By Luke Murray
Click here for part 1 of this series.
Step 2CK, in contrast to Step 1, is really NOT about figuring out ‘how to study,’ or at least, it shouldn’t be. We have hopefully, through trial, error, and feedback, figured out how to study for a Step exam already. What IS different with Step 2CK when compared to Step 1 is the importance of planning. Yes, it’s also extremely important to plan out how you’ll attack Step 1, but most of us have time off to study. Consequently, when our study plans don’t match our study reality there’s enough buffer to still accomplish our goals.
In contrast, when you’re supposed to be studying for Step 2CK, you also have the challenges of residency applications and scheduling and attending interviews. This, coupled with the fact that you have much less time ‘off’ to study and will need to do much of your studying during rotations, means that you’ll sink (and be constantly stressed) if you don’t have your ducks in a row. I know this, because I did exactly zero of the things listed below and wished countless times during my fourth year that I had followed this exact advice. Fourth year was far from a vacation for me. In fact it was just as stressful of a med school year as any other, exactly because I did not do the following.
- Get step 2 CS out of the way first. – I talked about this in an earlier post. Prepping for this will help you study for CK & will take the mental burden of studying for two tests out of your head. You can take them as early as June. One of my classmates took it within a week of finishing first year. I took it two weeks before Step 2CK. In mid-December. While I was still on an away rotation trying to make a good impression. I was even cramming for it on the airplane there and the day of. Needless to say, it cut into my Step 2 CK studying and was an unnecessary amount of stress, stuck in the back of my mind, from July-December. Check out your institution’s rules about scheduling Step 2 CS to see if you can take it early.
- Get your residency applications submitted and finalized as early as possible – I cannot overstate the importance of this. Turning them in one month, or even one week later than as early as possible is important not only because interviews at some programs are offered on a rolling basis, but also because there will be more dates available to choose from. This gives you the ability to make sure you have time set aside for Step 2 CK prep. I turned my applications in a couple weeks after the earliest possible date. It really limited my options, and, again, increased my stress. And with that in mind…
- Interviews. Don’t mess with these. Their importance & preparation deserves an entire series of posts, if not its own book, but suffice it to say you shouldn’t be studying anywhere around this time. Step 2CK is much less important than your Step 1 score (which the interviewer already knows), and even if you do well on Step 2CK, if you blow your interview as a result, then it doesn’t matter. I did the majority of my interviews with Step 2CK still not completed, and I’m sad to admit that I would sometimes bring and even glance through my First Aid for Step 2CK while on an interview trip, instead of practicing my answers to the likely questions. I originally planned on taking it in late August, but I trained for & ran an ironman triathlon – a great feeling to check something like that off the bucket list, but I should have been focused on other, more pressing bucket list goals, like matching at a top choice.
I made plenty of other mistakes in prepping for Step 2CK, but it you can just avoid the three above, you should do much better on the test & experience much less stress in the process.