If you have taken any of the USMLE exams yet, you probably know that time goes by quite fast and it is a major stressor on your exams. The USMLE exams contain questions that are purposely long and drawn out in order to make you stumble, take too much time, and ultimately fail the exam.
Have you ever noticed how some people seem to fly through their exams with time to spare? If you are one of these people, then you already know the secret, if you are someone who takes their time and has experienced this problem, or you just want to learn how to get through each question much smoother and faster, then read on to find out how it’s done.
How well you answer a question is dependent on knowing exactly what the test writer is asking. Unfortunately, the questions are filled with plenty of distractors and your job is to pick through them and figure out what is relevant and what is garbage.
Secret #1 – Look at the last line of the question first
The first key to answering the USMLE questions as fast as possible is to look at the actual question that is sitting right atop the answers. Sometimes you will get lucky and the actual question can be answered without even looking at the stem of the question. Some of the most popular “questions” you will see are as follows:
– What is the next best step?
– What is the most accurate diagnostic test?
– Which of the following is the most likely diagnosis?
You can tell from these questions exactly what you will need to know. If for example you look at the question and it says “what is the gold standard for making the diagnosis”, then all you have to do is browse the question stem, figuring out which disease is being described (sometimes they will even tell you the disease), and simply answer the question. Now an important note is that in order to get the most out of this method of approaching question is to really know your material, but this is assumed.
So there you have Secret #1 – Look at the very last line of the question stem first and foremost, which will help direct your frame of mind when reading the body of the question.
Secret #2 – Take a quick look at the theme of the answers
A lot of people won’t recommend you do this, but it will work wonders in saving you time in answering the question. For example, a question may look as though it is all about a certain disease, let’s say for example rheumatoid arthritis, and as you read through your brain is thinking of rheumatoid arthritis and nothing else, but then you get to the answers, and they have nothing to do with rheumatoid arthritis. For this reason, take a quick look at the answers, you will notice that 9 times out of 10 there is a theme or pattern, such as an antibody test, an inflammatory marker, etc.
All that is required is a two-second glance at the answers, just so you can shift your thought process and link the actual question being asked, the answer options, and the body of the actual question.
These two secrets can help you shave 5-10 minutes off of each block of questions you do on the USMLE examinations, and if you have ever taken a USMLE and gotten that warning window, you know how precious a few extra minutes can be.
These secrets are no substitute for hardcore studying and question bank practice, but they can help you tremendously in attaining a top score, and if you are an average test-taker, or you’ve struggled in the past, this extra time can help you grab and extra 10-20 points on your USMLE exams.