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How many full lenght practice tests did you do?

Discussion in 'Step I' started by 34140, Dec 16, 2008.

  1. 34140

    34140 Senior Member
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    By that I mean obviously 336 questions from 8-4? I haven't done any to mimic the exact exam, but i have done around 350 questions a day before, maybe 3 times total.


    Did you think that helped?
     
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  3. JeffLebowski

    JeffLebowski Just got Nard-dogged
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    One.

    Probably helped slightly, to get an idea of what it feels like once you get fatigued on questions. However, on test day, you don't note the fatigue factor as much, because you've got more determination/adrenaline/fear to drive you. I don't recommend doing 350 questions a day just for the hell of it (or just to "get through them") by the way, just do a block or two a day. You won't be getting anything out of the questions you do in the latter blocks, and therefore aren't getting as much bang for your buck on your investment in UW. But maybe you've got a system that works, so do what you think is best.

    Slow and steady wins the race. Remember the tortoise. Cocky hare claiming he'd been through FA twice before winter break and 3 Qbanks isn't impressing anyone. I just feel bad for the normal M2's who are sticking to a conservative and effective game plan who get intimidated by the hares out there pre-winter break. Keep you chin up, mates, eye on the prize, don't worry about the hares! It's a marathon not a sprint.
     
  4. 34140

    34140 Senior Member
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    lol thanks for the kind words
     
  5. Knicks

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    :thumbup:
     
  6. UditNarayan

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    2 days where i did 2 NBMEs back to back...
     
  7. Solarium

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    :thumbup::thumbup:
     
  8. GMDMD

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    I think the value of simulating the real thing is way overrated, for a couple of different reasons. One, you can't simulate the pressure of having your future specialty and the next 40 years of your career depending on the 3 digit score you're about to achieve.

    Two, as others mentioned you'll have a ton of anxiety and adrenaline to get you through the day, even if you're one of those people who fatigue easily. Some people still get tired but it's not like aerobic exercise where you can train your heart for endurance. Your brain doesn't work that way. Load up on sugar and hope for the best. Besides, even marathon runners don't train by running marathons every day.

    Most importantly, I think test taking abilities are way overblown. IMO most people who claim to be "poor test takers" usually have one or more of the following qualities- they are not as bright as they think they are, they're lazy, or they never learned the material as well as they think they did.

    Your goal in the next few weeks is to LEARN, not to train to be a great test taker. Anxiety and test taking skills will probably account for 5% of your score, luck maybe another 5%. Your hard work and knowledge base accounts for the rest. Remember whatever happens on test day, you worked hard and your knowledge is the one thing they can't take away from you.

    Kaplan is more like the real thing- long vignettes, stupid questions, more trivia. And yet I found it far more valuable to study from UW because I learned so much more from each question and explanation. I spent 3 to 4 hours on a single question block doing the questions and reading through each answer explanation... this didn't simulate test conditions (although i answered the 48q blocks timed) but I felt like I invested my time wisely and it paid off in spades.
     
  9. TRN1983

    TRN1983 MS1 - I.e. "Know nothing"
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    Just out of curiosity, why is the USMLE approach so different from the MCAT? Everyone says practice tests are essential for MCAT scores, but not USMLE? :confused:

    Thanks
     
  10. Knicks

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    Whether or not this is true, could you back this up with any data/stats? or is it just that: what you "think"?
     
  11. JeffLebowski

    JeffLebowski Just got Nard-dogged
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    Well, my opinion on this has 2 parts:

    1) Practice blocks of questions are absolutely crucial to USMLE prep. You get the feel for what a block feels like timing wise & practice questions in the style & format of the exam. Repeated full-length practice exams are unnecessary however, because as was stated, the real thing is a marathon. Marathoners don't run an entire marathon during training, let alone many. It's not a good use of time, it's a waste of valuable learning material (practice questions), and it's low-yield. It's fine to invest the time once or twice to get a feel for it, but after that you're probably not benefited.

