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Old 03-08-2012
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Smile Dr-Ahmed Step 2 CK Experience

I just received my CK examination results. I got 240/83 (240/99 according to the old scoring system)
I’ll be writing my complete experience in details hoping this will inspire someone else as many of the other group members inspired me and helped me a lot through my CK preparation.

Well let’s start then : When I decided to start my USMLE journey I decided to start it with Step 2 CK so it was the first step to give.

- First I started reading Kaplan lecture notes (around 1400 pages) along with watching Kaplan DVDs (around 142 hours).
N.B: I divided Kaplan lecture notes into small parts ( each of 20 – 30 pages according to the studied subject ) and used to consume one part per day along with its corresponding part of the DVDs. However I used to read the parts from the lecture notes first before watching the DVDs just to have an idea about what I’m going to watch on DVDs and I want to tell you, this helped me a lot. While reading the lecture notes I used to mark the vague areas and strange concepts to me so that I can know where to bay extra attention while watching the DVDs .I spent a long time doing that as there were some interruptions as I used to study while doing my internship but to be fair I guess your first reading of the lecture notes will take you about 2 months to finish them if you study full-time.

- After finishing the lecture notes along with the DVDs I began to work on Kaplan Qbook (from my own point of view it’s worthless SO don’t waste your time on it )

- I heard about the new legendary book >> MTB “ Master The Board “ written by Dr Conrad Fischer so I decided to have a look at it ,, I liked the book so decided to finish it till the end (it’s around 560 pages ) but it it’s written in such an attractive way that never makes you bored of reading it and it’s really focused to the high yield concepts specially in the section of internal medicine specially cardiology.
The advantages : The book covers Internal Medicine, Pediatrics and Psychiatry very well.
The disadvantages : The book is deficient in Obst & Gyne and in Surgery as well, SO don’t rely on it in the previously mentioned subjects.

- I committed the worst thing in my entire preparation after finishing MTB which is doing Kaplan Qbank 2008 off-line. Unfortunately I discovered the mistake I did too late. The mistake is not doing the Qbank itself but it’s doing it off-line.
Off-line Kaplan Qbank (untimed) Performance:
-Total Qs: 2305 Qs.
-Average score: 53%
-Average time: 72 min / block

- I did Kaplan Qbank online for 2 months. Which I recommend to do in timed subject wise during reading you lecture notes after finishing each subject of the curriculum.
-On-line Kaplan Qbank (timed) Performance:
-Average score: 59%
-My personal impression: Kaplan Qbank is a great tool for study. The questions are long (but not as long as the real exam yet they are longer than UW and that’s why Kaplan Qbank learns you how to manage your time in a better way than UW and that helped me a lot when I started UW so that I had no problem in time management).

- I decided to do one of the NBME forms just to have an idea about where my performance falls on the scale so I decided to do NBME form 2. I got 360/197 and I was shocked as I expected something above 200 but it was okay for me after that. Based on the previous score I realized that I need to work harder and harder and that took me to the next level of my CK preparation.

- After the unexpected NBME form 2 score I decide to recap my Kaplan lecture notes and MTB again (it was my 2nd and last reading of my lecture notes and the 2nd reading of MTB). I spent about 5 weeks doing that with extensive note gathering from both the lecture notes and MTB (This is a must and I say again this is a must and I’ll tell you the reason later on).

- I subscribed to UW online and started my first round. I did 100% of the questions in random and timed mood. I got an average score of 65% and I was on the 71st percentile. UW is a must and you should do it not only once but twice. It contains high yield questions and concepts and believe me when I tell you that about 75% of my real exam came from it. It took me about 40 days to finish it. In the normal situations you can do 1.5 to 2 blocks per day and you can finish it in a month if you worked hard on it. I used to gather notes when doing it for the first time and I also gathered notes while doing it for the 2nd time (I’ll tell you later why)

- After my 1st round with UW I wanted again to know where I stand SO I decided to do UWSA and I got 490/216 and again I was shocked as I expected something at least above 220 but let me tell you something. Honestly I got panicked while doing it and this explains my bad performance during the first 2 blocks ( got 50 – 56 respectively ) and then ( got 75 – 70 in the last 2 blocks respectively ) and that relieved me a little ( as an advice try to do UWSA close to the time of the examination it’s a Black Jack so don’t burn it early just like I did).

