InsideTheBoards for the USMLE, COMLEX & Medical School

ITB Exam Strategy Advice: Kaplan Test Prep Minutes

June 2, 2018

ITB Exam Strategy Advice: Kaplan Test Prep Minutes

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Collection of Kaplan Test Prep Minutes (it's one big file, so listen all the way through). The segments cover how: 

- Students always ask the lecturers, Will that be on the test?' but really individual lecturers in a course have little idea what will be on the test outside of their own subspecialty. A group of 5 students can often do a better job of estimating what will be on the test than any one faculty. So how is an exam constructed?

- The exam writers have discovered they don't need to write trick questions to make the exam hard. They've also discovered that when they write trick questions, they are no longer testing medical knowledge but rather puzzle solving. Being a good puzzle solver is useful as a doctor, but it isn't all they want to see before they hand someone their medical license." So what are the USMLE writers trying to do?

- Exam writers struggle with creating realistic scenarios that require problem solving to test medical knowledge in context, without the item becoming a matter of reading speed. Until they solve this, it will remain useful to have a system for reading items to maintain efficiency and also to practice long blocks of timed items to build stamina.

- Students mistakenly think if they have 'just a little bit more time' to study that will gain them a few critical points. But everyone will reach a point of diminishing returns where the amount of knowledge being added is less than the amount of knowledge being forgotten. That's because trying to keep up the same grueling pace over many weeks will eventually lead to study fatigue making knowledge gains less efficient. We talk about the law of diminishing returns as it relates to preparing for an exam.

- What about updates to guidelines or new, publicized changes to practice? There are three kinds of breaking news that effect licensure exam content. One is generated by the licensure exam writing organization. These are typically based on curriculum and educational trends in the US. There is no way to know if these announcements represent a new initiative, in which case it will be 6 to 18 months before items appear on the exam, or the culmination of an effort already well along, in which case items could potentially appear immediately on exams. The truth probably lies somewhere in between with these items appearing sooner but not immediately."

- If licensure exams are about problem solving then is there a place for straight memorization? The short answer is yes, but only as it increases your vocabulary around which you build a structure of knowledge.

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