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Winter Break Step 1 Study Tips and Habits Every Student Should Know

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USMLE Step 1 study tips

The winter break is the right time to pull up your socks and prepare for USMLE Step 1, the most difficult exam you’ll ever attempt in your medical career.

The USMLE Step 1 plays an important role in deciding your future medical career. Therefore, it is crucial that you have set your priorities straight, developed good study habits, and considered all that is to know about USMLE Step 1.  

Here’s how you can utilize your winter break for USMLE Step 1 preparation:

  1. Identify your learning style and then choose your resources

From flashcards, Qbanks, review books to videos, there a quite a few Step 1 review resources available to students. You’ll first have to decide which types of resources suit your learning style.

Below is information about the types of learning styles to help you identify yours:

Types of Learning Styles

  1. Visual: Learns by seeing
  • Graphs
  • Illustrations
  • Pictures
  • Flashcards
  • PowerPoint
  • Videos
  • Articles
  1. Auditory: Learns by hearing
  • One-on-one conversations
  • Podcasts
  • Group discussions
  • Oral presentations
  • Videos
  • Classroom training
  1. Read/Write: Learns by reading and writing
  • Books & texts
  • Dictionaries
  • Note-taking
  1. Kinesthetic: Learns by doing
  • Incorporate body movement
  • Tactile-touch and feel
  • Hands-on activity
  • Role-playing

Choose 3 or 4 resources that mirror your learning style. Consider enrolling into a USMLE prep course that utilizes all the types of learning styles to ensure all types of students are benefiting from the training.

  1. Know where you stand and identify the subjects that need more attention

Before you begin your dedicated study, you need to know what and how much to prepare. Take a practice test. The result of this practice test is a reality check for you.

  • Use your time well to prepare the concepts and questions you struggled on the practice test.
  • During the winter break, dedicate most of your time focusing on areas where you need more practice. Going over the material that you are thorough with is a waste of time.
  1. Define study duration

While the winter break is a short duration, 12 hrs of dedicated study, 7 days a week is not the ideal way.  Sooner or later you’ll face the burnout. Be practical and clear about how many hours you need to study and how many hours you need to spend away from books.

  • Create a day-by-day calendar taking into consideration your days off or low-volume days and breaks throughout studying.
  • Limit your winter break studying to less than 5 hours a day so that you have enough time to rest.
  • Spend your days off or time off doing something you like or spending time with your family and friends.
  1. Your study schedule has to be customized and doesn’t have to be the same as your friends’

It is very human to compare your study schedules, scores, and progress with your peers. Remember that everyone is born with different talents, learning styles, strengths, and weaknesses. So, save yourself the panic and time and concentrate your efforts in developing a study plan that fits you.

You may have the best study plan, but if your habits do not complement your USMLE study plan, you are on the way of sabotaging your chances of a good USMLE Step 1 score.

These are 5 habits you need to inculcate to make your study plan a success:

5 Habits to Inculcate for USMLE Step 1 Study Plan Success

  1.  Master the concepts, don’t rote memorize

Your habit of rote memorization must have helped you do well in medical school. And many students may have recommended it to you, but rote memorization is the biggest misconception you can totally ignore.

Step 1 needs mastery. From day 1 of your Step 1 study plan, remember to master the material.

  1. Use the science of spaced repetition to remember what you mastered

Once you have mastered the material, to ensure that you never forget it, you need to inculcate the habit of spaced repetition.  

What is spaced repetition?

Spaced repetition is a method to study and it uses two concepts of psychology:

  • The forgetting curve: It indicates that we forget what we learn easily because our memory of it fades over time.
  • The spacing effect: It indicates that when we spread out our learning, we tend to remember it better.

The simple takeaway here is that if we space out our studies, we will remember the material or concept better.

  1. Improve the intensity of focus

A simple formula that describes your productivity is:

Quality of work=intensity of focus x amount of time spent

You increase your productivity either by increasing the time spent or quality of focus. Try and improve your quality of time spent by increasing the intensity of focus and reducing the time spent.  

  1. Eliminate distractions

Social media and the internet are some of the major distractions. They tend to fragment our focus and degrade the quality of work. Instead of blocking them altogether, you can assign a dedicated time for these distractions.

  1. Identify the cause of anxiety and write them down

Stress is a silent and powerful killer. If you are stressed and unable to identify its root cause, it can derail even the best study plan.

Maintain a journal to write down your fears and anxieties. If you have problems identifying the root cause of your stress, answer these questions every day:

  • What are you stressed about? Open up and prepare to go deep.
  • What are three things that you appreciate in life? Gratitude relieves stress and improves happiness.
  • What are three things you want to improve? Knowing what you need to improve keeps you focused.

Closing Thoughts

You may have the best USMLE Step 1 study plan and you may have that best habits required to excel in USMLE Step 1, but if you are not consistent, all your efforts are in vain. Consistency is the key here.

What Next?

Set yourself up for Step 1 success by creating and following a solid study plan during this winter break. If you need help, contact NYCSPREP today!

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