Surviving Step 1: Countdown – the Week of the Exam
1 week prior to Test Day
Approximately one week prior to test day, make sure you have a copy of your test registration printed out and some form of government-issued photo identification with your signature on it. It is very important that your name on your photo ID matches the name you registered under EXACTLY. Check your registration to confirm the location of the Prometric testing center. If you are staying/living close to your testing center, I would recommend traveling there one morning a few days before the test to make sure you know how to get there, about how long the trip takes, and what kind of traffic you might expect to encounter along the way. I strongly recommend planning to pack your lunch for Test Day; however, if that will not be feasible for you, check out quick dining options near the testing center the day you do your test drive.
The day before the exam
It is crucial to find time to relax the day before the test. At this point, you should’ve covered all of the material. Therefore, all of your study should consist of light review to keep your mind fresh. I don’t recommended putting in more than a couple of hours of study time the day before the test. You already put in a ton of effort, and you really want to be well rested for Test Day. Reward yourself for all of the effort you’ve put in with a relaxing activity that will help you take your mind off of the test. Make sure you get some light-to-moderate exercise at some point during the day, but don’t exercise too close to bedtime, as this may make it difficult for you to get to sleep. Plan to go to bed in enough time to get around eight hours of sleep. You may have some difficulty getting to sleep, so give yourself a little extra time. Don’t drink any caffeine within six hours of your planned bedtime. Limit yourself to one-to-two alcoholic beverages, if you so desire. Eat a moderate dinner a few hours before bedtime. For other tips on stress management and sleep hygiene, see my prior post on minimizing stress. If you want, review some of your resources targeted at short-term recall (e.g. the Rapid Review section in First Aid for Step 1). Make sure you have your clothes laid out for the morning, your lunch and snacks packed, you have your ID and test registration next to your keys by the door, and that anything else you might need during the day is out and ready to go. Review the test format. Above all else, try not to worry about the test. You’ve put in a lot of hard work, and doubting yourself can only hurt your performance. Think positive thoughts, and focus on how hard you’ve worked (NOT how much harder you could’ve worked).
The morning of the exam
Eat a regular breakfast. Leave your house in time to arrive at the testing center at least 30 minutes prior to your assigned test time. Wear comfortable clothes. Wear layers if you’re sensitive to heat or cold. Don’t take anything you don’t need. You only have about one cubic foot of locker space, so save that for food and extra clothing. Remember, you cannot take anything with you into the testing room. I don’t recommend taking any review materials with you. Any energy you have should be focused on actually taking the test, not reviewing during your breaks. Furthermore, if you discover that you’ve answered something incorrectly, that will only add unnecessary stress. On your way to the testing center, try to relax and focus on your journey, particularly if you’re driving. Once you arrive, get checked in and then use the restroom before you enter the testing room. Try to pump yourself up for the test. A little anxiety is normal and turning it around and making it a positive thing might help avoid a sense of panic. You’ve worked hard to prepare for this day. Now is your time to shine. Take a deep breath and go dominate that test!
Have any tips or suggestions for the week before Test Day? Post them in the Comments below.