    2) The USMLE is more of a knowledge-based exam than a "reasoning, see how they handle this passage & question speed comprehension" format. In my opinion, you're at a bigger advantage with the MCAT if you're a good test-taker than in the USMLE if you're a good test-taker, because the USMLE relies more on knowledge than test-taking skills. The requisite skills necessary to handle USMLE questions is honed with question banks. The requisite skills necessary to handle MCAT passages/questions & strategy to the exam overall is better honed with full-length practice exams.
     
  12. GMDMD

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    Well I don't know how one would study such a thing, so yes, it's just my own personal observation.

    If you talk to high scoring people the day prior to their test and question them on the material it becomes readily apparent that they are either 1) really smart 2) really hard working or 3) both.

    People who do less well usually find it hard to admit they aren't all that bright, or if they're really bright they usually didn't study as hard as their 240+ scoring neighbor. So they like to blame it on things like poor test taking skills. Really what is so hard about multiple choice tests? Unlikely in your local med school exam, the really bad/poorly written questions tend to get thrown out after time.

    Personally I could tell just from asking questions and discussing material with people during test prep who was going to do exceptionally well and who would just do average. The same way attendings/residents (assuming they spend a significant amount of time with you) can tell who really knows their stuff. It is your knowledge and understanding of the material that will determine your baseline score.
     
  13. GMDMD

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    Agree completely with Jeff. MCAT is more about smarts whereas USMLE is much more about VOLUME. 2 years of med school crammed into 300 survey questions.

    The MCAT you can get by and do really well assuming you're a decently smart guy. All you need is one year of community college biology. The physics and chemistry can really be summarized in a couple of sheets of notes). And the only way to get better at verbal is to do more questions.

    Unless you have an exceptional memory, even smart guys have to work hard to ace Step1. There's just too much minutiae and unintuitive bull**** and pathology that you have to memorize.
     
  14. Knicks

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    Define "smart".

    I think "smartness" can be worked on and improved with improved study habits/patterns/discipline.

    Noone is "smarter" than another person; just a matter of whether one person studies more efficiently than another person. (We're not talking about IQ).

    Smartness also =/= good memory.
     
  15. TRN1983

    TRN1983 MS1 - I.e. "Know nothing"
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    Thanks JeffLebowski and GMDMD :)
     
  16. delphynium

    delphynium Junior Member
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    I have a friend who is an FMG from India and was at the bottom of her class according to her own personal bragging about it :D, but she still scored 99 after studying for an year at Kaplan life courses and going through Qbanks. She was surprised herself how much she enjoys taking MCQs. Than she announced to everyone that Step 1 is easy :p. Now explain that to me - are you still thinking that good test takers do not exist?
     
  17. diosa428

    diosa428 SDN Angel
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    She studied for a YEAR. I don't see how that makes her a "good test taker". Most people study for a month.
     
  18. Terpskins99

    Terpskins99 Fear... The Stig
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    Methinks you've completely forgotten what it was like to prepare for college physics and chemistry (not to mention genetics and orgo). lol, "a couple sheets of notes"? :laugh:

    If anything, biology is the class you can skimp on (cuz lets face it... general biology is a joke compared to all the other pre-med classes).
     
  19. JeffLebowski

    JeffLebowski Just got Nard-dogged
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    Yeah, I agree with whomever already responded to you - by going through multiple Qbanks and doing a Kaplan course and studying for a YEAR, you can no longer just claim you sauntered into a great score (which, while a "99" is a score to be proud of, it covers scores all along the range of 230+ so it's not necessarily astronomical) because you studied very hard and did a lot of prep.

    And no one uses the 2-digit score, it's meaningless and is not a percentage nor is it a percentile.
     
  20. GMDMD

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    It wouldn't surprise me that my opinion would differ from most traditional med students who probably have several years of biology under their belts prior to mcat and med school. Most traditional med students are afraid of equations in my experience (pharm).

    As a former engineer I only took a year of each prereq. Physics (a loooong time ago) and then gen chem, ochem and biology postgrad while working fulltime. Biology was really the only class I had to study for. The difference is VOLUME of material. I wasn't kidding about the "couple of sheets of notes" remark. With physics all you need to know is a few basic principles and if you really understand the material there's almost no memorization involved. You can usually rederive most of the important equations, especially the basic stuff needed for the MCAT. Physics for the mcat is trivial for anyone strong at math, IMO.