- I decided to do a crucial step in my preparation which is focusing in my weak points (there’s no benefit in reading the materials again and again just because you feel comfortable to read what you know, you should work on the weak areas which make you uncomfortable while reading them ). I analyzed the reports of Kaplan Qbank, NBME 2, UW and UWSA and came out with the weakest areas which were in descending order of weakness according to the analyzed reports ( Mental disorders – Endocrinology – Nephrology - Growth & development ). I studied the previous subjects from both the Internal medicine and Pediatrics lecture notes and you know what! It worked for me (see next to know how)

- I then decided to do NBME 4 (the hardest among them all). There were 2 reasons for that
-1st I wanted to know again if my performance improved or not.
- 2nd I wanted to know if I needed to postpone my exam or It’s okay to keep going as my exam was decided to be after 33 days at this point (note that you can postpone your exam for free if you did that 31 days before your exam date NOT including the exam date itself)
Anyway I did NBME 4 and got 490/228 and finally I knew I was on the right track (A friend of mine told me since this is the hardest form, add 10 points to it and that would be your score in the exam, and he was right because after modifying it, it would be 238 which is too close to my actual score 240).

- I had already started my 2nd round of UW about 2 weeks before doing NBME 4 but this time I did 2 blocks per day and even 2.5 blocks per day sometimes. I reviewed both the right and wrong questions not only the wrong ones. The score of the 2nd round alone was 79% and the average score of both the 1st and 2nd rounds was 72% on the 78th percentile. While doing my 2nd round I also gathered notes for the 2nd time BUT this time I gathered notes from the questions I got wrong for the 2nd time mostly and that was a sign that I had a problem with that concept which I got wrong even after doing it twice (Also I’ll tell you later why).

- After finishing my 2nd round in UW I had 2 weeks till the exam time.

-In the last 2 weeks before the exam ( which I think the most critical area of my preparation ) I did 2 things:
• 1st I read the notes I gathered from My Kaplan lecture notes (the 2n reading), my 1st & 2nd rounds in UW and from MTB (the 2nd reading) and honestly speaking it helped me a lot that’s why I told you previously that It was a must because this is the concentrated extract that you need to review just before the exam and it was one of the best things I did for my preparation.
• 2nd I read MTB for the 3rd time and I would say it was beneficial to me too.

-2 days before the exam:

I did the free USMLE practice test and I got 76% (a score above 80% is reassuring )

-1 day before the exam (including the night of the exam):

• I travelled to the city in which Amideast center is located.
• Stayed at a hotel (don’t travel the exam morning).
• I visited the nearby Amideast center to check on the validity of my papers (My passport which was my ID and the scheduling permit).
• Bought a turkey sandwich (my lunch in the exam day), a lot of snickers, Red bull (A must but you shouldn’t try it for the first time in the day of the exam, fresh orange juice and cocktail juice.
• Relaxed.
• Ate a lot.
• Tried to make a rapid review and closed the book after 5 minutes (Don’t try it and don’t open anything related to study that day. Believe me you will never add anything to what you already know).
• I didn’t’ try to take a nap (although I was exhausted from the travel) instead I kept awake until it’s around 10:00 p.m when I went to sleep.
• I wake up 4 times at the night of the exam 3 times due to night mares (By the way I never have neither good nor bad dreams during sleeping so if it happened to you just know it’s most probably normal as it happened to others ) and once when it was time for pray.

