The Study Schedule That Got Me a 254 on the USMLE Step 1

Every one has a strategy, everyone has advice. The important thing to ask yourself when studying for the USMLE is what study strategies work for you? I stayed very faithful to what works for me. Here are the 5 questions I asked of myself when deciding how to tackle studying.

#1) What kind of a learner am I?

There are visual learners, auditory learners, and kinesthetic learners. A visual learner learns by seeing information in diagrams, charts, graphics, etc. An auditory learner are the annoying people who can just sit through lectures and remember everything. They also learn well in group study sessions, by repeating things aloud, listening to podcasts, etc). The kinesthetic (or tactile) learner likes hands-on learning, practice, teaching someone, performing questions, etc.

While many people are a combination, I knew that I was a visual learner. If I’m trying to get someplace and my GPS in my phone has been dismantled by elves, if someone tells me directions, I’ll get lost (so I’m clearly not an auditory learner). Even if I’ve driven someplace before, I can get lost (so not quite a kinesthetic learner). However, draw me a map and I’ll never forget where I’m going. Never in a million years. Knowing this I knew how to proceed.

#2) Realistically, how much time can I spend in a day studying?

The answer for me was 6 hours. I knew this from medical school. No matter how I cut it, whether doing 6 hours all at once or 2 hours in the morning, afternoon, and evening, my mind would begin to shut down after 6 hours. That was just me.

#3) What are the resources for which I have time?

Time is your most valuable resource before the USMLE. Therefore, I went with one main resource: First aid for the boards. Theoretically, if you know every word of that book, you will do well. I augmented this with two other books. The books were (1) BRS Pathology, and (2) Microbiology Made Ridiculously Simple. Some people swear by Guillon audiotapes, but I am not an auditory learner, so I ignored them. Then of course you need a question bank (Qbank or USMLE World).

#4) What strategy will assure memory retention?

There is no sense studying something if you are going to forget it the next day. As a visual learner, the key to my learning is to write stuff down and re-organize it so I could see it visually. So I did my tried and true 3-exposure learning technique which got me through most of M1 year:

Exposure 1: Read & highlight

Exposure 2: Write out charts, graphs, mneumonics, etc.

Learning theory says this step should happen within 24-hours of exposure 1.

Exposure 3: Try questions to test knowledge.

Keep track of persisting mistakes.

Rinse and repeat for the areas in which you continue to test poorly.

#5) What will my schedule be… so when I should I schedule my exam?

The USMLE-study schedule is a gut-wrenching thing to write. I found solice in two things: Math & Flexibility.

Math: After making a list of all the topics (essentially the Table of content in First Aid), I figured out how long each topic would take me. For example: The Cardiology section is 30 pages long.

Exposure 1: Read & highlight will take me about 1 hour at 2 minutes a page.

Exposure 2: Write out, write out, write out will take me twice as long (2 hrs)

Exposure 3: Questions for me was 50 questions = 3 hours to review

I review only a few questions, but in great detail. Therefore, if I wanted to do the reading and at least 150 Cardiology practice question, it would take me two 6-hour days. I repeated this scheduling method for each topic and put it on a calendar. And, yes, time spent organizing is never time wasted.

Flexibility: After 2 NBME practice exams (one at 1.5 weeks and the other at 3 weeks), I adjusted my schedule to allow for more time studying subjects in which I was weak. For those subjects, I would go back to more in-depth resources such as BRS pathology and Microbiology Made Ridiculously Simple and would double the number of practice questions (I was usually completing about half of the available questions).

Finally, I always scheduled in 1-2 days a week as pop-off valves for topics that needed more attention.

Schedule your exam based off of the estimated time you calculate that will need. Adjust your schedule based on your weaknesses, but try not to linger too long on a particular subject. If your day for endocrinology runs out, for instance, move on and pencil it in for your “pop-of valve” day. Near the end, a lot of people get burnt out. Eventually your brain reaches its limit and the stuff that goes in, pushes other stuff out. At this point, there is no sense delaying the test. Trust your method and stick to the strategies that work for you.