    To a lesser extent the same is true of chemistry. Gas laws, etc... a lot of it "makes sense" intuitively. You have equations and you can reason out which variables belong where because they are inversely proportional, etc. An understanding of a few basic rules of electron interactions can explain most of the reactions people attempt to blindly memorize.

    In biology, outside of some abstracted physiology and Hardy's equation, etc... there's no escaping the memorization of vast amounts of minutiae. Kingdom, phylum, family etc. In biology the answer to "why is this X instead of Y" is so often unknown, due to an unknown evolutionary path, a half-baked unprovable theory, or the finding of some obscure phd research that would take forever to understand. The end result is that unless you have an excellent memory, a very clever pereson will still have to sit there and work hard, make up stupid mnemonics etc to cover the vast amount of material you're responsible for.

    The same is true for medical school. Sure it helps to be a creative and critical thinker but brilliance gets you nowhere unless you sit in the library and memorize hundreds diseases, drugs and all of their different stupid trade names. Stupid diseases like FitzHughCurtis that have 3 names in them. Even so much of what seems to be intuitive in medicine, evidence based medicine proves otherwise.

    Anyway, long story short... my original point was that the MCAT was a test a brilliant person can take after a week or two of studying and still do reasonably well (harder for biology). Step 1 is the culmination of hundreds of hours of brainless memorization... you can't get away with being brilliant or just having good test taking skills.
     
  21. Knicks

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    And sadly, this test is the "fairest 'standard'" we have in comparing students.
     
  22. Atomic1000

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    Although I have not taken it yet, I do think that USMLE provides a fair balance between hard work and IQ. Step 1 is painful, no doubt, and unfortunately this whole idea of bridging medicine and science is involved in it (something we are going to move away from after the 2 steps will be combined, I think, and something that will make those with MD/PhD invaluable for their ability to give direction to basic science reseach of disease).
    :idea:Maybe Step 1 should been rated P/F with Step2 being the main factor in "comparing" students. But you still do need to have some way to "fairly" compare students. I do think that LORs are not the way to go if you want it really fair.....
     
  23. Knicks

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    ^^ Yeah, if "hard work" =
    sure..


    (that's why I made the post, which you quoted). :)
     
  24. JeffLebowski

    JeffLebowski Just got Nard-dogged
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    I think I disagree with pretty much everything you said.
     
  25. Atomic1000

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    "Everything" means that you also disagree with the fact that you need to compare students. So how would you "rank" the applicants?
     
  26. diosa428

    diosa428 SDN Angel
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    Step 1 was not designed to be used in residency selection. It was designed to be a pass/fail test to ensure that students had an appropriate level of knowledge for advancement of studies/certification. This is why they are talking about combining steps 1 & 2 and making them strictly pass/fail, with no reported score.

    My guess is that once Step 1 is taken out of the equation, several things will happen: grades will be looked at more closely, other things will be given more weight (LORs, research, ECs), and things like medical school prestige will also be taken more into account. Shelf scores might also be looked at closely if provided, if the program has concerns about the applicant's ability to pass tests.
     
  27. Atomic1000

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    I saw a ranking list for a very competitive specialy at my school a year ago. All things that you mention (except the grades, which make no sense since getting an average grade in a class in my school may not be the same as getting the same at yours) are already looked at by residency directors. LORs are not objective, and personal phone calls can give you an interview in almost every case. Research? Most med students dont know how to run a western blot. Interviews? One might be a good actor, the other not, or maybe not on that day....

    I dare say that none of the program directors will agree to NBME changing scoring system to pass/fail. They were thinking of making it pass/fail 10 years ago, that did not happen. Combining the 2 steps makes sense, but it will definitely come at the cost of basic science education.

    Nothing is perfect, and USMLE is a very imperfect way of selecting applicants, but saying USMLE will be pass/fail is no different from saying MCAT should be pass/fail, too.
     