-The exam day:

• Finally I walked up at 7:30 a.m , took a worm bath, dressed in comfortable clothes, again checked on my papers and packed the supply.
• I reached the exam center at 8:30 a.m and waited in the break room for about 30 min (I took my iPad with me, logged into Face book and had a nice conversation with the other examinee). At 9:00 a.m they began to call for the CK examinees one by one with 10 min interval in between to avoid the overcrowding at times of signing in and out in between the blocks.
• My name was called and I stepped into the examination hall.

 You will be given a locker with a key and you are supposed to save all of your stuff inside the locker and literally everything SO that all what remains with you is your clothes (with your pockets empty), your ID and your permit.
 They will ask you for your ID and permit. Then they will tell you about the system of the exam in brief.
 Then you will be pictured, will sign some papers (make sure you have your signature on your ID ) and given 2 markers and 2 sheets with your CIN number on one of them (review your CIN number with the observers as they are hand-written and you may enter it in the wrong way sometimes leading to waste of time).
 So you will get into the exam room with the following: your ID, your locker key, 2 markers and 2 sheets and nothing else.
 I then went into the exam room, wrote my CIN and started my 1st block which is the tutorial. I skipped the tutorial but it’s important to check the headphones before skipping it as some cases of broken headphones were recorded leading to unnecessary waste of time.
 There also you will have ear plugs, please use them as you will hear millions of mouse clicks inside the exam room, In addition to that the observers seem to wear shoes made of metals so when they get into the exam room and walk around the hitting sound of their shows will drive you crazy.
 I took a break after every single block ranging from 5 to 10 min except after the 6th block when I had my lunch break for about 20 min in which I went to pray and eat. During the other short breaks you can go to the bathroom with some snacks and juices, wash your face, move your body ( I jumped like a monkey inside the bathroom ) and ate and drank a little then went back to the exam room (as an advice take a stop watch with you and keep it in the locker, whenever you go for a break run it so that you can accurately know the consumed break time. I wish I did that because with the stress of the exam I had a miscalculation of my break time and lost about 2 min of the time of the last block owing to that as any time consumed beyond the break time will be counted from your last block’s time ).
 Note that you are required to sign in and out each time you take a break but don’t worry, The team there is very professional and will do that rapidly.
 Note that you are required to empty your pockets too and will be checked by the metals detector each time too so avoid clothes with many pockets and metal parts to save your time.
 Don’t try to do suspicious things as this will harm you and will be reported to the authorities in charge inside the states ( you are videotaped all the time and I knew that those videos are sent to the States for security check and this is one of the reasons why there is about 3-4 weeks delay in reporting the exam results ).
• My Strategy inside the exam:

 I can’t mention any of the exam contents. I’m obligated not to do that but all I can say is that the questions’ stem is really long even longer than both Kaplan Qbank and UW so you need to learn how to read fast, how to know carefully what the question is asking for, How to note the buzz words and how to make exclusions and inclusions of the options so that you can get finally into the right answer.
 Expect anything inside the exam and I really, really mean anything (don’t worry you have a mind and you can use it to go through anything). Don’t be panicked when you see strange questions ( I myself got questions seem to be written by people living on Mars ).
 While I was doing my 2nd UW round I built a strategy that helped me a lot, let me tell you about it:
o When you have a short MCQ question go and read it in the ordinary way, try to identify the concept while reading and try to guess the answer even before having a look at the options below.
o when you have a long MCQ (which may be up to 14 lines sometimes) you have to read the last 2 lines of the question first so that you will know what is exactly needed from the main stem and be prepared to pick it up effectively and rapidly.
o Believe me there are tens of the information and distractors in the main stem and you can easily lose your way inside. Just know what is needed and go for it.
o Don’t you ever never have a look at the options below before finishing a careful reading of the question so as not to be biased.
o Always try to guess the answer yourself first. When you pick a choice you have to know that this is the right choice most of the times SO don’t change it unless you have really strong reasons to do that.
o Regarding the drug ads questions, they are the monster of the exam, leave them for the end and don’t you ever never try to waste your time on them in the middle of your block. Try to study them well from UW but honestly speaking they are that kind of uncomforting questions that you will most probably face inside the exam so try to be prepared to deal with them. Read the question first and then go to try which part of the ad can help you answer the question.

