How do you learn? Educational psychologists have explored this question for years and while differences of opinion and certain aspects exist, there is a general agreement on some principles that can guide your learning and review process. Most of your USMLE review programs are guided by the following principles of learning and incidentally, you can take control of these behaviors to optimize your time of preparation for the USMLE.
Your Goal Directs Your Learning Efforts. When learning is in progress, the medical student attempts to satisfy what he sees as his need. For example, the student wishes to pass the USMLE Step 1 by achieving high scores on USMLE review practice tests. In order to achieve this goal, he participates actively in every review session and activities. This is the reason why, on the first day of your USMLE review session, mind and goal-setting is one of the first few activities. Your goal and the role of the USMLE mentors in helping you reach your goal are clearly stated with appropriate methods and strategies even on the first day.
You Must Be Ready and Motivated To Learn. Readiness and motivation are closely related. You may be ready to learn a particular skill because your body is sufficiently mature enough to learn it; but unless you are motivated, you will not learn that skill. A healthy person is ordinarily ready when he is motivated to learn. If you are ill, the stage of illness you are experiencing influences your readiness and motivation. A medical student who has just learned that he got a failing mark on initial USMLE review practice tests will not be ready or motivated to persevere score better on those practice tests until he has accepted his own responsibility in getting those low practice test scores and has recognized the need to pass all the USMLE Steps.
You Should be Physically and Emotionally Mature. The degree in which you have matured physically and emotionally will influence your readiness and motivation to learn. Physical maturity is easier to determine than emotional maturity since the former can be judged to a large extent by your chronological age. Estimating emotional maturity requires careful judgment and knowing yourself well to avoid reaching a false conclusion. Physical and emotional maturity is important to consider when you are planning your preparation for the USMLE. Your review will result to failure if you are not sufficiently mature to learn skills that you should have had read or learned previously from medical school.
To learn is to add to one's knowledge while to review is to see the things you have learned in a better way, mostly for the purpose of remembering them for future useful applications. Learning is said to have occurred when an experience changes your behavior. This change may be in certain understandings you have gained or it may occur in physical skills or in attitudes, values, and appreciation.