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Passed 1st attempt! My CS experience

Thankfully, I have cleared my step 2 CS with high performances in all three sections. This forum was somewhat helpful for me so I wanted to give back by posting my thoughts and experience.

I did CS in 2 weeks. Prior to that, I had zero knowledge about the exam, the books, references, test-taking recommendations. I talked to a few friends who had recently taken the test on day 1 and started practicing on SPs. My advice is short and simple: Practice as much as you can. I feel 2 weeks is more than enough for this exam, provided you are "somewhat" fluent in English. The examiners do not see if you asked all the right questions or if you did all the pertinent examinations. Missing things here and there will not get you failed. Only
MAJOR errors fail you, for example, if you are grossly impolite or if you forget to wash your hands on a number of occasions. So the first step is to stop panicking and build your confidence.

So in my 2 weeks, I spent the first 7-8 days in doing about 50 cases twice both as an SP and as a physician. (This can be done a lot quicker, I can say this because we wasted a lot of time). Once you do this, you will find yourself with a reflex on most things. The last 5-6 days you just spend fine-tuning your errors and managing time and also enhancing your self-condifidence. I only learnt a couple of basic mnemonics like PAMHUGSFOSS and LIQOPRAA and sometimes FNVTTT. Review of systems I used to do head to toe if I felt was necessary to ask. Before my encounter, I would spend at least 30 to 50 seconds to come up with as many differentials as I could for the chief complaint and than would focus my questions on that. For examination, I started with the focused examination and I have to admit I sacrificed on the physical to leave more time for a thorough closure. I did not learn any cliché sentences for opening or closing and would just say whatever felt natural at that moment. I never picked up an ophthalmoscope even for the diabetic or hypertensive patients as quite frankly it felt low yield in the larger scheme of things. Now for the timing part, that takes the most practice and while practicing I would try and finish in 13 minutes. By the end of 2 weeks, I was able to finish a case within 13 minutes 70-80% of the time. On test day however, even once I was done with my encounter, I would rather stay in the room and chat with the examiner/SP, talking about counseling or answering any further questions he/she may have. Even if the SP said I answered all his questions, I would chose to spend more time with him/her and just talk. This was contrary to my fellow test-takers who were coming out well before time and I understand it can make you a bit anxious. But the way I saw it, I had no trouble in my typing speed and had a truckload of confidence that I would always finish my note within 8-9 minutes which I actually did. So I did not see the point in giving extra time to just ONE sub-section of the ICE section which itself is one of the three overall sections that you must pass separately. The other 2 subsections though are solely based on your encounter with the SP.

P.S. I'm sure I missed stuff here. I'll keep updating as I remember.

REMEMBER:
1) Do not invest time in self-studying and memorizing. Practice is the only thing you need.
2) Make your practice cases perfect. Do not linger back or compromise on even the slightest things. Fix all those slips of tongue, time managing problems, important maneuvers that you frequently forget etc. Whatever you have practiced will be reciprocated on test day.
3) Make sure you always write down the SP's name on your sheet. Forgetting the name is a gross error.
4) Invest HEAVILY on opening and closure. This exam is not about your clinical knowledge but about your clinical SKILLS. Your rapport with the SP will decide your result.
5) Learn to self-assess yourself well. Do not rely heavily on others to tell you where you stand. Your own self-confidence should be high before taking the exam.
6) Don't waste your valuable money in taking ridiculously expensive crash courses. Find a serious SP and just practice!
7) While writing your notes, especially physical exam findings, remember that it is safer to be "generally correct" rather than being "specifically incorrect". For example, it is better to write "right sided chest pain" rather than "chest pain in 4th intercostal space".

Happy to answer any questions. Goodluck everyone.
 
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