Are you enrolled in or considering medical school but worried about all the exams? Saint James School of Medicine wants all its students to succeed, no matter their background.
We’ve based this article on episode 34 of the Med School Minutes Podcast. Keep reading to discover how one student learned to use her training as an athlete to conquer her Step 1 examination. Even if you’re not an athlete, you can work just as hard for success!
What Is Step 1?
When it comes to licensing for your degree in medicine, the USMLE Step 1 refers to the standardized test that verifies a student’s knowledge about basic scientific concepts and how they apply to clinical medicine. It’s the first part of the United States Medical Licensing Examination and consists of 280 multiple-choice questions taken over an eight-hour examination period.
As of 2022, the test is pass/fail, and most students take it after their preliminary clinical training between their second and third year in medical school.
Kelly Hurley’s Story: From Olympian To Med Student
Kelly Hurley has successfully completed her Step 1 exam and is a perfect example of how students from all demographics can use their life experiences to succeed. After placing fifth in fencing at the 2021 Olympics, Kelly has transitioned her training as an athlete to become a successful medical student.
While no major life change is ever seamless or without stress, Kelly found many of the skills she developed as an athlete translate well into studying for a degree in medicine. Even if you’re not an athlete, you can learn from her experience.
Tips for Passing Your Step 1 Classes
No matter how prepared you are, medical school has moments of stress and moments of great joy and accomplishment. Looking back on her first years as a medical student, Kelly offers the following tips to make the most of your time and optimize your chances for long-term success.
Much like an athlete competes on a team or relies on others to help with training, a medical student shouldn’t try to complete school on their own. Ideally, you can bring your support system with you, such as if you’re married or have a long-term partner. However, you can also create a support system here by connecting with other students, faculty, and professionals.
A good support system can help you in the following ways:
- Emotional support: The stress of medical school can make a lot of students homesick, even beyond their first year. If you have kids or family that come with you, you can make your home anywhere, especially on the beautiful Leeward Islands. However, remember you can create your own sense of home by cultivating good friendships while you’re in school.
- Task support: With such a necessary focus on studying, many students find simple tasks like cooking healthy meals, cleaning, and paying bills easily fall by the wayside. Whether you band together with another group of students or have a family to help you, find a way to delegate many of these tasks so you can focus on your success.
- Work–life balance: Don’t forget that your mind needs rest to absorb what you’re learning. Find a group of people you can have fun with and enjoy the time you’re not studying to care for your mental health.
Prioritize Time Management
On average, most medical students find themselves studying between eight to 12 hours a day. An Olympic athlete trains about the same amount, but the average person probably isn’t used to such commitment.
What was Kelly’s secret? She learned how to study smarter, not harder.
She found that some days, she could study as little as seven hours while still optimizing her learning. She also stresses it’s important to take days off and give your mind time to process the information.
Most people can’t focus on studying for eight to 12 hours a day, and even as an Olympic athlete, Kelly found she had to work hard to improve her focus. Maintaining focus is even harder when you experience setbacks, but Kelly reminds everyone that’s a muscle you can develop.
To help you develop and maintain concentration, remind yourself what you love about medical school and how it can help you achieve your long-term goals.
Find a Mentor
Much like an athlete requires a coach, a successful medical education requires a mentor. Find an established professional you trust and communicate well with, and let them help you through your medical training.
Start Your Journey Toward a Successful Medical Career Today
At Saint James School of Medicine, we work to provide all our students with a clear path to success. Whether you’re attending medical school for an MD, Ph.D., or another degree, we help you find the support system you need for the career of your dreams.
Read our other articles so you can go from a successful student to an outstanding graduate.