How To Get Unstuck Studying for the USMLE Over Holiday Break

  • /Reviewed by: Amy Rontal, MD
  • I have had to study over a holiday break for not one, but two standardized exams: the MCAT and Step 1. It can be depressing to know all of your friends are hanging out with their families, going on vacation, or even having fun in the snow — if you don’t happen to live in Houston, Texas like myself. But at the end of the day you know you have to get this test behind you and do the best studying possible along the way. Your holiday break is a time period where you don’t have other school work to focus on, so if you are studying for Step 1 that means extra dedicated time! With that being said, here are some helpful tips for studying over this holiday break without losing your holiday spirit.

    Make a Study Schedule

    I cannot stress this enough. Good intentions are not enough to make progress on studying for Step 1 over break. It is vital to make a study schedule that includes reading and practice questions every day. That way, by the end of break, your sacrifice will have been worth it! You want to look back and know that not going on that weeklong trip allowed you to make a significant dent in the material. See one of our sample schedules.

    Have a Study Buddy (or Tutor) to Help Keep You on Track

    Once you have a great study schedule in place, the next most important thing is to stick to it. This is going to be difficult with the many distractions you’ll encounter during the holidays. How can you say no to watching Elf for the 20th time with friends? The answer: someone needs to be holding you accountable to your schedule. Whether that is a friend also studying for Step 1 or a tutor; having someone who knows what you are trying to do and helps you stay on course is going to be crucial to your success!

    Plan in Some Fun Holiday Activities

    With that being said, plan some fun into your life too! Nobody, not even a medical student studying for Step 1, needs to be cooped up all day like Scrooge! We recommend studying 8-10 hours a day during dedicated period for Step 1. That still leaves you with 14 hours to do holiday activities and spend time with family and friends! Oh wait, I forgot about sleep… Ok so minus an 8-hour goodnight sleep; you still have 6 hours left to have fun! That can include but is not limited to: gingerbread house making, holiday movie watching, looking at Christmas lights, ice-skating (again…not in Houston), hanging out with family, or just taking a break and relaxing with some hot cocoa! Try to take breaks and spend some time outdoors too – it is good for you!