Through my entire time in medical school, the NBME CBSE has been the greatest challenge for me. There are so many rumors and opinions spread around the school about the exam, but I never truly knew what to expect or how to prepare for the exam.
If you are like me and you are faced with preparing for comp multiple times, if you are feeling defeated, if you are feeling like this test is holding you back- know that you are not the only one and that it is more than possible to get through this test and move on.
From my experience taking this test multiple times and hearing from other people about their exams, every test is different and you never know what you will be asked on test day. Because of this, you need to be ready for anything and everything to show up on the test.
After studying and taking the comp for the third time, I finally passed and improved my score more than I expected by following a simple study plan and changing my mindset.
- Finish UWORLD once before my attempt
- Most people suggest doing this timed, this time around I tried doing timed tutor mode which ended up working a lot better for me (thanks to advice from a colleague)
- Every time I noticed I was getting things wrong repeatedly, I would write them on a sticky note and stick them to the wall in front of me. After a while, I stopped getting these questions wrong.
- Do all six practice NBMEs online (yes, pay for them)
- The day I took a practice test, I reviewed it and took the rest of the day off
- REVIEW your NBME’s the week before the exam
- Everyday for about two weeks before the exam I would review 1-2 sections of the past NBME’s using offline docs of the exams (for example, I would redo the first 100 questions on my iPad, timing myself each morning and then review)
- Read the whole First Aid book
- I read the entire First Aid before my third attempt. I rewrote sections in my iPad that I was weak in with pictures. I made notecards for things I knew I needed to memorize.
- Sketchy micro and pharm, plus some path for neuro
The mindset I tried to achieve during this study period:
- Trust that there is knowledge filling your mind! You went to medical school for two years, you learned what you need to know, you are NOT starting from square one.
- Don’t depend on a program to teach you everything you need to know. It is up to you to get this information into your mind which means studying the best way for yourself.
- Be honest, are you working your absolute hardest and best? Are you in your ideal study environment? For the first two attempts I can 100% say I did NOT give it my all for the entire time available to me. You can read more about my other two attempts to learn what NOT to do.
If your answer to the above question is “YES I already tried my best”, then there are many other factors that I thought helped improved my performance
- Have a consistent daily schedule that you rarely falter from. My basic schedule:
- Wake up naturally around 8:00 am (I don’t set alarms, because I personally feel like my body needs however much sleep it takes)
- Make breakfast and eat with Denzel, maybe watch a bit of a TV show
- Get to dedicated studying until either lunch or gym at around 12
- Get back to studying around 2 until either dinner or gym around 6
- Get back to studying until around 10-11 pm
- Go to sleep
- Know when you need to memorize things and stop leaving it until the last minute. I hate spending time memorizing things on notecards, but there is so many easy questions that you can get from just memorizing facts from the First Aid book that you cannot necessarily “learn”.
- Take a break when you need one. If you are feeling down, sick, burnt out, bored, etc, go take a break for a day or half of a day.
- If you aren’t in the ideal study environment, then find it and get there fast. We decided to move to Miami, because we knew studying at home with so many family and friends would be very challenging. It worked out well with minimum distractions, but still some friends from Ross around for social interaction.
- Stop worrying about everyone else. One of the most difficult things for me to overcome was comparing myself to my colleagues. Some people pass right away, some people need multiple tries. That does not equate to a ranking of intelligence or “best future doctor” potential. If anyone tries to tell you otherwise, ignore them. This is YOUR test and your career.
- If you have to retake comp, pretend its an all new test. Do not let the results of the past exam affect your confidence for the next exam, because they are all so different! Notice weaknesses and move forward.
- Do not study much on the day before the exam. Create a plan that gives you that day off entirely, spend the day memorizing the last few things and of course memorizing your biostats equations
By changing my study plan and altering my mindset I was able to improve my score by 8%! Maybe what I did worked or maybe I got lucky, but overall I do believe I did what I needed to pass the comp. I will be implementing the same strategies as I begin preparing for the USMLE Step 1.
I hope some of this advice helps, thank you to everyone who offered me advice while I tried to prepare for this exam.
Find our study schedule here: