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USMLE Documents

Tips for USMLE Step 1 test day!

Tips For The Day Before The Exam

1. Take the day off from studying. This is your day to relax and gather your strength before the main event. Get out of bed at the same time you will have to get up the next day. If you feel you must study, limit yourself to reviewing your own notes and flashcards.

2. Have some fun. Go for a walk. Listen to your favorite music. Go see a good comedy or an action movie that will allow cathartic release. Go shopping. Spend time with a significant other. Do what ever you like. You have worked hard and deserve it.

3. Make sure that you have checked out the basics for the exam: • Have you worked through the USMLE tutorial?

      • Do you know where the Prometric center is, and how to get there?
      • • Do you have alternative transportation if, for example, your car does not start?
      • • Do you trust your alarm clock to wake you up in time? If not, make arrangements with friends as back up. You want to be sure to wake up rested, refreshed, and on time.
      • • Lay out what you’ll need for the exam before you go to sleep. This includes photo identification, scheduling permit and confirmation number, as well as any personal items like eyeglasses. While you’re at it, don’t forget to pack a lunch!

4. Call your friends and classmates and make some plans to celebrate. You’ll need to blow off some steam anyhow, and talking with colleagues will remind you that you are not in this by yourself.

5. Be sure to do some physical activity. Just taking a walk for an hour will help relax you.

6. Get a good night’s sleep. To help you sleep, consider a hot bath or warm milk. Avoid taking sleeping medication as it may leave you groggy in the morning.

Tips for USMLE Step 1 test day

1. Arrive at the Prometric Test Center 30 minutes early so you are not rushed and have time to get organized. You will be given a locker to store your personal items and then assigned a computer station. Remember that you have a total of seven hours to complete 350 questions, and a total of one hour to be used throughout the day for breaks and lunch.

2. To cope with fatigue, you will need to schedule breaks.

Our recommended schedule for the exam is:

Block 1: No break
Block 2: 5 minute break
Block 3: 5 minute break
Block 4: 30 minute lunch break
Block 5: No break
Block 6: 10 minute break
Block 7: Done!

This allows you 10 minutes extra to use as needed. Remember that you will need to sign in and out when you take breaks. You should also be aware that if you leave the exam room during a block, it will be marked as an irregularity in your testing session. Therefore, you need to consider after each block whether you want to take a bathroom break.

3. Start with the beginning of the question block and work your way to the end. The idea here is to get into a rhythm that will help create what one psychologist calls a “Flow” experience. The flow experience is a state of optimal concentration and maximal performance.

4. Do not skip any questions. If you don’t know it when you come to it, you are not likely to know it later. Skipping around wastes time and can end up confusing you. Deal with each question as you come to it, answer it as best you can, and move on to the next question.

5. Limit your use of the marking feature to no more than two or three questions per block. Of course you should answer each question as you come to it, but you may want to double-check yourself on a few questions. The marking feature lets you return to review and reconsider questions if you have time left over. Used correctly, marking will help you revisit questions where you have a high probability of getting the answer correct. Misused, marking causes you to not give a question your full attention the first time around. You simply may not have time to go back and look at questions you have marked, especially if you mark a lot of them.

6. Be cautious about changing answers. In general, your odds of changing a correct answer to a wrong one are so much higher than the reverse that it is simply not worth the risk. If you change an answer, you are most likely making it wrong! Your first impulse is usually the correct one. Stay with it unless some clear insight occurs to you.

7. If you finish a question block with time left over, go back and “check” only those answers that you have previously marked. Checking almost always leads to changing and tends to reduce your score. If you have a spare moment, make sure that you have entered an answer for every question in the block and then, relax. Sit, take a break, and mentally prepare yourself for the next block of questions. Focus on the questions to come, not the ones that are past.

8. Monitor your time. Know how much you have left, so you do not find yourself rushed at the end. Work on your pacing from the beginning of the question block. Check your watch every 10 questions to make sure you are on the correct pace to finish. If you pace yourself throughout the block, you should not be squeezed for time at the end.

9. Relax. During the breaks between question blocks, try to relax and not think back over the exam. The desire to recall questions is strong, but not helpful. Those questions are in the past; you will never see them again. Focus on relaxing and making the most of your break. Remember, you will always tend to remember those questions you get wrong.