  28. diosa428

    diosa428 SDN Angel
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    I don't think that program directors have a say in what the NBME does with their exam. Additionally, I said that with the loss of the scoring of the USMLE, those other factors will count MORE than they did previously, not that they don't already count. Regarding research - it's very common in competitive specialties. There are several medical schools out there that now require research to graduate. So I doubt it's as rare as you think.
     
  29. Atomic1000

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    I did not say that most med students dont DO research as reflected on their CV. I claim, based on my very extensive research background that, that most of them do it solely for the purpose of being able to satisfy the basic requirements. I have seen about 10 med students go through my lab. None of them were able to get a simple western blot to work during their summer vacation between the first and the second years. Yet most of them gave a reasonably impressive presentation of their "work" :laugh: pun intended .... I strongly believe that research "requirement" is bs, should be abolished ASAP. This requirement is a waste of potential and money. Had med studetns really wanted to do research, they would be in the dual degree programs or doing research in their free time. There are those who are genuinely interested, and that is a minority. And then you have residents, who somehow think that being a resident makes them a better scientist than ... well... a scientist. I am sure someone will see those people from my lab one day, as residents, saying that they "have research experience".

    Research, just like any other profession, requires experience and med students/residents RARELY have any. And that includes competitive specialties most of which absolutely require research experience in addition to stellar boards scores. Having held a pipette and gone through med school does not qualify you for PhD in basic science.

    As to NBME deciding things without consulting med schools, you kidding, right? Most members of NBME are faculty (yes, current faculty) at medical institutions from all over the US.

    That's it from me for this thread. We are all entitled to our own opinions, but I do think that if you get rid of USMLE as way of comparing students applying for residency, you may as well get rid of MCATs, SATs, GREs, and everything else out there. Or do you think that we are somehow superior to everyone else and that doctors need no quality control?
     
  30. diosa428

    diosa428 SDN Angel
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    Not all research revolves around basic science and western blots. Most people I know who do research do clinical research, not basic science, for exactly the reasons you mentioned - it takes too long to get results, and there is no time for that unless you are in a dual degree program.
     
  31. Pinkertinkle

    Pinkertinkle 2003 Member
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    Med student clinical research is a bunch of hokey. Anyone can do some paperwork and hammer out a case report or two. It doesn't demonstrate anything special.
     
  32. Pinkertinkle

    Pinkertinkle 2003 Member
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    And as for full length practices I recommend none. Doing the 200 problem NBME's are close enough practice in my opinion. Doing a full length would tire you out too much and take time away from studying.
     
  33. HooahDOc

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    The frustrating thing for me about med school is how being intelligent doesn't really seem to matter much. I define intelligence as being able to, "figure stuff out", to synthesize stuff from information you already have. Compared to my classmates, I can't remember ****. I forget simple stuff all of the time and have basically zero long-term memory. I also dance circles around them when we are asked questions that require thought as opposed to regurgitation.

    The problem is that this process does not reward the intelligent, it rewards the diligent.
     
  34. GMDMD

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    I'm not sure that diligence is necessarily a problem... the ultimate end goal is to cure/help the patient. Patients don't necessarily want a guy to sit there and think about their problem and come up with new solutions each time. Most of medicine seems to boil down to rote memorization and pattern recognition.

    But I'm in your boat, good at thinking, equations, physiology etc but a relatively weak memorizer. It is frustrating and I really miss engineering where brilliance was much more of a factor than hard work.

    What I hate is how 3rd year the rewards go to the ass kissers and annoying people. Where a senior resident who works with you for 1 hour will give you a poor evaluation and F up your grade and all of the care you put into your patients doesnt matter because she doesn't realize while this is your 5th week in the rotation it's only your first week on that particular gig and nobody told you you werent supposed to do this or that. Where if you pull out your case files and study for a bit because you've finished all of your work and there's nothing to do someone judges you for studying and not caring. Or you get stuck with a preceptor for 6 weeks who is too busy, ignores you, gives you topics to research that you never get to present, work your hardest with no way to shine and get a big Pass as a reward for all of your hard work.

    It makes you miss the blind objectivity of multiple choice exams.
     

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