(From a Students Perspective)
Before I tell you the ‘how and when’ of the USMLE Exam, you must ask yourself the ‘why’ of the USMLE Exam. Believe me, this “why” is far more important than the procedure of the exam as it will be the primary factor in deciding your goal.
Why is the ‘why’ of such huge importance?
If you want to apply for USMLE to garner fame and praise from your family, trust me, one day, you will get tired and quit. Materialistic desires won’t allow you to deliver your full potential; it can only be attained and stabilized if the desire (i.e. the why in the equation) lies solely intrinsic to you.
I highly discourage the behavior of some seniors in universities who just say “baad ki baat baad main dekhen gay. Abhi jo parh rhay ho usi pe dheyan day.”
Maybe the essence of this statement is correct, but the execution is flawed. It discourages the interrogator. The seniors should disseminate every single speck of information that they have as long as it is beneficial for the students, and should also appreciate the curiosity of the juniors.
It does not hurt to know something well beforehand if you are already comfortably fulfilling responsibilities that are at the top of your priority list.
When should you start contemplating post-graduation plans? The answer in my opinion is, after the end of your second professional examinations. There are a plethora of options to choose from and several online guides are available. You should consult them.
3rd Year: A Great time to start
3rd year is a great time to start preparing once you have decided that you have to do USMLE. During this crucial year, focus on the subjects pertaining to the first 3 years of your USMLE exam syllabus.
Is it too late to start in 4th year?
Starting in 4th year is not a bad choice. There are dozens of examples of students who started in 4th year and scored 260+. But one thing you should keep in mind, avoid burning yourself out. Many students who start in 3rd year don’t synchronize it properly with their routine. They overdo it. This can lead to disastrous consequences.
So if you are going to start in 3rd year, strengthen your basic sciences (anatomy, physiology, pharmacology, Biochemistry, etc.) Take it slow and reach your peak potential during the next year.
Can I take Step 1 after House Job?
Definitely! It’s not too late. There are many examples of doctors who took step 1 after graduation and House Job and scored really well.
Pros: You won’t have a professional exam or the attendance stuff to worry about.
Cons: It’s a bit late as compared to the convention, but if you are not in a hurry to get settled in the USA, absolutely no issues.
Now the most difficult thing is to decide the resources you are going to use. Some students just follow the path someone who scored well used. It may be an appealing plan of action, but it is highly ineffective in reality.
The resources you are going to use must be solely personalized. Maybe you have a great audio-visual memory and that senior who you are following might have a different set of strengths. For example digesting dull books was that person’s forte, but the same may not apply to you.
How to select a study resource?
Even if you try to decide for yourself, it is difficult choosing among many different resources just for one subject. So I recommend selecting a minor topic and giving it a go from all the top resources you are choosing from. But do not worry extensively about selecting the perfect resource because no resource is, and it never will be.
Why is selecting a perfect resource over-rated?
As I just said, do not worry about finding the perfect resource. Do not think that a book heavier than an elephant is better than the one that you can toss around single-handedly without any worries. Obviously, you would think that there is some extra information hidden in that bulk; ignoring it might deprive you from vital information. The truth however is, YOU ARE NOT MISSING OUT ON ANYTHING EXCEPT FAITH.
Believe me, even if you miss something new, you will definitely tackle it in the future when you will go through Question Banks and UWorld.
Then what is the most important factor in determining your success in USMLE?
Quality over quantity
Quality over quantity
Quality over quantity
I cannot stress it enough. The main thing is to understand the concept a book is trying to offer, not the information you might have missed. Because if you miss a piece of information now, you will encounter it somewhere else in UWorld. If you miss out on the concept, it cannot be repaired in the anxious last few weeks. So don’t worry about the perfect resource or perfect combination of resources for a subject, just focus on understanding and learning things in a clinical scenario.
From where should one start?
If you are in 3rd year, start with a subject that you have already covered, such as basic sciences (biochemistry, physiology). Just start with something relatively easy for you. This will give you the confidence to amplify your progression and will also fortify your will to cover most of the syllabus.