How to Manage Anxiety and Step 2 CK Prep

  • /Reviewed by: Amy Rontal, MD
  • Woohoo! You have made it to your final year of medical school and your upcoming USMLE Step 2 CK exam.

    Historically, students tend to do better on Step 2 CK and find the studying less stressful because they have been using UWorld and taking shelf exams for an entire year. However, Step 2 CK is still a board exam covering a huge amount of material. The stress that can come along with preparing for this exam is not to be underestimated.

    6 Tips to Manage Stress and Anxiety While Studying for Step 2 CK:

    1. Keep Your Resources Minimal

    It is tempting to stock up on resources so you do not miss a single bit of information. However, this is counterproductive. If you try to use too many resources, you will feel overwhelmed and not have the time (or mental energy) to get through them all.

    Stick with the basics! These are tried and true. UWorld is your best friend. It is hands-down the number one resource and the only one you truly NEED for Step 2 CK.

    A lot of students like to supplement with OnlineMedEd as a different modality for getting the information. This just helps you solidify the information in UWorld.

    Some people like to add on a textbook, but this almost becomes too overwhelming.

    Stick to UWorld and add OME as a supplement as needed if you feel like you want a refresher on certain topics.


    2. Create a (Realistic, Manageable) Study Schedule

    Having a manageable study schedule is a huge part of preparing for any big exam. No two people study the same way, so you need a schedule that works best for YOU.

    Some people take two weeks for dedicated study, some people take two months. There is no “right” schedule to follow. You know yourself best. Plus, you have been studying the Step 2 CK material for the last year of med school. Do what works best for you and hold yourself accountable. This is huge when it comes to stress management!

    Of course, nobody follows their schedule perfectly 100% of the time. This is to be expected, so try to stick to your regimen as best as possible, and if you fall behind or find you need more/less time for certain topics, adjust as needed.

    Download our free sample Step 2 CK study schedule!


    3. Ask for Help!

    If you are not reaching your goals or aren’t where you want to be with your practice tests, don’t be afraid to ask for help! This can come in many ways. You can reach out to a tutoring service, classmates, or faculty at your school.

    Sometimes a different perspective on how to approach studying or test questions is helpful. Working 1-on-1 with a peer or a tutor and going through questions with someone who has already studied for the exam can be extremely helpful.


    4. Be Confident in Yourself

    You prepared for this. You studied. You put in the work. You took the practice tests. Have confidence in yourself that you are READY. Mindset and attitude play a bigger role on test day than most people realize. Being confident in yourself will help ease your test day nerves. While this can be difficult to do, just take deep breaths and tell yourself that YOU GOT THIS.

    You will absolutely encounter questions that throw you off, that you have not seen before, or that give you all possibly correct choices. Do your best and move on. Shake it off if you have a difficult section. You can build this confidence by taking practice tests throughout your preparation schedule.


    5. Don’t Forget to Take Care of Yourself

    This should be a priority throughout your study weeks. Taking care of your mental/emotional health makes a huge difference in learning and retention of material. Schedule time in your day to de-stress. This looks different for everyone.

    For some people it is exercise, for others it is eating a bowl of ice cream on the couch after a day of UWorld. Schedule a little time everyday to do the things that make you happy and relaxed!

    On top of that, make sure you are eating well, getting enough sleep, and getting some exercise whether it be walking, hiking, CrossFit, whatever! Try to get moving for even just half an hour a few times a week.

    And lastly…


    6. Know You’re Not Alone

    Thousands of people take this exam every year. It can seem stressful. But at the end of the day it is a standardized test. You have prepared. You have been taking exams nearly your entire life. You will do your best, move on, and be an excellent doctor like all the others in your shoes before you.

    Additional resources:

    Your Step 2 CK Study Plan

    A Comprehensive Step 2 CK Resource Review