-Written by Dr.Yashant

And as I stepped into the elevator for the Prometric center, I was no longer alone, the worrisome palpitations came along. However, the daily mental conditioning that I would do well and a few deep breaths helped me get rid of them. At the reception of the Prometric center, I got my documents (valid id, scheduling permit an appointment letter from Prometric center) verified and was handed over a plastic bag to keep eatables and a locker key for my belongings.
USMLE step 1 examI then entered a hall that led to the testing zone. The hall had a separate table for keeping the eatables. I put chocolates, wafers in the plastic bag and kept them on the table along with water, a glucose drink, and an energy drink. Before entering the testing zone, I made sure to visit the restroom- the reason being twofold:
first, I wanted to know how far and in which direction it was located and second, I had initially planned to take a break after 2 blocks so I never wanted to be bothered by diuretic effect of the energy drink consumed earlier in the morning. Since I am a little more sensitive to cold temperatures, I was wearing a hoodie and shoes.

At USMLE Step 1 exam day – the hall, the testing zone and a security check interposition

  • They verified my id and checked my clothes, pockets, socks and spectacles.
  • They finally took my fingerprints and generated a unique code which I was instructed to write on 2 blank sheets meant for rough work.
  • I then signed for myself and put in a sign-in time and headed to the cubicle designated to me.
  • I entered the unique code to access the examination.
  • Since I wanted to add 15 minutes of my tutorial to the break time (as I had already watched the tutorial available on the link http://orientation.nbme.org/webfred/#!/main), all I did was checking my audio headphones and skipped the remainder of the tutorial.
  • There were noise reduction headphones as well but I preferred having my audio headphones put on all times because I never wanted to waste time in switching the headphones.
  • I took a few deep breaths and began my block 1.

Starting with USMLE step 1 exam block 1

Question by question my confidence kept boosting up until I reached a biostatistics question, a rather simple one; but I forgot the formula. I marked it and moved ahead. However, the nagging thought of not being able to crack it kept lingering since I was good at biostatistics and it was a very basic formula.

After completing the remainder of the questions, I returned to this marked question. I kept trying to recall the formula until at the very end of 60 minutes. I, however, could not recall and was frustrated. I kept sitting at my place to take a small break of 2 to 3 minutes as I had originally thought. But suddenly I stood up, grabbed my passport and left my chair for a bigger break- a last minute change!

I signed off for myself, put exit time, walked briskly to the restroom, stretched my arms and legs, came back hopping, entered the hall, munched a piece of chocolate, sipped my energy drink and headed to the testing zone. This entire exercise helped me vent off that uneasy feeling I had after not being able to answer the biostatistics question.

Starting with USMLE step 1 exam block 2

Before I could enter the testing zone for 2nd block, the security check began all over again- a fact I was unaware of. It was annoying as it was time-consuming. Finally, before entering the testing zone, I had to sign in and put the time. To my utter surprise, this entire break took just 6 minutes! And I realized that even if I took a break after every block (i.e., 6 more breaks), I would be utilizing 35 – 40 minutes of my break time and would have the benefit of beginning each block afresh.

As per my original strategy, I would take a 10 minutes’ break after every 2 blocks and 15 to 20 minutes’ lunch break after the 4th or 5th block. What I realized was if I ate a piece of chocolate every hour I would not feel hungry. Secondly, even on a routine day, I had a gap of 6 to 7 hours between my breakfast and lunch. So I stuck to the newer strategy.

Again, before beginning the 2nd block, I took a couple of deep breaths. When the block was finished, I kept my spectacles at my desk since even those were being checked each time. I moved outside the testing zone, followed the same sequence of events: visiting rest room followed by munching a piece of chocolate; the difference this time was I had already pulled up my sleeves, drawn my pockets inside-out, raised my pants, lowered my socks while munching the chocolates.

Remaining blocks

This multitasking helped streamline the security check and this break amounted to 4 minutes. I then followed the same strategy of taking a break after each block, leaving my glasses at the desk and being prepared for the security check each time.

Taking frequent breaks kept me fresh until the very end of my 8th block. I could concentrate well and a continuous supply of glucose and caffeine kept me energetic. The exam was certainly doable and I was content with the way I performed.