By Wendy Sarubbi | April 3, 2014 5:41 pm

The life of a UCF College of Medicine student is marked by important milestones, and for second-year students, an important one is fast approaching – the USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Examination) Step 1 test in May.

The extensive test, which lasts seven hours, measures students’ knowledge of the biomedical sciences gained during the first two years of medical school. Step 2, taken after the third year, tests students’ clinical knowledge with an eight-hour written exam and a day-long practical test of patient interviewing and diagnosing. Residency and other competitive programs use national Step scores to select their top candidates.

Second-year student Farah Dosani calls Step 1 “the great equalizer. Curriculums can vary between each medical school, but this really gauges our knowledge from the first two years.” Her classmate, Engy Mui, is even more direct: “This is basically the most important test in our medical career.”

To prepare for the exam, College of Medicine second-year students participate in a five-week review module, where they go over topics like neurology, biostatistics and hematology from morning until evening.  “You really have to be disciplined,” said Director of Academic Support Services Zoe Brown-Weissmann. “I start them at 8 in the morning. They have to eat right, sleep right, exercise… It’s like a marathon. It’s Olympics for the brain.” As the leader of the module, Brown-Weissmann formulates a custom study schedule for each student, based on their strengths and weaknesses.

Because the exam is so grueling, Brown-Weissmann has students do full seven-hour practice exams to prepare for the real thing. “I want to simulate that, so they know how they’ll react,” she said. “That ‘flight or fight’ reflex kicks in, and it really makes you exhausted.”

Though the Step 1 study process is challenging, some students say it’s also been quite enlightening to see how much they’ve learned. “It’s a stressful time, but there’s something beautiful about it,” Mui said. “This is the first time in medical school that things are finally coming together. Like when we connected the dots between a very complicated biochemical pathway and a certain disease in the heart… It’s ‘lights on’ all day when you’re studying.”

The focused study module has proven successful in preparing the three UCF classes who have the Step 1 exam. With 192 being a passing score, The College of Medicine’s charter class scored 221, just below the national average of 224. The class of 2014 had an average score equal to the national average at 227. The class of 2015 surpassed the national average by 6 points, with 234.

The Student Academic Support Services team is confident that the class of 2016 will make another strong national showing. “They’ve spent the past two years of their lives doing nothing but studying,” Brown Weissmann said, “You want to really rock this exam, so you can be eligible for the best possible residencies in your field.”

Post Tags

Related Stories