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The Next Step After Completing a USMLE Review Course

One of the biggest weaknesses of USMLE review courses is that many students finish the program with no idea of what to do next.

Very few students complete their USMLE immediately after their review course, and I have seen far too many spend the subsequent 3-4 weeks studying with no real direction and often regressing in terms of test-taking ability and/or foundation of knowledge. So if you just spent all that time and money on a review course, what should you be doing until your exam?

#1: Take an NBME

This test will serve two purposes: to show where you stand with regard to your target score and to show you where you should be focusing your studies in the coming weeks. As we’ve described in previous posts, an NBME score is typically representative of your actual USMLE performance in a range of +/- 10 points. As such, you can use your converted score to decide if you have enough time to achieve your target score (and attempt to adjust your test date accordingly).

Additionally, you can use the extended feedback to show exactly how your time should be spent. So, while I encourage students to complete 1-2 additional passes through the material following their review course, the sequence of that pass can be determined through analysis of the NBME.

The best test-takers use the NBMEs to identify weaknesses and correct them. After taking the NBME, I encourage students to taper their resources down to First Aid and UWorld. Over the years, I have noticed that many students become inefficient as they attempt to review all of the materials provided to them in their review course after its completion.

Remember: Review courses are designed to build a foundation. Independent studying should revolve around building on that foundation, not just repeating it a second or third time. Instead of reviewing all of this material, taper down to First Aid and UWorld and just reserve the review course materials for areas of weakness.

#2: Do A LOT of UWorld Questions

For many review programs, one common weakness is that the didactic sessions and reading assignments often leave little time to complete UWorld and work on your test-taking strategy. Thus, coming out of a review course, it is very important to hit the ground running with respect to UWorld. Prior to sitting for your exam, you should complete UWorld at least once, but preferably twice.

#3: Stay Motivated

Avoid the temptation to take a break before getting back to studying and make sure to continue studying 10-12 hours daily despite losing some of your supervision. Plan ahead by making a detailed study schedule designed to carry you from the last day of your review course through the day of your USMLE. If you do need additional motivation or coaching, consider working with a private tutor. And whatever you do—don’t move your test up “just to get it over with.” You’ve put in a lot of hard work, you deserve to do well.

Good luck on your next step—and all your steps, for that matter!