Exciting news! I just finished taking Step 2 CK (clinical knowledge), a formidable, 9-hour, multiple choice beast in the U.S. Medical Licensing Exam series*. I designated this 4-week block as a “flex” month so that I could study (at home!) with no other obligations.
Most of my classmates who had taken CK before me said that it was better than Step 1 (back when I took the MCAT in college, I recall a then-medical student telling me pretty much the same thing). Step 2 CK is less about hard-to-recall basic science concepts and more (but not completely, in my opinion) focused on sort-of-hard-to-recall clinical concepts. Because the test is taken after core clinical rotations, it doesn’t take as much intense book review; it’s somewhat easier to retain information about a diagnosis when you saw it on the wards first.
As usual, I came into studying with a day to day schedule. I’d planned to do all 2250ish questions in UWorld, with a second pass through as many possible of the ones I got wrong, and read Step 2 Secrets cover to cover +/- First Aid for Step 2 as needed. By the end of my first day of studying, I realized that my plans were too ambitious. By week 2, after changing things around 3 or 4 times and talking to a classmate about what her approach had been, I decided to ditch the schedule–and the review books–altogether and focus on UWorld questions alone. It was for the best. I didn’t get to take notes on difficult questions like I’d planned, but I was able to see every question at least once. When I found myself struggling with particular concepts, I hit the books/old clerkship notes/the Internet in an effort to gain a deeper understanding. Believe it or not, I even spent some time with our old friend First Aid for Step 1, as I had found some chapters particularly helpful in the past (looking at you, biostats).
Despite spending the majority of my waking hours studying, I still made time to maintain my exercise, Bible reading, and mindfulness meditation routines, as well as spend time with my family at church and around the dinner table. They got used to me drilling questions on my iPad while eating and walking around in circles around the house in an effort to reach my daily step count. Instead of cramming in isolation on the day before the test (read: just yesterday), I joined my mom for a brief day trip to Nashville; even though I hadn’t intended to study at all, I ended up reviewing more in the car than I probably would have if I’d stayed home.
The test itself was pretty challenging. My ultimate goal had changed from “get a better score than I did on Step 1” to “stay awake long enough to answer every question and not run out of time.” Armed with a couple of caffeinated energy bars (Larabar Cappuccino and Clif Peanut Toffee Buzz), a jacket, and the chorus of “Whom Shall I Fear (God of Angel Armies)” by Chris Tomlin running through my head on a loop, I felt pretty calm about the ordeal. But I was still very tired. I found myself zoning out often and had to pause frequently just to take a deep breath during each of the 8 hour-long blocks. I only took 2 breaks (one after block 2 and one after block 5); a part of me is currently wondering if I should’ve taken one more to cut down on fatigue. Hindsight is 20/20, no?
For the most part, I’m just relieved that it’s over. And I’m relieved that I have about 2 weeks off before my next block, the Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation elective that’s offered at Vanderbilt. Next week, my family is heading to Detroit with my home church for the National Baptist Congress of Christian Education, and the week after that should be fairly relaxing at home. I’ll also (finally!) carve out some time to work on some important tasks that I’ve been neglecting due to busyness (practicing driving, working on residency stuff…)
*because I’m writing this a few hours post-test, I fully expect it to be somewhat incoherent. Apologies.