Studying for the USMLE Step 1 Without Cramming
- Apr 04, 2017
Creating a long-term study plan and using interval-training techniques help students prepare to ace the USMLE Step 1 without the stress of having to cram.
No one likes cramming for a high-stakes exam. That’s why, at Cram Fighter, we are developing ways for students to prepare to ace Step 1 without having to cram. Using a Cram Fighter study planner ensures that you know what you need to do each day to prepare for your exam, even months in advance, when you are just starting to study. One technique students use is to create study blocks, or smaller schedules within an overall schedule, where they can complete one set of resources or devote more time for dedicated studying in a given timeframe. We find that creating study blocks, using interval training, and strategically choosing study hours allows students to learn Step 1 material in a stress-free way.
One technique students use is to create study blocks, or smaller schedules within an overall schedule.
We talked to Ben Williams, founder of Firecracker, about how to study for Step 1 productively. “Given the importance of Step 1 and the amount of material that is covered on Step 1, it isn’t wise to cram for this test. One misconception is the idea that studying for Step 1 should be strenuous and difficult in order to be productive.” Ben told us that while some pressure can be beneficial and conducive to learning, whereas too much pressure can hamper learning and productivity.
Interval Training for the USMLE Step 1
“When you go to the gym,” said Ben, “an efficient workout might include only 20-minute intervals of pushing yourself really hard. This CrossFit model, which emphasizes interval training, applies to learning as well. The same idea at work in the CrossFit model can be applied to Step studying.” “You should be challenging yourself when you sit down to learn. Make it hard to retrieve the information you studied. Make it effortful to integrate what you know with other material. Make sure you’re properly filing away information, in order to be able to retrieve it successfully. Don’t forget to take frequent breaks.” After a long day of studying, your body needs rest to assimilate all the information you’ve learned. During sleep, new information will be properly stored. When you get up the next morning, information you struggled with the night before will be crystal clear, and you’ll be prepared for another whole day of powering through your studies.
An efficient workout might include only 20-minute intervals of pushing yourself really hard. This CrossFit model, which emphasizes interval training, applies to learning as well.
Ben Williams, Founder of Firecracker
Scaffolding your Learning with Question Banks and a Long-Term Study Plan
“Learning should involve the right level of challenges. When we write questions for the Firecracker question bank, we want to ensure that we are pushing our students out of their comfort level, and that their learning experience is optimal.” Ben explained that Firecracker’s goal is to ensure that questions “fall within the zone of proximal development.” “You don’t want the question to look like hieroglyphics,” said Ben, “but you also don’t want the question to be so simple that it feels as if you are just checking off a box and moving on to another question.” The zone of proximal development refers to scaffolded learning. Firecracker scaffolds your learning by supplying you with questions that match the challenge level that you are ready for, and pushing you forward bit by bit.
Cram Fighter allows you to scaffold your learning by using study blocks. If you aren’t ready for an intense study period, or aren’t ready for the most challenging questions, create a light studying period with Cram Fighter’s study blocks feature. Diving right in to the most challenging questions will feel like cramming. Instead, ramp up your studying slowly by assigning fewer hours and questions during your light studying period. Plan a more intense study block to begin after your light studying block. Here you can strategically devote more time to challenging resources and increase your workload. You can even devote more study hours on specific days of the week to give yourself a break or ramp up your preparation when you have more time to study.
To try these features for yourself, start a free trial at blueprintprep.com!
About the Author
Erica Forrette is the former Director of Marketing at Cram Fighter.