• After finishing the exam you will be given a signed paper from Amideast (that’s the proof that you attended the exam, keep it in a safe place you may need it later or you may present it as a proof that you gave this exam and waiting for the result to be disclosed while applying for a job opportunity).

- The Results: They are supposed to be disclosed on the 4th Wednesday after the exam day (in my case my exam was on Tuesday ). They will notify you by mail that your results are available on the ECFMG website. If your results weren’t disclosed on the 4th Wednesday, than it will be disclosed the next Wednesday as all the results are disclosed at 9:00 am (EST – New York time) on Wednesday in 100% of the times. If there was a delay beyond that period, call ECFMG and inquire about your score delay.
What would I do if I had the chance to do this whole thing again and how would I make benefit for the mistakes of the past ?

1) I would start my 1ry reading of Kaplan lecture notes along with the DVDs in the same way I did in a much shorter time even if I missed few things as those missed things will be mentioned and taught later on over and over again through the Qbanks.
2) I would combine MTB (1st reading) along with the 1st reading of the lecture notes.
3) I would do Kaplan Qbank online once only along with my primary study of the lecture notes in timed-subject wise after finishing each subject from the lectures and DVDs.
4) I wouldn’t for sure do Kaplan Qbook, It’s a waste of time.
5) I would do one of the NBME forms after that to get the base line performance.
6) I would do a rapid review of the lecture notes and MTB wit notes gathering before going for UW.
7) I would then go for my 1st round of UW with notes gathering.
8) Then I would focus on my weak points.
9) I would do another NBME form after that.
10) I would start the 2nd round of UW doing both the right and wrong questions with notes gathering again.
11) I would then do UWSA and may be another NBME.
12) Reaching to the final step which is reading my personal notes along with MTB (3rd reading) before going for the real exam.
13) Do the free practice test 2 days before the exam.
14) Study nothing the day before the exam and do exactly the same things I did that day.
15) Adopt the same strategy I adopted before, taking in consideration the notes I mentioned previously

N.B: Usually people pay 299$ ( which is too much )for UW as a subscription for 6 months ( which is too long as only 3 months are needed to do 2 rounds of UW )so that they will be able to reset the entire Qbank and do it again as their 2nd round. You don’t need to do that. All you need to do is to make a subscription for 3 months only with a cost of 185$ (but you will not be able to reset the Qbank). However I discovered a new way that makes you save the 115$ difference and making nearly the same benefit bypassing the need for the reset option. After you finish your 1st round and you are ready now to start your 2nr one, go and unmark all the questions you previously marked in the entire Qbank (this is quite hard but deserves to be done ). Then go to your exam #1 (for example) and mark all the questions in it. Then go to the exam creator and ask it to create a new exam for you formed of the marked questions only and set the number of items to be generated the same as the number of questions you marked in your #1 exam . The exam creator will generate exam #1 for you exactly in the same way you utilized it for the first time. This is a trick I designed and hope it will work for you too. Enjoy the 115$ difference.

Finally I want to thank all of you from the bottom of my heart. And excuse me for the lengthy article but I really wanted to provided every single piece of information to you. In my life there are people to whom I owe a lot. They helped me and provided support to me without even knowing me in personal. I want you all to remember to provide help whenever you can, Just don’t let the chain stop and be sure you will be awarded for that by a way or another. It’s just enough for me that I felt that Allah stood beside me in that long way. I want to thank my parents for the great support they provided to me. They believed in me and I worked heard so as not to let them down. They betted on me and I was never to let down those who betted on me. May Allah bless you all and good luck with your preparation. Please feel free to ask anything you need to know about.
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