Like many medical students affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, David's experience at his European medical school was very different than he expected. Courses that were historically taught in person were canceled or offered virtually; he needed to study and master the material on his own, without the benefit of interactive learning sessions.
When it came time to prepare for his USMLE Step 1 exam, David followed his senior students' suggestions in terms of what resources to use, how much time to spend studying every day, and what modes to use when going through UWorld. In the end, he struggled to integrate too many resources, and, as someone who had always been a high scorer on standardized exams all his life, he was frustrated with his relatively low -- yet passing -- performance.
As he began to prepare for the Step 2 CK exam, he knew something had to change, but he was uncertain about which aspects of his preparation were the highest priority. On repeated self-assessments, David recognized that he was hitting a wall: more studying failed to move the needle and he couldn't get higher than a not-quite-passing score of 208.
We helped David with our complete set of services, starting with the Diagnostic Intake Assessment, or DIA, which allowed us to get a handle on his situation. With his DIA results in hand, we helped David re-conceptualize his approach to preparing for his Step 2 exam. David recognized that part of the problem was that brute force memorization had been effective for many of his previous exams, but the sheer amount of material tested by the Step 2 required a different strategy. Another problem was that he was focusing on speed over mastery; this is a common issue we see among students who believe they need to focus on covering a certain amount of material in a given amount of time, rather than taking the time to master it.
We also helped David adopt new strategies for attacking Step 2 vignette-style questions. While his clinical reasoning skills were good, he learned to take the time to analyze each piece of information carefully and exhaustively. At first, it felt uncomfortable to step back and take more time on each question, but, by taking the time to deconstruct every question, David was able to gradually accelerate as his knowledge base grew more robust. Moreover, with increasingly automatic access to his knowledge, David was able to focus less on having to remember, while focusing more on sharpening his clinical reasoning.
David's diligence, hard work, and willingness to rebuild his studying technique from the ground up, led him from stagnating at a score of 208 on self-assessments to a real deal score of 260 on the Step 2 CK exam.
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