God Does It Again

(or, How I Finally Passed the COMP)

I had prepared myself for the worst. I had contingency plans B, C and D. I’d reached the very bottom of the pit of despair and actually had a meltdown in my bathroom, overcome with the fear of failing. But apparently, some diligent preparation and fervent prayer allowed me to succeed last Friday.

Here’s a summary of me sharing the good news with my parents:

Me: Hi Mommy! Guess what, I passed my test!

Mommy: Yeaaaaaaa!

Me: Hi Dadeeeee! Guess what, I passed the test!

Dadeeeee: You better have!

Me: …

Needless to say, everyone’s pretty happy for me in this part of Queens. I’m just relieved. I hope that most future (or current) med students won’t have to go through what I did but I know that there will be some who have to deal with a similar struggle. I was surprised by how many of my classmates I saw in Miami – I guess it goes to show that even the best of us sometimes get tripped up by hurdles. If you find yourself having to take the COMP a second (or third) time, here are some things that might help you finally conquer it.

Here’s what (finally) worked for me:

1. Isolation

I turned my parents’ basement into my own personal study dungeon, emerging only for food and an occasional glimpse of sunlight. Well, not exactly, but I did spend 10-12 hours a day reviewing in the basement for the week before the test. Prior to that, I’d deactivated my social networking account* and kept my internet browsing to a minimum. I didn’t cut everyone completely off but I made it clear that as the test drew near, I’d be less and less available for non-study activities.

2. First Aid From Cover To Cover

Although I’d always relied on my trusty First Aid for quick reference, I actually took the time to read (and reread) nearly the entire book (I skipped the section about test preparation and the study aid ratings). I devoured the meat of the text, going through each page with a highlighter and pen, annotating where necessary and making sure I’d covered each organ system and all of the high yield principles.

3. Lots and Lots of Questions**

I managed to go through every question on USMLEWorld at least once and in the weeks prior to the final COMP date, I went through several question blocks of previously incorrectly-answered questions. As I mentioned before, I also did NBME Self Assessments and used the results to target my study to specific areas – for example, I was scoring low on Endocrine questions so I’d go through blocks of just Endocrine questions on USMLEWorld, and a few days before the test, I answered all 50 Endocrine questions in the First Aid Q&A book.

4. Prayer

I’ve written about my faith before and how it seems like in times of crisis, it tends to come through for me. This time, I made sort of a pact with God – I’d really put my nose to the grindstone and study until my eyes bled and I’d leave the rest to Him. I reasoned that there was only so much I could do, but that if I did all that I could and really focused on studying, God would take care of the ‘chance’ side of things and that whatever the outcome of that final trial was, I could assure myself (and be comforted by the fact) that it was God’s will even if it wasn’t my will. With that in mind, I prayed for success (and mercy!) but still studied diligently. I asked my friends who were Christian to pray for me. I asked my family to pray for me. I asked my gentleman-friend, who is Buddhist, to pray for me. I asked my friends who were non-religious to wish me luck. I think that all the prayer and positive energy, in combination with my genuine high level of effort, was what allowed me to succeed where I’d failed twice before. This is the second time I’ve come to this realization. Genuine effort + faith  = success.

I was going to take the rest of the week off but my dad, always the pragmatist, made a pretty apt basketball*** analogy that totally changed my mind. He mentioned how in this year’s Eastern Conference finals, the Celtics managed to win the first two games and were riding pretty high but when asked whether they’d take a break, they said that they were looking toward the big goal (winning the finals) so they wouldn’t rest on their laurels now. Guess I’ve still got a lot of work to do now that I’ve finally made it to the playoffs.

So now, I apply with the ECFMG for a Step date. Last Friday, I managed to score higher than I’d scored on any of my previous tests (practice or otherwise) and finally break 200. I’m estimating that my actual Step date will be in July. Let’s hope that I can take my recipe for success and raise my score a few more points so that those residency committees will be really impressed with my performance. Wish me luck!

*Given all the recent issues with privacy (or lack thereof), it may stay deactivated indefinitely

**For iPhone users, there are some free question resources:

Kaplan Qbank (120 free questions)

USMLERx (100 free Pathology flashcards)

***Some families are baseball families, some are football families – mine is a basketball family.

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One Comment on “God Does It Again”

  1. Michael Knight Says:

    I Knew you could do it! You give me so much hope that I can make it one day, as I am in my first semester at AUC. You will destroy the Step I, just keep your head up.


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