so that I could be both physically and mentally ready.
Although it was difficult to see my classmates move forward as they saw patients in clinic and in the OR, I knew that I would return to the clinical arena in a few short weeks. The extra time helped me gain clarity and work on relieving the test anxiety that had been plaguing for weeks. The long days of studying were grueling, but they were definitely worth it. With my extra time, I was able to focus on the high yield resources and do multiple repetitive cycles of reviewing and questions. When I finally got my score back, I knew that I had done all I could to achieve my personal best on this exam. Consequently, I could start third year and actually start applying the knowledge that I have only read in books and have been tested through multiple choice questions.