Step 3, as mentioned, is two glorious days of overpriced MCQ (and case scenario) pwnage. Ostensibly, I could be using this time to review notes and antibiotics and such, so instead, I'm blogging while my powder-pink toenail polish dries, cuz priorities.
The stress level has significantly decreased over the course of the exams, as, weirdly, my distance from the exam center. This feature is unrelated, but just kind of nifty.
Step 1: As an IMG (also AMGs, but not half as much), this exam makes or breaks you. It is stressed again and again how well you need to do, and specifically how well you need to do relative to your AMG cousins. It was a nightmare to study for. My hours were long but poorly planned, spent frequently skipping from reading textbook to textbook over the course of about three months during which I was not tasked with doing much else. I had the all important "unintentional weight loss", the anhedonia, the overwhelming stress, the blood pressures that jumped to about 160/105 regularly toward the end. I was crashed out in North Carolina, far from fellow sufferers. Dressed in whatever filthy rags I scraped together, drove an hour and a half to Greenville to the exam, and sleepwalked through it while running to my locker at every break, trying to eat something, and cramming Red Bull. Got my foam earplugs taken away and got distracted by my heartbeat for the whole thing. Walked out feeling numb and apathetic. Did well.
Step 2 CS: Not so stressed about this one, since... pathology. Also, no score other than P/F. I don't really count it among the classic Steps, since it's not the standard "Prometric" center. If it didn't cost as much as a 60" LCD TV, it could be fun. Practiced for a week with hilarious results, flew to Houston, stayed with my lovely family, had my uncle iron my white coat because I'm useless at household anything, wore nice clothes because it's required, saw fake patients, had a nice lunch, saw more fake patients, and hung out in Spring, TX. Groovy.
Step 2 CK: Important, yet somewhat less so unless you have to compensate for Step 1. An hour longer so you really reach the "hit the wall" feeling. Living up my little hedonistic lifestyle in New York with my similarly hedonistic med student roommate. Took about seven weeks off rotations to study, which later translated into a long loan-check-less summer. Studied alternately at home and at the new Brooklyn Bridge park.
Studied a reasonable number of hours a day, did not obsess over tons of textbooks, and pretty much just stuck to UWorld while making sure to rush downstairs to Maria's with regularity to get my evening cocktail. Finally moved the exam up about a week and a half because I was tired of studying for it. Took the subway and strolled to the exam at lunch time. Jeans and a (probably) clean t-shirt with a (maybe clean?) sweater. Due to the nature of the testing center, had to sneak food into the bathroom and hastily consume sandwiches and Red Bull. Walked out feeling numb. Did well.
Step 3: Seriously. If you're not trying to get a competitive IM fellowship, just pass the stupid thing. You have a job. If you're a pathology resident, try to not be stupid and take it early in your first year. If you're a path resident and your program doesn't force you to take it your first year, for gods sake man, take it early in your first year. The stories I've heard. Took a week off (paid!!!) during which I also worked on presentations that are moderately more stressful since I actually have to impress my colleagues. On other weeks, did quite a bit of studying in the form of QBank on my iPhone and perusing flashcards by the pool. Made time last week for this:
And no, that's not me, though I certainly wish it were. You can't let studying interfere with the *annual* southeastern beard and mustache festival.
Half through so far. At the testing center, they were super friendly, encouraged me to bring my foam earplugs (WAHOO), and were like "Oh, have a cup of coffee", and referred to me as "Doctor" or "Doc" about fifty kajillion times, which, kinda awesome. Didn't feel rushed on breaks. Had lunch at a normal hour, no Red Bull (wha?), and ate it out in the sunshine. Walked out feeling.. fine? Staff encouraged me to come back nearly an hour early tomorrow so I'm out sooner. Can't lie, I don't miss the stress.
Not that this means I'm doing well. It could mean quite the opposite. Especially since it's soooo long. I think it's so long that you don't dedicate as much mental energy to it because you're just "blah blah blah... uhh.. C. Sure."
But the constant crushing career-rides-on-this, every day you take is money lost feeling is gone and good frigging riddance to it for three more wonderful years until the monster that is the double day dual certification AP/CP path board exams that our glorious leaders are currently suffering through.
But tomorrow... tomorrow.... the end of the USMLE cycle for EVER tomorrow.