So Step 1 is just around the corner and you’ve studied hard. What are some Step 1 test day tips you need to know?
Are you starting to feel those nerves kick in? Your palms are starting to get sweaty, your knees are weak, you feel like you’re going to puke, mom’s spaghetti — you guys know the rap. But we don’t want to be like another Eminem lyric.
Instead, we’re going to talk about how not to choke on the day of Step 1 with these few tips!
And I promise you, these are going to make you dominate on test day. It will also keep that confidence rolling.
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Tip #1 Focus On One Question At A Time
One thing that I realized after my step 1 experience is that I could have had a completely different score if my test was arranged in a different way.
So I could’ve had a better score if my stronger questions were better formatted and better arranged, and a weaker score if all my weak topics were put into one area. That could have affected my momentum.
In the first scenario, I could have felt completely prepared, and in the second, I could have felt like I probably didn’t study for the exam.
The overall test for you is doable, especially if you’ve studied hard. But you may just have an unlucky streak of questions that doesn’t make you feel confident.
It doesn’t matter how many streaks of questions you had momentum in and you felt strong in, those weak questions tend to linger in your mind. And so that leads you to go through this vicious cycle of saying “this test is too hard”, or self-deprecating yourself, or starting to second guess all of your choices.
So instead, you need to focus on one question at a time. To make the point, I want to share with you my actual experience on Step 1 and how each individual block went.
Block 1 felt like a completely doable block. For block 2, I just went through it and felt very confident and strong. So I was thinking, all right, I got this test.
And then block 3 hit, and I just felt terrible.
I don’t even remember block 4 because I was so focused on thinking about block 3! Specifically, I was saying to myself, “Holy crap. I ruined it. My test score is going to suck and I’m likely not going to get the score that I wanted.”
But keep in mind, at this point I only had taken about half the exam.
I felt like I did really well in two of them. I can’t remember block 4 to be quite honest with you. But one of them really led me down that self-deprecating vicious cycle that we already talked about.
But thankfully, the younger version of myself is responsible, which is the reason this tip even exists.
When I had my lunch break after the fourth block, I remember going into the restroom and splashing some water on my face.
I said to myself, “God dang it, Lakshya. Get it together. You’ve prepared your butt off for this exam. And you’ve literally let one block completely throw you off. Instead, from now on, every question is going to be an opportunity to raise your score. Anything you don’t know is going to be an opportunity to possibly improve your score. And if you don’t know it, shrug it off, move on to the next one.”
And so using that little pep talk, I kept going and going and I started to get back in control again.
So don’t be like me on test day and instead, get that same sense of control from the very start. Keep it all the way through for the duration of the exam. When you start your first block, remember this first Step 1 test day tip: focus on one question at a time.
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Tip #2 Plan Your Breaks Ahead Of Time
The second Step 1 test day tip is to plan your breaks ahead of time.
For step 1, you’ll have a total of about 60 minutes. That is 45 minutes plus the 15 minutes if you don’t go through the tutorial because you’ve already gone through it in practice exams. That doesn’t even count the extra time that you gain if you finish a question block ahead of schedule.
With the knowledge that you’ll have at least 60 minutes, you need to understand how long you’ll spend in between each block and when you’ll take your lunch breaks and restroom breaks. Have a game plan for the entire day.
Currently, there are 7 blocks. Here’s a sample schedule on how you can arrange your different breaks.
After block 1, you can take a 5-minute break. After block 2, you can take another 5-minute break. After block 3, you can take a 10-minute break for a snack and going to the restroom.
After block 4, I recommend that you schedule your lunch for about 20 minutes and use the restroom.
Then make your breaks a little bit longer because you may feel a little bit more tired. So that’s a 10-minute break after block 5 and another 10-minute break after block 6.
As a pro tip, if you start to feel the momentum and you feel great, don’t just move on to the next block without taking a break! You have no idea how hard or how easy a block is going to be, and that can completely throw off your momentum, which can become even more damaging, especially if your energy levels are already lower than they should be.
So if you want to keep that sense of momentum, just focus on one question at a time.
As soon as you finish a block, and you still have that sense of momentum, go take your break and energize, then come back to it. Regardless if the next block is easy or hard, you’ll have the energy level ready to combat it.
Tip #3 Plan For The Test The Day Before
My third Step 1 test day tip is to prepare the day before. Well, the last thing that you want to do after studying incredibly hard for Step 1 is to have some small detail that you didn’t account for, something that’s not even knowledge-related.
And so a few things to keep in mind a week to a day before the exam are knowing the address of your testing center and what time you need to be there. Also account for any traffic you should expect on the day of your exam.
Also keep in mind any documents that you need to bring like your ID, driver’s license, testing permits, or anything else that the testing center may need from you.
Next, you want to consider what clothes you’ll be wearing as well as bringing to the testing center. Most testing centers have a tendency of being on the colder end. So having a nice, good jacket or warm clothing that you can easily take off in case you start to feel warm is super important.
Also remember, don’t go to Step 1 in a suit. This is not one of those occasions where you dress for success.
The next very important thing on the list is to think about what food and beverages you’ll be bringing. Be mindful of what kind of foods make you sleepy, like processed or carb-heavy foods, and stay away from those.
Also, be mindful of your caffeine sources and when you plan on taking them before and during the exam. Having to go to the restroom in the middle of a block may throw you off.
And finally, start to ask questions regarding your transportation. Are you driving yourself? Is your gas field or your tires complete? If somebody will drop you off, do they know what time to pick you up? Or are you going to take public transportation and have you accounted for all the logistics?
Like how the famous saying goes, if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail.
Tip #4 Plan A Post Test Reward
This is probably my favorite among the Step 1 test day tips because I definitely took full advantage of this.
You have studied so hard for such an important test in your life that you need to make sure that the reward at the end of that tunnel is completely worth it.
And I remember exactly what I did after Step 1. I already had this in my mind the week of the test.
I went to my favorite Indian restaurant and grabbed two entrees and my favorite dish, which was two dishes of malai kofta with naan and rice. And I got home, destroyed both entrees, and just passed out until the next day. And it is absolutely amazing.
So if you’re getting close to testing day or if you’re anywhere on your Step 1 prep, also start asking what you want to do as a reward to yourself for studying so hard.
FYI: Want to learn more about how to crush Step 1? Check out our free step-by-step masterclass to help you get a 250+ on Step 1!
And if you want to know the three strategies that really helped me get into the upper echelon of doing well on Step 1, here’s a Step 1 masterclass FREE video that you can check out.
Yes. Step 1 is a hard exam to prepare for, but if you’ve put in such hard work over the past few weeks, then definitely make sure that you go into test day with confidence and not anxiety.
And I know that’s easier said than done, but hopefully, you can use some of these tips that we talked about to help you go into test day and crush it like you’re meant to.
If you did enjoy this post and you have more questions regarding Step 1 test day tips, make sure you drop them in the comment section down below.
If you do want to check out probably the most popular video we have on the YouTube channel, then go ahead and watch my USMLE Step 1 Tips and Advice, where I gave tips on how to get a high score of 250 or above, like myself as well as other top-performing students. Make sure to subscribe for weekly content if you enjoy this one!
And as always, if you enjoy these Step 1 test day tips, I am really asking just two things from you. First, just take something from this video that really resonated with you, and second, try to apply it to your personal situation.
We spent so much of our time consuming and taking advice. I’m guilty of this as well. No doubt, but rarely do we always spend enough time applying it.
So take one thing from this video and this episode that resonated with you and let me know in the comment section down below the results you’re getting.
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Again, thank you so much for making it to the end of this post and for being a part of my journey!
Until the next one my friend…