Step Prep: The Aftermatch

I survived Step 1.

It still seems surreal to say it. That the seemingly insurmountable task that has been hovering over my head for such a long time is now over and done. In the past.

All that remains is the aftermath. My First Aid binder with pages ripped through their 3 hole punches, hanging out like a dog's tongue after chasing one too many frisbees. Dead highlighters on my desk. Sheets full of self-made diagrams and flowcharts. Sentences underlined in red with "QUESTION!" written next to them. My Goljan book, with its binding cracked down the middle and the second half of the "Hepatobiliary and Pancreatic Disorders" chapter hastily scotch taped back in. 3,400 QBank questions tucked somewhere in my cranium. 2,400 notecards sitting no longer of use on my laptop.

I'll post more about my experiences with my progress doing questions, taking NBMEs, and the like when I get my actual score back and know how accurately it actually projected how I'd do. But I thought I'd talk a bit about the experience of the test. My actual test day went pretty well. My immune system made one last rally and with my prophylactic DayQuil in hand I kept the congestion and runny nose at bay throughout the day. I arrived for the test a half hour early, and found myself starting the exam early at 7:40am. All those hours doing questions paid off and I found my stamina was good enough that I could bang out two hours of question blocks at a time between breaks. Time goes VERY quickly while you're taking the test. You find yourself so focused on each question that blocks can seem to fly by, and hours of the day silently tick away. Before I knew it, block 7 rolled around and I clicked that final "End Block" button and half-assed my way through the survey at the end.

What does it feel like when you step out of the testing center? It's a strange combination of exhaustion, exhilaration, and denial. It didn't sink in for almost two days that I was done. That there was no more studying to do. The day itself almost felt like just a long day of doing USMLEWorld, as the interface, pacing, and question prompts were all so similar.

But it does finally sink in. And its a great feeling when its over. The sheer amount of concentrated will it takes to study endlessly, day after day without reprieve, was honestly something I wasn't sure I had in me. Its a time filled with highs and lows. Lots of lows. Frustrations, and sometimes despair. You realize you have gone days without talking to another human being, and find yourself unable to engage in normal conversation when you do. You become robotic in your routine. Wake up, study. Eat only because you have to. Study. Sleep. Repeat.

I think if I had to sum up the entire experience it would be: I would never want to repeat it. But I'm damn glad I went through it. And now its time to sleep.