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USMLE prep

Carol Lay, PhD


Learn material by repeated exposure.

Do not keep each block in a silo.

Purchase a “gold standard” review book. First Aid is one that many students have used successfully. If this book is not working for you, you will have time to find another source that works better.

Go to the USMLE web site ( and review the material. It is not valuable as a study guide but rather as a check list.

Note taking: For some students that way that note taking worked in prior academic programs may not be effective, in part because of the volume of material in the medical school curriculum. For notes to be as useful as possible, they should be reviewed and summarized within 24 hours.

Most effective strategy: Review First Aid before the class, use it again after class and within 24 hours summarize the highlights of the material in notes.

Use as many ways as possible to make your learning active.

As much as possible begin to create charts, matrices, etc to integrate material. These can provide a visual “scaffold” to help you access material quickly under testing conditions.

Avoid reading, highlighting, re-reading and re-highlighting material. This is an inefficient way of learning material.

Work with other students to make and use flash cards.

Identify peers that you can work with in study groups. Study groups don’t work well when they are formed immediately prior to major examinations because it is difficult to control the group dynamics. In forming the groups, select students with whom you are comfortable teaching material that you do not know as well. It is not as productive to “teach” material that you know in depth for either you or the other group members.

Review sessions offered by faculty or students can be very helpful.

The CBSE exam is very useful for predictive information as well as practice.

Use time in the summer to review areas of weakness that you have identified yourself or by performance on practice exams.

The summer is not too early to set goals for the level of performance that you want to attain.



NOW: Maximize learning in current classes, building in some review of material that has already been covered. Purchase First Aid and use it. Develop mechanisms for summarizing materials.

SUMMER: More in depth review of material where you have identified weakness. If you feel that your learning has been even, still build in some review of first year material.

FALL: Continue patterns set in first year for maximizing learning in current classes and doing some review. In December/January you will have the opportunity to take the CBSE and this will provide you another picture of strengths and weakness.

WINTER BREAK: Review areas of weakness

INTENSIVE REVIEW PERIOD: Final review prior to taking the exam.