Studying for the USMLE is a lot like getting ready to run a marathon. Not only is pacing essential to build endurance, but scheduling and accountability will help make sure you’re prepared, and keep your momentum up.
Just like running a marathon, you also experience many highs and lows when preparing for the USMLE. It’s the way you persist, though, despite setbacks that gets you to the finish line (or to a 270 on your Step 2 CK). Here is what we recommend for creating a plan and staying accountable:
Start with the one-year plan
If you’ve watched our Methods for Success videos then you know what we’re talking about. The one-year plan is a great way to make sure you are more than ready to take the USMLE Step 2, and come out really prepared for year four. You start in Phase 1, which is the learning phase. Then go block by block, doing a lesson every day. There are only 225 lessons, so you still have room to squeeze in breaks and pure Step 2 prep.
The best way to get the most out of each lesson is to go through it using P.A.C.E. Even though it might seem like it’s extra work reading lessons and watching videos, going the extra mile like this will make you stronger in the end. If your blocks are longer and you have extra time, try to repeat lessons. Then taper once it comes to shelf exams. The one-year plan will keep you on a schedule that can hold you accountable for the majority of the year.
If it’s too late and you have already finished your clerkship but still want to ace your USMLE Step 2, the first thing you should do is set goals for yourself. You must decide whether you want to pass the test or excel on the test. If you decide you just want to pass it, then buying and studying a review book and Qbank are your best bet. But if you decide to excel, then you have a couple of different options. The first is taking 8 weeks to prepare, where you will go through 6–8 lessons per day with P.A.C.E. The second stretches through a span of 12 weeks, completing 4–5 lessons per day with P.A.C.E. Now it’s up to you to decide which fit is better for you. If you are running short on time (we see you, procrastinators) then you might have to stick with the first.
After you pick a schedule to follow, it’s imperative that you hold yourself accountable for following it. Here are three ways to do that:
1. Write your goals down
Although your goals are basically already established depending on which plan you go with, it’s helpful to write them down at the beginning of each week or each day. Plus it’s something you can cross off and physically look at each day.
2. Delete distractors and use self-control
With so much emphasis placed on social media these days, it’s easy to get distracted and take a five-minute break to scroll through your Instagram feed . . . which easily turns into 20 minutes, slides over to YouTube, and then right down the rabbit hole. Try deleting the apps you are most distracted by when you’re studying and re-download them when you’re done for the day. Don’t worry, our blogs will still be here. There’s also an app called “SelfControl” that you can use to block certain websites for a specified amount of time. This is perfect for preventing mid-study-session Facebook binges!
3. Gauge your learning
The Qbank already incorporated into your schedule tests what you know. Take full of advantage of it, as it will either prove you are doing everything right or not. If you have time, throw in a couple of practice NBMEs to further check your progress and analyze your results.
Committing to a schedule and holding yourself accountable is a huge way to guarantee your future success. It may seem easier to just wing it sometimes, but following a plan and taking measures to ensure you stick to it will put you far along the path to finishing that marathon and acing that USMLE. Self-discipline is key!