USMLE Problem Solving Strategies Review

The USMLE is not only testing your content knowledge, but also your ability to problem-solve on your feet. Success on the USMLE depends on identifying issues and thinking clearly. Yes, you must have memorized essential content. But, the exam wants more from you than a demonstration of what you have memorized. The exam wants you to show that you know how to use what you have learned.

To accomplish this you must be more than a recording and playback device. You must be more than a machine. You must be a person who can assess, think and decide. In short, you are being tested on who you are as much as what you know. The USMLE expects you to be in control of yourself and to demonstrate that by your control of the exam.

  1. Begin by making decisions and taking action based on those decisions.
  2. Decide what is essential and what is lower yield.
  3. Decide what study material resonates with you and helps the content to make coherent sense.
  4. Plan your study to cover the material you have selected.
  5. Make a study plan that maps our how much time you will study each day, and then follow it.
  6. Avoid excessive focus on percentage of questions right.
  7. Diagnose “why” for missed questions to improve performance.
  8. Avoid studying “every waking minute” and treat study time like a job.
  9. Make sure your strategy is one you can maintain long term, not just over a couple of days.

By making decisions all the way through your study preparation, you are not only going to do a better job of learning, you will also be teaching yourself the mental set and the self-control the USMLE requires. You know how to take charge because you have learned to take change of yourself. We want doctors who have the self-control and the aplomb to handle whatever patient care issues with which they are confronted. Your final USMLE score is a much a reflection of you control of the exam as it is your memorized knowledge. Take charge of your preparation and you will take charge of your exam.

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USMLE Faculty and Curriculum Director at Becker