Throughout the semesters we’ve been here at AUC School of Medicine, we’ve tackled the discipline of medicine from all sides, seeing it from the many different angles of expertise that our professors bring to us. After nearly two years of the continuous process of adding knowledge, reorganizing, and integrating our knowledge base, and synthesizing a new level of personal understanding, the ultimate test of our accomplishments come at the end of our last semester of Basic Sciences with the 4.5-hour NBME and 8-hour Kaplan Comprehensive exams.

The comp exams are exactly that — comprehensive. Everything we’ve learned over our time here at AUC thus far is tested. It’s amazing how little we all knew coming in, and how we can now take exams like the NBME Comp and the Kaplan Comp and pass (although it took me a few tries). And this really is just the beginning. We think we know a lot now, but just imagine how much more we will know and understand medicine by the end of our clinical years, and by the end of our residency. I’m really excited.

Among our class, almost everyone who puts in the effort and makes it this far will pass the comps at some point, and go on to take Step I. Of those who have taken the Step I board exam thus far this past semester, 100% so far have passed the exam and 48% of them have scored a 99 (which is the highest 2-digit score you can get). These statistics will change as the rest of the students of the previous semester take the exam and more data comes in. Seeing the performance of the class that just took the Steps so far, I am inspire to strive for the best I can.

Some tips for studying for the Comps:

  • Start early. Preferably, start during the break between fourth and fifth semester, because fifth semester is very busy and it’s often difficult to get comp studying done while still trying to do well in your other classes.
  • Memorize First Aid. It is the least you need to know for the Comps and the Step. It misleadingly looks like a small book but it’s a lot to handle already. It’s the best resource to start with.
  • Do questions. This was my mistake. I spent too much time on material and not enough time on questions. Questions often test for not only what you know but how to think of what you know.Since most questions integrate different systems and disciplines, doing questions is the best way to integrate your knowledge.For the NBME Comp, I recommend USMLE World Questions because their questions are the most similar in style to the real Step I exam. USMLE World is not free and requires a subscription but it is worth it. Each question comes with an amazing explanation of the answers. You can learn a lot just by doing these questions.For the Kaplan Comprehensive Exam, take advantage of the questions from the Kaplan QBank that is already included in your tuition. The questions on the Kaplan Comp are more difficult than the NBME comp in my experience. There weren’t many, if any, straightforward questions. Most of them were at least tertiary-level questions, often times more. Therefore do the Kaplan QBank to get used to the style of questions on the Kaplan Comp. There were several questions from the Kaplan QBank that showed up on the actual Kaplan Comp.
  • Try to pass the first NBME Comp. The passing score for the NBME comp is 64. In my experience, the first comp is very doable (class average: 64.13), the second comp is more difficult (class average: 62.65), and by the time people take the third comp, people would be much more prepared than the previous two comps, and so the average becomes higher (70.14). But since the school is doing away with the third NBME Comp, do yourself a favor and study hard to pass the first time, because the second time is more difficult. You don’t want to go through the rest of the semester with the nightmares of not passing on your mind, all the while trying to keep up with your other classes and the Kaplan Comp.
  • Be Honest. Because if I were a patient, I would want an honest doctor.

**UPDATE** As of 1/2014, AUC now contracts Becker rather than Kaplan for the Step preparation course. Instead of taking the Kaplan comp exam, students now instead take the Becker Comp. The test is more or less the same, just made by different companies.