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Many people think that scoring really high on the USMLE exams means studying for 20hrs every day for a few months, but in fact you can do very well by studying smarter, not harder. You may be wondering how to study smarter when there is such a wealth of information to master, and the key is to understand what the test-writers are focusing in on and then mastering that information.

As usual I like to share the information that I was given by my medical school mentors, so here is a 3-step process for scoring well on the USMLE’s without burning yourself out with excess studying:

Step 1 – Focus and figure out what is truly ‘must-know’ information

There are study guides out there that focus on high-yield information, and there is a very important reason why these guides are there – to show you what to focus on. The problem lies when people assume that the information inside these books is the only thing they must know, when in fact it should be used as a guideline for what topics are most likely to be encountered. What this means is that it is highly important that you walk around (whether you’re studying for Step 1 or Step 2) with a study guide so that you know what high-yield information is most important.

Step 2 – Take the high-yield info and dig 2-3 steps deeper

Now that you understand that your study guides are meant to show you what is high-yield, open it up in class and add some more depth to all of the high-yield stuff in the book. For example, if you are looking in your biochemistry section and reading about tryptophan, then your professor mentions something extra that isn’t in that book, add it in, and then what you get after doing this during your basic sciences is a high-yield guide that also includes more depth. This strategy will help you put together the perfect study guide.

Step 3 – Fill in the cracks with the related high-yield information

Filling in the cracks simply means to add information that you otherwise wouldn’t have in a particular section. So for example, lets say were talking about tryptophan during biochemistry class, and your professor mentions that the triptan drugs (sumatriptan) mimic the effects of serotonin, which is a pre-cursor of tryptophan, well you jot this down and this gives you a much more rounded piece of information, so when the big day of the exam comes you don’t just have a superficial piece of high-yield information, but you have a high-yield piece of information that is supported by a bunch of other related facts.

Sure this strategy takes some time and effort, but when it comes time to sit down and study for your USMLE exams you are going to be light-years ahead of your competition, meaning your score will be better and you will standout when it comes to your residency applications down the road.

Source by Jeffrey Anderson, M.D.


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