How to Survive Medical School: Step 2 CK and CS

Over the past couple of months, I’ve received a flurry of emails and Instagram messages about USMLE 2. These messages have one common question: “how do I study for USMLE 2 CK?” These questions, by my interpretation, are sent by medical students who are a bit more flustered than the medical students who send inquiries about USMLE 1. There are probably a couple of reasons for this. For one, there is insane pressure to receive a higher score on USMLE 2 than USMLE 1. If you crushed USMLE 1, you’re left kind of wondering…how can I reasonably do better? And, understandably, if USMLE 1 did not go the way you wanted…the pressure to do extremely well on USMLE 2 is high.

The awesome thing about USMLE 2 is that you’ve been studying for this exam since you started your clerkship year. The manner in which you prepared for your shelf examinations is honestly the way you should prepare for USMLE 2. I won’t address in this post how I approached each particular subjective given that there are three posts that address my approach to OB/GYN, Internal Medicine, Family Medicine, Surgery, Pediatrics, Psychiatry, and Neurology.

You figured out the kinks of studying for standardized examinations when you studied for USMLE 1. Aspects that I addressed in my USMLE 1 post such as registration, study schedules, and etc. aren’t worth revisiting in this post. Give yourself some credit. You already know how many hours you can study a day, how many days off per week you need to feel like a normal human, and what examination snacks are gonna carry you through test day. I say all of this to reassure you: you are going to be great. I say all of this because I am still extremely aware of how panicked I was before USMLE 2 and I was legitimately more stressed for USMLE 2 CK than USMLE 1.

Why? Well, I think people downplay USMLE 2. I asked quite a few people the year above me for their advice for Step 2. The advice I received was minimal: “you don’t need more than two weeks or so. It’s easy.” You guys are going to do well on this exam, I have faith in you, but it is by no means easy. Like all standardized examinations, USMLE 2 CK can be tricky. There are questions that are you almost guaranteed to look at…skip…come back to…look at…shed tears…say a prayer…make an educated guess. That’s fine and honestly to be expected.

In this blog post, I’ll share my approach to receiving a 250+ score on USMLE 2 CK and share a little bit about how I prepared for USMLE 2 CS.

step 2

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How to Survive Medical School: USMLE 1

This past weekend marked the halfway point of clerkship (MS3) year. This past weekend also marked yet another weekend that flew by without a blog post. I promise that I’ve drafted and edited posts in what little spare time I have. Third year is exhilarating albeit exhausting – a topic I’ll touch on in a post to come. Today, I wanted to share just a little bit about my preparation for USMLE 1 and some general advice for the big exam.

I often get emails and direct messages (on Twitter and Instagram – you guys are relentless) about USMLE 1 and my score. I have never been the kind of person to share specifics regarding standardized test scores but I will say this: I only took the advice of upperclassmen who scored 245 and above. And so, I would take my own advice.

To preface my advice: you know yourself best. At this point, you’ve come to understand what sort of student you are. You know how to prepare for standardized tests. USMLE 1 is no different from the MCAT or SAT/ACT/AP. Don’t forget that!

The worst thing you can do is get into your head. I think a lot of medical students get so worried about the exam and freak out (preemptively) about their ability to match into xyz specialty that they forget that it’s just a test. An important test, but still…just a test. With that in mind, the best advice I can give is to try your hardest to learn material well the first time it is introduced.

One of my classmates took extra time off to study for USMLE 1 and of course when we caught up to chat, I asked him why. He told me: “I took pass/fail at heart first and second year, and so I had to teach myself a lot of material for the first time. I just needed more than 6-8 weeks to prepare.” Totally valid.

Before you launch into this post, take a peek at my general approach to MS2 and how I handled each MS2 course.

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How to Survive Medical School: Second Year Overview

Dedicated study period for Step is inching closer! Yes, I just used an exclamation point — if I channel positivity, will that make everything better? We are in our last week of lecture!!! How crazy is that? The psychiatry examination on March 4th (aka my little sister’s 19th birthday!) and that rounds things out until in-house final exams and USMLE 1. I figured that now is as good a time as any to start rolling out content about how I survived second year. I’ll post about my favorite resources, strategies for each class, and USMLE 1 (after I take it, of course).

This post will serve as an introduction in which I’ll provide general tips about how to effectively use your study time (based on what worked for me) and which resources (outside of Tulane materials) were particularly beneficial.

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