I want to offer you guys a few thoughts that came up from working with many IMGs in the past. Keep in mind that study style and habits should be tailored to each individual. That said, there are some generalizations I invite you to consider:
• Sometimes, it's not the test taking skills, it's the knowledge fund. Begin with an assessment of where you stand. Be honest with yourself, what your weaknesses and strengths are. Many US medical schools provide student with an NBME-developed exam that assesses competencies for each subject. If you do not have access to these exams, the next best thing is a diagnostic exam (either from NBME or from private companies such as USMLE world).
• Be reasonable. If you are an International Medical Graduate who has been practicing medicine for over 10 years, chances are you will need more of a refresher for basic science subjects like biochemistry and physiology.
• Use questions as a learning tool. Do not worry about “percent correct” until the end of your preparation.
•Life does not stop. Provide some flexibility in your schedule because emergencies do happen while you study for step 1.
Maintain some balance in your life. Go to the gym, see your friends and family. The test is challenging, but it does not require shutting yourself off to the rest of the world. In fact, if you are studying full-time (> 8 hrs per day), I would encourage you to take a half day off a week, and at least one full-day off every 4 weeks. Burn out does not make you do better on tests.
• It may be impractical if you have a full-time job, but if it is at all possible, 6-8 weeks of intensive full time studying is better than 6 months of studying 2-3 hours a day. Imagine you are training for an Olympic event. The optimal preparation is to intensively focus your time and energy on the test with as few distractions as possible. This is much more easily accomplished when you are not drawing it out over 6 months. Also, many subjects – including microbiology and pharmacology – require knowing short-term recall information like adverse side effects or the name of a particular culture. These minutiae do not tend to stick in our brain very long (see below).
• A corollary to the previous point is that your final run through of pharmacology and microbiology should occur very close to the test date.
• Dual N-back: This may seem silly, but multiple peer-review studies have
suggested that playing certain type of game improve fluid intelligence. If you google Dual N-back, you can find several (free) websites where you can train online. (Also app on iPhone if you prefer that route.) I personally think the result
was well worth the 10 minutes that I spent on it each morning.
Good luck with the test