Several applicants have doubts about their studying abilities wondering if there is a special technique that will help them memorizing the overwhelming amount if information that is required to ace the USMLE steps. The truth is that there is no such thing as the "perfect study technique", but there are a few things that can help you to make a more efficient use of your time and effort.

As a fact, you should know the material that corresponds to each step. Vague concepts won't help you much since the exam requires that you select the best answer from other options that are not totally wrong, or look very much alike to the real answer. You also need the skills necessary to answer the questions fast and efficiently. Therefore, your exam preparation should include tons of memorization plus tons of practice answering questions (unfortunately, if you want to ace the exam there is no way for you to avoid these two).

Here are some tips that can help you during your study:

    •  Set a day for your exam. To feel anxiety during your study is a good thing at some degree; the pressure that the exam day is coming can push you to keep reading when laziness or distractions are around.

    •  Organize the amount of reading per day. Count the number of pages to read and the number of days that you have to complete your preparation. Then you will have an idea of the number of pages per day that you have to cover in order to complete all books in the time that you have. If the number of pages to read per day is an achievable number, then go for it!

    •  Use the memorization technique that you feel more comfortable with. Repetition, summarizing, flash cards, study groups, mnemonics, or even practicing questions. Most of you have a special way to learn that helped you during medical school. If you don't, then try the ones mentioned above until you find the one that feels right for you.

    •  Keep yourself motivated. Find a reason above personal achievement that can give you extra strength in moments of anxiety, depression or sluggishness.

    •  Avoid burnout. USMLE steps preparation means continuous studying day after day. But even when there is a lot of study to do, you won't be able to do it well if you don't give yourself some time to relax, spend quality time doing what you like, and have a good night sleep.

    •  Once you have your study plan, try to make as few changes as possible. It is acceptable to change your routine if you feel that you are not progressing as much as you want, but have in mind that changing a study plan takes time that you may not have. So before you consider making a change, assess your progress with questions and see if you really need it.

    •  Complete all day objectives before calling the day off. Avoid leaving study material for the next day, since it accumulates and makes harder to keep on schedule.

    •  Avoid distractions. It is very to hard to concentrate in a distractingly environment, so is always better to find a calm and quiet place to be during your study hours.

    •  While practicing questions, understand what the question is really asking. This is of extreme importance. USMLE steps' questions can be very tricky and some are even made trying to confuse you. You need to read the entire paragraph because there is where the answer lays, and try to understand what is expected for you to answer. For example, one of the most common pitfalls for test takers are interpreting the following:

The question says

The question really means

What is the best next step?

What is the most appropriate next thing to do according to management guidelines?

What is the most accurate step?

What is the gold standard?

Even when the above tips may help you, they won't do the trick for you. Acing the USMLE steps is a hard thing to do and requires sacrifice and determination. Remember that it is not only possible to obtain a 225+/90+ in each one of the steps, but is highly recommended if you want that your application outstand from the rest.

As a final advice, try to divide your study plan in two parts. The first one should include the reading and memorization and it can take as much as you need to complete your preparation. The second part should be focused on reviewing and practicing hundreds questions. Both are very important since the first one will give strong basis to face the questions, and the second will help you to reinforce your knowledge and get used to the mechanics of the exam

    "The recipe for success is one spoon of opportunity, two cups of motivation, and all the determination that you can get"
    Anonymous.