Step 1 Practice Day Draws Participants

How do you prepare for Step 1?

Study, drink coffee, work out, take naps, snack on junk food, remember to eat healthy food, drink plenty of water…rinse and repeat.

For the third consecutive year, College of Medicine students had the chance to simulate the USMLE Step 1 test-taking experience, thanks to an initiative from Student Affairs. On June 4, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Meshel Hall, 35 students participated in this practice day, with support from the Learning Center and an upper class mentor, Praveena Tondapu, throughout the event.

Craig Theissen, director of the Learning Center and an instructor of family and community medicine, said surveys from the past two years indicated that students valued this event as an opportunity to prepare for their actual exam day experience, so they made sure to bring it back again this year.

The practice day gives students a chance to simulate a highly regulated day, in which everything you can think of is monitored—from the number of white boards and markers, to the number of facial tissues a student can take into the testing site—and which requires security clearance each time a student re-enters the room if they leave for, say, a restroom break.

“Training the body and mind to perform well on a seven-hour exam takes a lot of trial and error. By simulating the exam day, students are able to better understand how much their focus and hunger fluctuates throughout the exam time. Even students who couldn’t attend this live event were encouraged to use create their own simulation before the real test day arrives,’’ said Theissen (shown at far left in photo, above, with Adnan Raslan, Jonathan Shabab and Praveena Tondapu).

Practice makes perfect? Practice prepares.

“I thought taking the Step 1 mock exam would be a good experience to prepare for next year and the test coming in two weeks. It’s showing some weaknesses and some strengths, so I will be better prepared for the real test,” said Jonathan Shabab, a second-year student in the College of Medicine.

Adnan Raslan, a second-year student in the College of Medicine, said, “I chose to take the practice Step 1 exam because you never really sit down for seven hours. You don’t understand how long that exam is until you do one of these practices or until you’re in the Step exam. You want to be able to find your break times and be able to know when to use the restroom, when you need to eat and all that stuff. You don’t want to learn during the exam, you want to be prepared for it.”

Speaking from experience

“I took the Step 1 exam last year, so I’m helping students prepare this time around. The mock exam actually helps people figure out where to time their breaks and how to go about the whole exam. It’s kind of a big deal when you’re in the environment, you don’t really know how you’re going to react or what you want to do in that moment. It’s nerves, it’s also anxiety—you don’t have an idea. The mock exam gives you an idea to simulate that and figure out when you should have your breaks, when you should eat, what exactly you want to do the morning before you even go in. It all makes a difference,” said Praveena Tondapu, a rising third-year student in the College of Medicine. 

The power of massage

The last day students can take the Step 1 exam is right around the corner, June 22. So, what happens in the meantime?  Remember, there’s a brand new massage chair in the meditation room to help calm those nerves! And the day after, when you might be a little tight from sitting and concentrating all day? A massage could be just the thing.

Share this post