The United States Medical Licensing Examination Step 1 exam is a critical component to a student’s progression through medical training and licensing. Successful preparation for this exam is crucial, but the study strategies and skills needed for comprehensive, integrated exams such as Step 1 often differ from those needed for more focused, course-specific exams, as evidenced by the detail of questions asked. Medical students typically begin preparing for the Step 1 exam 4-6 months before the test. However, not all programs offer organized guidance in preparation for these comprehensive exams. Faculty-led review programs require a significant investment of faculty time and may not include specific test-preparation strategies and skills. In the absence of institution-sponsored programs, students often turn to commercial review books and programs or form study groups to review content. To address this gap, third- and fourth-year medical students at the Medical College of Wisconsin, with support from faculty, developed a student-led peer mentor program to support second-year students’ preparation for Step 1. This student-designed and -delivered peer-to-peer mentor program draws on natural strengths such as student camaraderie, junior students’ eagerness to interact with more advanced students, senior students’ experience with board review/test prep books, and test-taking strategies. Experienced medical students can draw on their clinical experiences to incorporate level-appropriate clinical correlations that strengthen the context for the Step 1 clinically oriented exam questions. Preparation in this manner has been shown to be beneficial to students, as evidenced by improvement in test scores.
- Review/discuss key concepts highly emphasized on board exams.
- Dissect a question stem to focus on relevant information.
- Work through clinical scenarios in a rounds setting.
- Lead small groups with various learning styles.
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