Two years later and the time has come to tackle our second set of board exams- the USMLE Step 2 CK (clinical knowledge) and Step 2 CS (clinical skills). But of course, not before we pass the preliminary exam… THE COMP for both exams.
If you have followed YBtoMD for a while now, or if you have had a chance to read about our experience with the NBME comp for the USMLE Step 1, you know that the comp is a source of great frustration and anxiety for Denzel and I. So even though we felt more confident in our clinical knowledge after preparing throughout our third year, we couldn’t help but feel those same feelings creeping in.
OUR EXPERIENCE ON TEST DAY
Let me tell you, I have never in my life walked out of an exam feeling as awful as I did on February 10th. I was enraged. I was sure we both failed.
I felt fine going into test day. Not 100% ready for the real exam, thankful that this exam was a practice test, but also nervous because of our experience with comp for the Step 1. (Want to read about our multiple trials and errors for NBME comp for Step 1? Click here).
My first two question blocks were on the easier side. I felt like I knew the majority of the answers with some questions here and there I was not sure about. I was finishing the blocks with plenty of time. Then I took my 10-minute break after block two. Denzel said he felt like he was having a bad test day and that his first two blocks were hard. I figured maybe his second half would be easier and mine might be harder.
We headed back into the second half of the exam. The questions were harder, things I had never heard of before (anyone ever heard of Hypothenar Hammer Syndrome?? Me neither). I had 2 minutes to finish EIGHT questions in my third block. People, I was in full on panic mode. I scanned each question, which of course were all essays, for words that stood out and just selected random answers that went with that word. My fourth and final block, the same thing happened…
As soon as the time ran out, I sat there in my chair for a few minutes just dumbfounded. A small tear may have rolled down my cheek. We checked out and Denzel and I literally did not say anything to each other for minutes. We finally broke the silence once we got into the car. If you had seen the uproar that ensued, you might’ve thought we were in a fierce debate on whether we preferred Popeyes vs Chick Fil A chicken sandwiches.
The plan was to go on a short trip to Texas the following day while we waited for our results, but when we got home, Denzel was so disappointed that we almost cancelled the trip. Instead, we spontaneously decided to leave right away and switched our tickets to that evening.
One week later, we finally got our results:
Contrary to how we felt on test day, we both passed and did well. Jeez, you just never know with these exams. The worse you feel, the better you do. I wonder why that is? All I know, is that effective studying and preparation ahead of time always wins.
HOW WE STUDIED
The most effective way to prepare for these exams is to study throughout rotations for shelf exams and to be involved as much as possible in rotations. It is easier to remember presentations, next best steps, and treatment options you have seen in actual patients.
Having a strong foundation made studying for this exam much easier. I remembered most of the material, so I only had to strengthen my knowledge instead of build from the ground up, which I felt like I had to do a lot of for the USMLE Step 1 and its preliminary exam.
- Check out my blog posts on how we studied for our core rotation shelf exams throughout third year:
We completed third year in December and decided to schedule our preliminary comp exam for the Step 2 CK on February 10. We had an elective scheduled for January and planned to take both February and March off as dedicated study months for the Step 2 CK comp, the actual USMLE Step 2 CK exam, and the Kaplan Practice CS exam.
During January I was able to study only 1-2 hours a day due to my busy elective schedule. I studied 3-4 hours on the weekends. Once my elective ended, we had about 8 full days to study before the exam. What we did to prepare was simple:
- Re-watched all Online Med Ed videos and took notes on them
- UWorld questions on random and timed and added notes on them to the Online Med Ed notes.
- Just as I did with the Step 1 exam, 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.
- One practice NBME exam online
- Emma Holliday videos for subjects we felt necessary (I re-watched Internal Medicine, Surgery and Pediatrics)
- TAKE THE DAY BEFORE THE EXAM COMPLETELY OFF TO DO ANYTHING YOU ENJOY WITH ZERO THOUGHTS OF STUDYING. This is a life changing technique. My mind feels so much more at ease since I have begun doing this before test day. I have intense test anxiety. I would barely be able to sleep before my exams and when I did, I would dream about the exam. Since I started taking the day off before my test, I almost have my test anxiety completely under control. I highly recommend trying this.
This is the simple study plan we followed for the comp. Most importantly, we had a set study schedule just as we did for Step 1. This helped us stay on track for our quickly approaching test day.
WHAT IS NEXT FOR US
Now it is time for us to prepare for and to take our real deal USMLE Step 2 CK exam. Of course, the first thing I did when I found out we passed was create a detailed schedule for our dedicated study period. Our plan is to schedule our exam for the end of March which gives us about 6 weeks total of dedicated study time. We plan to use the same resources: UWorld, Online Med Ed, Emma Holliday and NBME practice exams and UWorld Self Assessments.
We will also be practicing for the Kaplan Step 2 CS practice exam which we take April 4th with Kaplan On Demand videos and the First Aid for the USMLE Step 2 CS.
After our exams, check back for a post on our experience! (Psst.. I might be sharing my schedule and notes too!)
Wish us luck!