Top 4 Non-Academic Mistakes to Avoid While Studying for Step 1

Studying for the USMLE, especially Step 1 can seem like a daunting task for many of us. [Gunners, please disregard this statement.] Countless programs and websites exist solely for selling books and study methods pertaining to these licensing examinations.

Over the years and especially after careful retrospection, I have come to realize that there are four common mistakes we all seem to commit during these extended periods of stress. In a way, they are just common sense but highlight the basic needs we have as human beings. Following are the four mistakes to avoid during your studies….

1. Not getting enough ZZZ’s!


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It is imperative that we not only get enough sleep but also quality sleep. Declarative memories such as facts and semantics are consolidated in slow wave sleep and procedural memory requires REM sleep to be solidified. In other words, the material we learn during the day becomes ingrained in our memory during night time making it easier and faster to recall on the big day. Getting a good night’s rest is imperative for anyone to perform well.

 

2.   Not finding time to relax!

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The answer is not always to “study more.” Many programs subscribe to a ‘one day off weekly regimen’. For example, I would study hard Monday through Saturday and take Sunday off. On Sundays, I took it easy. I went for walks, ran errands and called my mom back. I also did something I felt competent in.  For me, it was cooking! Another upside of working hard in the kitchen was that I had something to eat in the upcoming week! Crock Pots proved to be really helpful. I would put a healthy concoction of vegetables together and by the evening, I had a ‘hot & ready’ meal. And this leads me to the third mistake…

 

3.   Not eating a well balanced healthy meal!

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You’ve probably heard the saying… “you are what you eat.” Proper nutrition is paramount during your preparation. You can survive on pizza [I’m guessing] but in my experience, it won’t help you think clearly. Eventually, your body will grow horizontally making you sluggish and lazy. This is exactly what happened to me. Crock Pots as I mentioned before were my saving grace during my Step 1 preparation. It helped me to eat nutrient rich food and provided me with meals that required little to no effort on my part. But just eating the right kinds of foods was not enough.

 

4. Not staying physically active!


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Studying for the USMLE, especially Step 1 requires one to sit on gluteal muscles for long periods of time. Although this is necessary, it takes a toll on the body. For me, when I got stressed, I ate. So as you can imagine, after a couple of months, I needed to hit the gym. But to my surprise, the gym proved to be a great stress reliever and tired my body enough to fall asleep at a decent time every night.

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Rasmeet Miller, "Almost" MD

My name is Rasmeet Miller. I am a 4th year medical student at Windsor University SOM.