How was your Step 2 CK exam date affected by the testing center closures?
I plan on taking the USMLE Step 2 CK/COMLEX Level 2 CE in June, which (fingers crossed) hasn’t been canceled or affected so far. However, I was planning on taking the USMLE Step 2 CS/COMLEX Level 2 PE in a state other than where I live now, and my flight, hotel, and exam have all been canceled. Trying to schedule a new date and an open seat at a testing center has been SO stressful. Right now, the only open available spots are in October, which is AFTER most of us have submitted our residency applications. Although most medical students understand the importance of taking the coronavirus seriously, we are all also very concerned about how the unknowns will affect our futures (e.g. testing dates, audition rotations, graduation dates, and residency applications/interviews).
When you learned you would be working from home, what did you do to prepare?
To prepare for quarantine, I shopped for my essential study snacks, re-created my Cram Fighter schedule to include more study hours, and I borrowed a desk and chair from a relative. Anyone that knows me knows that I HATE sitting stationary at a desk, and I HATE studying at home (I am the library/Starbucks/Panera/coffee shop queen). But during this COVID-19 situation, I had to learn to adapt. I prepared an area in my apartment that is dedicated to studying, and I DO NOT cross the boundary of studying in my room or in my bed unless I am studying. Also, I meal prepped so I wouldn’t constantly walk to the fridge or take large breaks out of my schedule to cook.
How do you stay focused and motivated when studying at home?
First, Cram Fighter gives me a tailored-for-me schedule, which helps me stay focused because I am not scrambling to figure out what topics I haven’t covered, calculating how many questions I should be doing, or flipping through too many resources. The night before I write out a list of what I want to accomplish the next day, aside from my studies (because we are all more than just students, right?). Writing a manageable task list the day before helps me avoid trailing thoughts about other tasks when I should be focused on studying. When I am finally in study mode, I mute my cell phone, set a timer, and begin checking tasks off in Cram Fighter. Timers help SO much because it forces me to focus on the allotted time, and it gives me something to look forward to: a break when the timer sounds.
First, Cram Fighter gives me a tailored-for-me schedule, which helps me stay focused because I am not scrambling to figure out what topics I haven’t covered
What are some mistakes you have made when studying from home, and how can other test takers avoid them?
My major mistake in the beginning of quarantine was comparing my current accomplishments to what I would have accomplished if I had been at an ideal study place (coffee shop or library). This transition to isolation needs to be approached with care, and it won’t come easy for everyone. Remember that your Cram Fighter Schedule is just that, YOURS. Hold yourself accountable, but do NOT shame yourself for not always completing all the tasks each day. The schedule isn’t written in stone, and tasks can usually be moved to other days.
Also in the beginning, I didn’t take adequate breaks and would experience mid-day burnout. Using a timer can help schedule your breaks whether big (like lunch, or a gym session) or small (like a quick walk or to time to stretch and meditate).
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How have you been coping with being in med school and studying for any big board exams now that med schools have mostly closed? Are you struggling with uncertainty around your test date due to extended stay-at-home orders? Here are some great tips for studying at home from our friends at Picmonic. If you would like to share your story, reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’d be happy to conduct an interview about your experiences or host a guest post from you. Stay healthy out there!