There are some things that are unavoidable as a medical student. Almost passing out in cadaver lab, studying diagrams of genitals while waiting at the mechanic’s, and standardized testing are a few such things. Step 1 is a beast that everybody deals with at the end of their second year, and it will absorb every second of your life that it can get. You’ll talk about it over dinner, think about it while you’re driving, and you’ll definitely dream about it once or twice.
Much like a colonoscopy, the preparation for Step is much worse than the actual thing. That said, the preparation produces more anxiety than a dozen colonoscopies, and I would argue at least as much nervous gas. So how do you get through the massive year long drag on your life that is Step 1? Everyone and their mother has at least three tips—bet money one will be “sleep”—and I’ve decide to add my own hard-won advice to the pile.
1. Have A Buddy:
Call it your accountabilibuddy, your cheer squad, or your mutual cry pal, but find a friend, preferably someone who is taking the test around the same time as you. Take turns calling each other, text encouragement (or cry face emoji’s) back and forth, and rely on each other to get through things. This was especially important during the isolated study time, when it’s very hard to get yourself to talk to other people and get out of the house.
2. Get Out of the House:
If you notice you don’t need to shower as often because nobody has seen you in 2 weeks, you need to shower and go outside. It is way too easy to get lulled into an all-inside routine and when you ball all of that stress (and stress-sweat) up in a confined space, you go nuts. So go outside, even if it’s for 5 minutes a day.
3. Make Plans:
About a month out from your test, start making plans for the after time. If you’re like me and many students, you haven’t really done anything just for fun in months, so plan a post test activity. If you have something you’re excited about, the test itself becomes just what it should be: a hurdle, not a monster. And it is a hurdle you can clear easily.
4. Eat, Sleep, and be Merry:
Didn’t I tell you to bet money sleep would be on here? Eat good food, or cheap pizza and milkshakes when you need a splurge. Set a sleep cycle early on so that getting up in the dark isn’t so shocking on test day. And have something fun to do in your free time, be it video games, art projects, or hanging out with friends in a Step-free zone. You will work hard and you will earn your breaks, honor them.
5. Be Kind to Yourself:
This is the most important advice I can offer anybody. This test and the toxic environment that grows around it can beat you down, but at the end of the day, it is just a damn test. It is a tool to help you learn and urge you to do better, it cannot destroy you or decrease your worth as a person and a scientist. You are bigger than a few multiple choice questions; one measly day of testing cannot put a bar on your potential. So be kind to yourself, rest the day before the test and move on afterward, you will do great.
Wake up early, study hard, be thorough and give yourself rest. This will be difficult, and some days are just going to plain suck, but you’ll be ready for it and you will get through it. You’re you, you’re great, and you’ve got this, now go kick some standardized ass.
The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.