On a tale of eight data points (or Step One: a post-mortem)

20170203CBSE178
20170401CBSSA Form 16175
20170409CBSSA Form 15203
20170412CBSE205
20170416CBSSA Form 18192
20170422CBSSA Form 17205

UWorld 56% (cumulative correct)

20170519Step One209

I felt fairly confident going into Step that I would pass. That feeling was correct. For some administrative reason, the National Board of Medical Examiners held scores for all medical students across the country until this past Wednesday, June 28th.

My partner took it with me at the same testing center on the same day and she ended up getting the same score. A very different path to the same outcome. She had struggled with assessments and felt a steady state of anxiety until she discovered that she passed.

Her scores show a solid upward trend toward her final score of 209. This reflected her hard work and grit to pass this first board examination. It came at a cost, though: managing stress became a major focal point for both of us as we approached test day.

Myself, on the other hand, I seemed to stagnant right around the 200s. I had a few assessments that dipped below the passing mark early on in my Dedicated Step Prep mode, but they never wavered too far off of my eventual 209. Part of me knows that I could have done better. I could have spent more time hunched over a computer screen to grind away on the UWorld qbank and less time caring for myself.

A score of 209 lands me in the 17th percentile when compared to all medical students. Honestly, this sits a bit oddly with me and I know this is the ego talking. I self-identify as a good test-taker. My childhood was filled with SAT prep courses and numerous cracks at the standardized test for various summer camps. I performed well on the MCAT with a 36. Yet, I struggled to pass the course exams during the first two years of medical school. I attributed this to less-than-clear question writing.

Now, with time and perspective on my side, I can easily state that I didn’t work as hard as my peers. During the Step grind, I prioritized mental and emotional wellness over the review of materials deep into the night. When I studied, I studied hard, but when I didn’t study, I tried to brain dump and reset for the next day.

Could I have scored higher on Step? Of course. I’ve collected some data from peers to chart the various data points listed above and their trajectories to their higher scores are obvious from the February CBSE. They showed a strong first practice exam and developed steady improvement through their Dedicated Step Prep. Undoubtedly, they earned their scores.

Thinking about it now, I am still proud of my outcome. A stronger upward trend would have been preferable. But, I managed to stay steady through the manic energy of the Step grind, packing up my Florida life and unloading it in Pennsylvania. I established a home with my partner in Coopersburg and we managed to study hard without coming to emotional blows with each other. I took the exam on a Friday and managed to care for a neighbor through the worst day of his life on a Saturday.

What would the cost of a higher score have been? Would an additional ten points be worth three arguments with my partner? How about fifteen points to further deteriorate my physical practice and my long-term posture? Would I trade my presence of mind during a life-or-death situation for a 240 and slightly better odds for my residency match?

I know that I will end up where I need to be. This score is more than sufficient to carry me to my future of healing and changing the paradigms of mental and emotional health. After all, if I sacrificed my own wellness for a three-digit number on the road to healing, is that sending the right message to future generations of physicians?


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3 thoughts on “On a tale of eight data points (or Step One: a post-mortem)

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