How to Study for the CPC Exam in a Short Time (Basically, How to Cram for the CPC Exam)

Trying to get certified as a medical coder by passing the CPC exam is a significant investment of your time and money. For some their careers as medical coders are on the line. Whether it’s your first attempt at taking the coding certification exam or not, the fact is that the CPC exam is not easy. In fact, as much as 60% of exam takers will fail. With so much riding on the line on this one exam, how do you cram for the CPC exam?

First of all, don’t expect miracles to happen. Prepare early for the CPC exam so you don’t have to cram last minute. Treat cramming as the final step of your overall study and test preparation, not the beginning. But if you’re going to cram, then read on.

Get yourself organized. If there is a time and place for proper planning and organization, this is it. Chart out how much time you have left and prioritize what you need to work on. Choose a good study technique that you know works for you. Flash cards and mnemonics are fine if you’ve been using it for some time, but this is not the time to start something new. Identify your best style of study, it could be rereading your notes, reviewing summaries, study groups, taking practice exams, or using audio-visual tools.

Also, try to eke out as much time as possible for study and review. Look for time that can be recovered such as waiting for the bus, sitting in the toilet, watching tv, going out for drinks, cooking, and etc. If you find yourself having some idle time but without your notes, then start to quiz yourself to review the information you’ve retained.

The CPC exam is an open-book multiple choice test. If you’re going to cram, then you’ll want to focus on memory recall rather than memory retention. Develop a plan and strategy for time management and looking up your book. You’re allowed to mark it up for easy reference, so make sure you take advantage of that. Look around, ask, or pay someone to show you the proven ways or methods to mark it up. Not all questions are equal when it comes to answering them, but they are worth the same number of points. A major problem that most CPC exam-takers face is not having enough time to finish it, so be efficient.

You can’t pass the CPC exam if you’re not actually in it. Keep yourself fit, mentally and physically. Maintain a positive, confident, and relaxed attitude so you don’t get nervous and choke in the exam hall. Even if you’re doing a cramming marathon, make sure you break it up a bit to have enough rest. Having enough rest is crucial because this is the time when your mind absorb and file away all the information.

It Doesn’t Matter If You Study – How to Take a Test

All of us have been hounded by our parents and teachers to study study study. But all that studying won’t guarantee you a good result on the test. You can study for hours and know all the material but you can still do poorly on the exam. Why is this?

Basically, it boils down to how well you can take a test. For example, my sister is much better than I am at math. In fact, she has a degree in Aerospace Engineering. My sister is a rocket scientist. And yet, when we took the SAT, I did better in the math section.

I’m definitely not better than she is at math. So why did she not do as well?

The answer lies in how well you take tests.

You can study all you want, but unless you learn how to take a test, you will never realize your full potential and a lot of that studying will go to waste.

So, what is the solution? Learn how to take tests! There are a lot of resources out there for learning how to study. There are websites chock-full of information that can help you learn more than you ever thought possible. But that’s not what you’re looking for.

Let me share with you a tip on test taking. This is something you do before the test. Go up to the teacher or professor and ask, “What exactly should I anticipate for the test?” It seems obvious, but it can go a long way. Use whatever information your instructor gives you – it will put you that much more ahead than you were before. It could be something big or it could be something little. Whatever it is, use it!

Some might say that this is just working the system but it isn’t. And some might say that just doing this won’t get you very far and they are right. There are a myriad of other tips and tricks you can use both before and during the test. Don’t get me wrong; you still need to study! But if you study poorly or study without keeping the test in mind, you will not do well on the test. Same as if you don’t understand how to take a test. Granted, you will learn a lot, but the grade you get won’t reflect all that knowledge.

I suppose the point is not to let all your studying go to waste. Learn how to take a test, then learn how to study for a test. Then, when you do study and learn things, all that knowledge in your noggin is going to come out on paper much, much better.

