Falling Behind with Your USMLE Study Schedule? Here’s How to Save It

  • /Reviewed by: Amy Rontal, MD
  • Cram Fighter users share their strategies for fixing their schedule and getting back on track when they’ve fallen behind

    If you find yourself falling behind with your study plan, don’t panic. Students say falling behind is difficult to avoid. Many see it as a natural event in their study period. As Alexander, a medical student who scored a 254 on Step 1, told us, “there will be days when you don’t keep up with your study schedule as planned.” Below, we’ve got three tips to help you tackle falling behind from medical students who conquered the USMLE.

    Tip #1: Schedule built-in catch-up days

    A realistic study plan accounts for days when you don’t finish everything you wanted to accomplish in your readings, video lectures, or question banks. “Try to give yourself at least one half-day per week as catch-up time,” says Alexander, “Scheduling weekly buffer time will keep you from falling too far behind, and buffer time also encourages you to keep up with your schedule because if you don’t need the buffer time, then it’s time off!”

    If you are using Cram Fighter, you can schedule weekly or biweekly catch-up days, where no tasks from any of your resources will be scheduled. Catch-up days allow you to complete overdue tasks, or to simply review material from earlier that week, or earlier in your study plan.

    Build your own USMLE study plan with catch-up days scheduled automatically.

    Tip #2: Diagnose why you are falling behind

    An overly ambitious schedule is often the root cause of chronically falling behind. University of Florida medical student Denis Balaban told us that “if you are falling behind, examine what’s causing it. Suppose you’re working 8-13 hours per day with minimal distractions, and you’re doing 1 to 2 blocks of 46 questions per day,” he says, “If you feel like doing any more would start really stressing you out, your planned schedule might be too ambitious.”

    Remember, this is a marathon, not a sprint.

    Denis Balaban, University of Florida School of Medicine, Step 1 Score: 261

    Denis provided us with an example of an early version of his study plan that he found to be too ambitious. “I thought I could do the UWorld Qbank twice, and then do a little bit of USMLE-Rx as well,” he says, “That turned out to be a really bad plan because I would have gone crazy with the amount of studying needed to accomplish that. So, I just went through UWorld and redid the questions that I got wrong.”

    “Remember,” Denis cautions, “this is a marathon, not a sprint.”

    Alex, a medical student at the University of Minnesota, recommends starting off with a light schedule to prevent yourself from falling behind early in your study plan. “If you find you have an overwhelming study schedule, I would suggest starting out with a less intense schedule and modify it as you are able to do more,” he says.

    Tip #3: Readjust your schedule as needed

    If you find you have too many overdue tasks, and catch-up days alone won’t solve your problem, you don’t have to scrap your schedule and start again. You can always rebalance your schedule. “Rebalancing your schedule” means redistributing the tasks you need to finish for each resource over the rest of your upcoming schedule.

    Melissa Youssef,I rebalanced my schedule about 10 times during the time I studied for boards.

    Melissa Youssef, Medical University of South Carolina, Step 1 Score: 247

    One University of Minnesota student told us “One of the greatest features of Cram Fighter is the ability to easily reorganize your schedule if you do fall behind.” Rebalancing allows you to stay on track and avoid the burden of overdue tasks.

    Melissa Youssef from the Medical University of South Carolina told us “I rebalanced my schedule about 10 times during the time I studied for boards.” Melissa’s use of rebalancing is not uncommon. Cram Fighter finds that users who took the USMLE rebalance their schedule an average of 10 times during their study period.

    Try out Cram Fighter, the only study schedule planner that intelligently rebalances your schedule when you are falling behind.

    In addition, Melissa told us, “for QBanks, there were definitely days in which I couldn’t do the 100 questions per day I had planned. For that reason, I do love how Cram Fighter gave me the ability to partially complete a task.” Partially completing a task allows you to avoid overdue tasks by moving a portion of a task you didn’t finish to the next day in your study plan.