The boards are SCARY. And studying for them is not easy. But with the right planning and for sure the right attitude, it is not that daunting of a task. Here, I’m going to chronicle the monotonous and unexciting schedule and structure I used to study for my board exams, but I will add a caveat: take all advice with a grain of salt. Find someone who has similar study habits and priorities as you and listen to no one else. Everyone is different which means just because you aren’t doing something someone else is, doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong.
Anyway, I started my question banks in January of my second year. (My Level 1 was scheduled for early June). I would review a particular subject during the week, do a 40 question block each weekend, review every question, then write the facts I learned from the questions into my First Aid in a particular color. I would do these blocks, however, in tutor mode. I actually have always been very good about timing on exams, so when practicing I instead focused my trials on taking my time to really think through the answer and ask myself: why can’t it be all the other answer choices. I liked to think of my question bank as an extension of my textbook. Not necessarily there to tell me how I’m going to do (don’t panic if you do poorly on a practice block!!) but more as a way to read more about a subject and not be surprised on test day.
As I was studying for school, I started using Sketchy Pharm. I found it to be invaluable for me learning what I thought was the hardest subject. I would follow along the videos they had while reading the information that was provided in my First Aid. As I watched, I supplemented what was missing in the book with what Sketchy taught me. I even wrote in some of the funny picture associations in the book as a memory trigger when I read it again. While I was taking classes and learning new material, I would watch Pathoma videos for each subject I was learning about. I, again, would put the missing material into my First Aid, however this time in a different color. As I progressed through the year, I was turning my First Aid book into a conglomerate of all my study materials, so I could minimize the amount of books and websites I had to keep track of.
Classes for me ended early May, and starting around April and then up until that point I had been doing a question block a day. Once school ended, my schedule became as follows: wake up WHENEVER I WANTED! (Being tired while studying because I set an alarm was not a plan I was willing to follow J ) Eat a good breakfast, go to the library, stay at home, or try a new study place every week, then begin one question block on tutor mode. Even when I had finished my question bank I began it again starting with the questions I had previously gotten wrong. You’d be surprised how much you can forget when you answered a question once six months prior. I would then begin to skim my First Aid in a particular chapter. Then after that, I would do another question block particular to that chapter. Some people felt that doing random questions every day kept you on your toes, but my thinking stemmed from wanting to fully understand a topic and view every way a question could be asked for that topic before moving on to another. I repeated this process every day until the day before test day. Reading First Aid was helpful because I not only had been reviewing it since January and was very familiar with it, but also because it had all my notes from other study materials embedded within. Each day I tried to exercise with a friend a little, even if it was only 20 minutes, and I gave myself a TV break every time I ate a meal. The day before test day I did nothing. Nada. I went to the pool and relaxed. It’s so important because these exams are not the end all be all! They are essential but so is everything else you do in life. So plan ahead, organize your study schedule, but above all, don’t freak out because you can do this. You wouldn’t have made it this far if you couldn’t!
Author: Rykiel Levine, Candidate for NSU-COM Class of 2018