Online GED Classes and Study Guides For Effective Test Prep At Home

If you are planning to take the GED test, you should take your test prep seriously. As they say, the key to happiness is doing everything- whether big or small undertakings – with your heart. This includes preparing and studying for your GED test which can ultimately give you a better life. But what GED test prep works best? Should you enroll in a local class or look for online GED classes? Maybe you ought to hire a tutor?

These are all viable methods, but if you need to take your budget in consideration, know that there are various no-cost or low-cost GED test prep programs. For one thing, you can study for your test at home, particularly if it is not possible for you to go to a classroom at night to attend local GED classes. Here are your options for a customized GED test prep plan that you can carry out in the comfort of your home.

  • Be aware of what the requirements of your state are for taking the GED test. This is the task that you should primarily complete before doing any measures for your test prep. Obtain thorough information about what is required for taking the GED test before starting your study program. This way, you wouldn’t waste your time or money on stuff that don’t matter.
  • Look for a reliable study guide. If you go to your local bookstore, you will find numerous GED study guide books published by different companies. You will also realize that each of these books utilize different strategies and approaches for GED test prepping. Browse through every book that you find interesting and read the first few paragraphs and pages. Flip through the chapters, too. Now, which of these books do you respond better to? Choose that which is easily digestible for you because that resource is going to be your GED test prep teacher. Note that these books can be pricey, but you have a more affordable option, and that is to use an online GED study guide. Look for a credible website through its Google ranking and user comments and reviews.
  • Enroll in an online GED class. Learning through online GED classes is convenient because you can do it at home or anywhere you can bring your computer to. You can join online GED classes while in the coffee shop, the library or the park. Choose an online GED class website wisely. Some of them are free yet reliable, and there are those that are free and substandard. Again, determine how your chosen site fares in Google and refer to comments and reviews about it.
  • Set up your personal study space which is free from distractions. Remember that you’ll be spending most of your study time in this area. It should be your place of test prepping retreat especially if your life is hectic because of your job or your family. Creating a study space that provides privacy for a GED study program that works best for you is indeed essential.
  • Learn the details about the content and coverage of the GED test. Do this before beginning your GED study program. What you need to do is to study about the right topics. Focused studying is smart studying where you skip exerting your effort on subjects that don’t matter.
  • Know your strong and weak areas by taking practice tests. As you study through online GED classes, it’s time to evaluate what you have learned so far. What you should do at this point is to take practice tests so you can figure out if your test prep had been effective. Are you getting high scores? Or else, which subjects did you find most difficult? Work on these problem areas and decipher how you have improved by taking periodic practice tests.

Reviewing through GED online classes and study guides are a novel and motivating way to prepare for the GED test. The Internet is becoming an indispensable tool in shopping, banking, networking and in distance education, among others, and online resources for GED test prep programs have become effectual and reliable.

ACT Test Prep: Free Practice Tests to Study For the ACT

Finding free ACT practice tests is a lot easier than most people realize. Instead of spending $25 for a book that has practice tests or paying a membership to an online site, you can get official ACT version for free. But the fact that they are free is only part of the benefit of getting these tests.

Why All ACT Practice Tests Are Not Equal

There are a lot of books that you can buy that feature multiple ACT tests. But most of these are nowhere near as valuable as the free, official versions. The first reason is that the official versions give you a breakdown of your score once you grade it. Without breaking your Math and English results into sub-scores, you won’t know exactly what you need to study to improve.

The second reason is that unless the test is an official version, you can’t be sure how true to the real test is. The last thing you want to do is waste your time studying based upon a test result that is not true to the real thing.

Where To Find Free ACT Practice Tests

The two places that you can get free tests are online, at the official ACT website, which is

The second place you can get free ACT practice tests is from your high school counselor. They will have old copies of the practice booklet from previous years. Since the test has not changed, these are just as valuable as the current test.