I’ve gotten questions about what I wish I had done differently or known when studying for Step 1. Honestly, I adjusted my schedule and study habits as I went along so that there isn’t too much I would do differently per se, but I can think of things I wish I had known that would have helped with mindset and with test taking:
- Pacing – I naturally am a very fast test taker. Initially, I was finishing each block of a practice test at least 30 minutes early, which meant I was finishing the exam in just a little over half the allotted time. This seemed wrong to me, especially as I was reviewing and found that I was missing several answers merely due to not reading the question in its entirety. Once I began to slow down, I stopped missing questions due to carelessness, and every question is precious on this exam.
- Rest is KEY – My sleeping habits have admittedly been very decrepit throughout med school, largely dictated by anxiety. During Step studying, I would sleep late and only for 3 hours before I would wake up, study for an hour, and go back to sleep for a couple more hours before officially starting my day. I wish I had regular sleeping habits from the start, because feeling well-rested is ESSENTIAL for this 8 hour exam. It ended up being okay for me considering I have chronically been a poor sleeper, although it is something I wish to change.
- Everyone learns differently – because nearly every med student told me a particular resource helped them on the exam, I felt the need to force myself to use certain resources even if they had not helped me in the past. As I continued to do so, I could not convince myself any further that what worked for others would eventually work for me; it would have saved me time to acknowledge this earlier on and invest all my efforts into the things that I KNOW for a fact work for me.
- Realizing you are not alone – You may feel like you are not achieving your goals, you are falling behind, or that the journey is endless. These are completely normal feelings. What helps is to remember that you are not alone, and every person taking or has taken this exam feels/felt the same way. It is a difficult bridge that needs to be crossed, but understanding how far you have gotten already in your academic journey and how hard-working and knowledgeable you are helps to keep you grounded in what may be a vulnerable time.