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The first step of the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination process, otherwise known as, USMLE Step 1 is conducted to gauge a candidate’s ability to apply their theoretical knowledge and concepts while practicing medicine. The USMLE Step1 exam covers areas like anatomy, biochemistry, pathology and microbiology, among others and is known to be one of the most challenging exams of the three-part exam series. This exam mainly gauges the student’s ability to apply their theoretical learning in practical situations.

The key to passing this exam depends on how you prepare for it as this exam was created to gauge how a student will can practical applications of the various medical concepts taught to them. If you are planning to take the USMLE Step 1 exam in the near future, here are 8 memory boosting tips to help you improve your memory, enhance recall, and increase retention of information:

1. Structure and Plan Your Schedule into Manageable Chunks
Research has previously demonstrated that information is organized in our brains in related clusters to ensure memory retention. You can draw from this logic and structure and organize your study material on the basis of similarity of concepts and terms in order to enhance your understanding and retention of the subject matter at hand.

2. Regular Study Sessions versus Crash Courses
Once you have your notes organized, create a study schedule that divides your course work over a stretch of time as opposed to a marathon study session. According to Bjork (2001), studying materials over a number of sessions gives you the time you need to adequately process the information. Previous research conducted on the topic further showed that students who study regularly remember the material better that those did all of their studying by cramming their syllabus in one study session in the long term.

3. Focus is Key
Rid yourself of any possible distractions as attention is one of the major components of memory and retention. Try to study in a place free of distractions such as television, music, and other diversions; or remove all the possible sources of distractions from the room you study in to bring about enhanced focus.

4. Utilize Mnemonic Devices
Mnemonic is a great memory technique that you can use to help your brain better encode and recall important information. For instance, try associating a term you need to remember with a common item that you are very familiar with. You can create rhyme, a song, or a code to remember a specific segment of information. The best mnemonic devices are those that utilize positive imagery, humor, or novelty!

5. Elaborate What You Don’t Know and Relate What You Do Know
In order to recall information, try to relate unfamiliar information with concepts your already know. By establishing a relationship between new ideas and previously existing memories, you will be able to increase the likelihood of recalling the recently learned information.
In case of completely unfamiliar concepts, you can use the technique of elaborative rehearsal. An example of this technique would be learning a new concept by first reading the definition of the key terms, studying the definition of said term, and then reading a more detailed description of what that term means.

6. Visualize Concepts to Improve Recall
Many people benefit greatly from visualizing the information they have to study. Pay special attention to the photographs, charts, and other graphics in your textbooks and use them to remember the study material. If you do not have visual cues, create your own by encoding the information in the form of graphs and charts, or simply color code different sections to enhance recall.

7. Teach a Friend
Research suggests that reading materials out loud significantly improves retention of new study material. A great way of doing this is by helping a fellow classmate understand a complex topic by explain it to them after thoroughly studying it. This way you can revise your curriculum and also test how much you remember and what you need to revisit.

8. Vary your study routine
Another great way to increase your recall is by changing your study routine from time to time. If you are used to studying in the morning, spend a few minutes at night revising what you study, so you can recall all the information better during the next study session. Try adding an element of novelty to your study sessions, by changing your study spot or the structure of your lesson plan to avoid repetition and monotony of your schedule

Author Bio:
Originally from Philadelphia, Eric Brown is a resident of New York, where he works as a standardized patient (SP) and advises NYCSPREP with their Clinical Skills Course. With many years of experience and industry insight into all things SP-related, he helps students ace their CS exams by simulating patients they will work with. He also remains up to date with expectations, trends and developments in CS exams, to help NYCSPREP keep their course current. In his free time, Eric likes unwinding by watching baseball and can be found at the game when the Phillies (his home team) are playing. If you have any questions about standardized CS exams or courses at NYCSPREP, email Eric at eric.brown@nycsprep.com or visit www.nycsprep.com.