12 Study Tips to Help You Pass the USMLE Step 2 CS Exam

The USMLE Step 2 Clinical Skills (CS) exam is a critical stepping stone in your medical career, since it affects your ability to get a license. While the exam is graded pass/fail and you can take it more than once, it’s frustrating to prepare for it again and again. With the right study and practice tips, you won’t need to!

Tips to Clear Step 2 CS Exam

Here are some of the most effective tips to help you clear the Step 2 CS exam:

Primary Resource – Even though you will find plenty of resources both online and offline, “First Aid for USMLE Step 2 CS” covers detailed cases for all the main diseases in America. It’s really the only book you need.

Mini Cases – To improve your differential diagnoses, read mini cases and reread them a couple days before your USMLE exam. This will help you ask the right questions if your patient doesn’t have what you initially thought they did.

Timed Practice – Simulate the conditions of the actual Step 2 CS exam by using a timer while practicing. During the real exam, this keeps you from getting too nervous and forgetting about time because you’re stressed.

Live “Patient” – Working with one or more partners or standardized patients is the most important of practice tips to clear Step 2 CS exams. This lets you interact with a “patient” in person, the way you would in the exam.

Case Cards – Create flash cards with patient name, age, complaint and vital signs for each case in the First Aid for USMLE Step 2 CS. Practice each case with a partner at least twice, and have them shuffle the cards for the second round.

Hospital Gowns – Work with someone wearing a hospital gown or robe. This allows you to become more comfortable and less nervous while asking for permission to untie, remove or shift the patient’s gown during an examination.

Patient Comfort – During practice sessions and the actual exam, remember to be courteous and respectful to your patient. Make eye contact, smile, and ask a few non-case questions to help put them and yourself at ease.

Blue Sheet – Make yourself a Blue Sheet template with mnemonics that help you remember all the information you need to record before and during the exam. You could create your own mnemonics or find popular ones online.

Practice Typing – Typing up patient and case details after the history, interview and physical examination may seem easy now, but how quickly and accurately can you do it when you’re under stress? Practice, practice, practice!

Simulated Tests – During your Step 2 CS exam prep, make sure you simulate the actual test as far as possible. Make a list of cases you have difficulty with, practice these a few extra times before exam day, and try doing 12 of these at a time.

Last-Minute Prep – Go out with friends and get a good night’s sleep the day before your USMLE exam, instead of cramming or obsessing over the upcoming test. Eat a good breakfast on test day, and practice deep breathing to stay calm.

Door Prompts – Before entering the exam room, look at the prompt on the door and make a note of the chief complaint as well as a few differentials, diagnoses and workups. This helps to improve your efficiency and keeps you calm.

Practice makes a huge difference to time management during the USMLE exam, so take your time with study sessions and preparation!

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Eric Brown

Eric Brown is a standardized patient (SP) who lives in New York and advises NYCSPREP with their Clinical Skills course. He has a BA from a liberal arts college in the north east, where he majored in the the atrical arts and business (he credits the first for his ability to simulate real patients). He’s amassed years of experience as an SP and keeps up to date with CS exam expectations, trends and developments. When the Phillies are in town, Eric considers it his duty to support his home team. He won’t be seen without his trusty catcher’s mitt on these occasions, and prides himself on having caught more than one foul ball with it. If you have any questions about standardized CS exams or courses at NYCSPREP, email Eric at eric.brown@nycsprep.com or visit www.nycsprep.com

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