USMLE Step 1 Exam – Preparing For The Pathology Component Of The Exam

The USMLE Step 1 Exam is tough not only because the material is challenging, but because the sheer volume of information is mind-boggling. One of the most voluminous, if the most voluminous topic you have to master is Pathology. Pathology encompasses everything else you learn in medicine, so not only do you have to know the direct material you will learn in your path class, but you will have to remember every bit of Path from your other courses also.

Because the sheer volume makes mastering this topic challenging, I have outlined what I feel were the TOP 5 tips I was given when preparing for my own Step 1 exam as it relates to mastering the Pathology portion:

#1 – Use charts and diagrams

Charts that list major problems along with their features as well as diagrams doing the same thing are fantastic tools for turning a lot of information into more manageable chunks. Don’t be afraid to turn almost everything into a chart and/or diagram as long as it makes things more organized and easier for you to comprehend and master.

#2 – Start making notes from day 1 of class on all pathologies encountered

From the first day of medical school you will encounter pathologies, so figure out a way to make note of every single one. Whether you use a certain highlighting color or you jot it down into a separate book, make note of every pathology you see so that come USMLE prep time you’ll have it all in one convenient locations.

#3 – Link path and physio = pathophysiology

A large number of questions on the Step 1 exam will be related to pathophysiology processes, so do yourself a favor and be sure that you understand normal physiology very well, which will enable you to also understand any and all pathophysiology.

#4 – For similar pathologies, create a table noting major differences

Simply put, many things will present in a very similar fashion, so when it comes to these pathologies be sure you have a table that clearly states the major differences. This will enable you to quickly and easily identify the correct answers on your exam when they are thrown at you.

#5 – Find at least THREE pictures for all major pathologies

Whether it is an image of a cleft lip, a basal cell carcinoma, or a histological slide of Burkitt’s lymphoma, be sure to get at least three images of each pathology because often times they have slight differences, and if you have only seen it once then it can prove to be a major challenge for you to identify what you are looking at on your Step 1 exam.

Writing the Killer Essay for an Exam without Killing Your Roommate

Many of you are thanking the “test gods” because you just found out that your final exam is a multiple choice with some true and false, but others are down in the dumps because they are having an essay exam. Don’t fret — Professor Cram is here to help you out.

Most people fear the essay exam because they are required to write about things they may not know, but actually the opposite is true. Essays are an opportunity to speak about what you do know. Most essay exams will have several questions to choose from and if you have been attending and participating in class then there ought to be something in the exam questions that you know a little about. Before we start on writing the essay, though, let’s back up a bit and look at how best to prepare for an essay exam.

To properly prepare for a killer essay exam, first review your materials (class notes, textbook, assigned reading) and pick out key ideas, such as areas to compare and contrast or significant events. Take these key ideas and develop outlines for each one, consisting of a thesis statement and at least three to four logical statements that support your thesis statement. Back up each of these statements with supporting evidence. (This may sound like a lot of work but, after all, proper studying is work.) Print these out and use them as a study sheet to review before your test.

Remember, the goal of an essay exam is to find out how well you can communicate your understanding of a particular subject. Many exams are “compare and contrast” varieties, or demand descriptions of certain significant events, but they all want you to take a position and defend it. Success or failure on the test, in turn, depends on how well you defend your statements with supporting evidence.

When the essay questions are passed out during exam time, take time to read through each question and mark the ones you are interested in answering. For each one, write out a quick outline including a thesis statement.

Your whole essay depends on your thesis statement and it should come directly from the question your instructor presented. The opening paragraph should include your thesis, your position, and how you are going to defend your position. It should be a concise version of your outline. Once you have written the first paragraph it is time for the rest to follow.

Take a deep breath and then begin to write your essay according to your outline. It is important to stay focused on defending your thesis statement. Instructors can see right through rambling gibberish. Most instructors already have certain points they will be looking for in your essay, but don’t worry — stick with what you know and can defend.

After you have completed the first draft of your essay, stop and re-read it. Look for fragmented sentences and misspellings, and make your corrections. Add in a few words or statements if you think of more, but remember that a concise well written essay is always better than a lot of ramblings and no support.

The key to writing essay for exams is preparation and a calm attitude. Instructors are not necessarily looking for you to be an expert on the issue but they do want you to present a precise logical answer.