Tuesday, January 23, 2007

end of interviewing for me: CS in retrospect

Well, it's been a few months since i last added a post here... let's just say that i have been quite busy.... itnerview season timed itself with my Step 2 CS, moving to a different state, and all other hectic what-have-you's.

i guess i can start with Step 2 CS:

well, you can almost count on the fact that i studied very little for it. I was moving and doing a lot of packing (boxes and boxes!) and just made the CS into a little sidetrip of my move. a short stop in the process of moving, if you will. I was in atlanta for it. I was sightseeing the day before and the hours after my exam. Pople will say why i didn't study the day before since i didn't get to study for it.... well, my reply to that will be: I wanted to sight-see. I had never been to atlanta and i wanted to make the most of it. Risky?? maybe. But i think it was well worth it. I only say that, of course since i am thinking about this in retrospect. But, that month waiting for the rsults was grueling. I was was well into my interviews when i got my result. It was somewhat nerve wracking since i wasn't sure if i was going to be in the match or not. And it rested on the CS result. It came out on december 6, 2006.

I passed.

that's that. glad i went sightseeing. haha.

i'll write again later.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

interview season is here . . . well, almost

i guess having a brother who has gone through the application, interview, match (unmatch), scramble, and residency, i have someone to ask when i'm feeling overwhelmed, confused, or both.

with interview season, coming along, he shares his wisdom of interviews with me, which i will share now. his interview season started kinda late since he applied late. he shares with me his interview experience as well as his experience with interviewing applicants to residency programs.

1. always be nice to the program coordinator. these are the people that first screens the applications. many PDs also asks their opinion in regards to how the applicant presented himself or herself.

2. Ask questions. Noquestions=not interested. But do not ask stupid questions. Inquire about the curriculum, the balance of work and personal life, the facilities, outside rotations, etc. Do not ask about benefits. At least, do not put too much emphasis on the benefits, vacations, and compensation. It is the curriculum/training that you should be most interested about.

3. Always have a pen ready. Not just any pen, but a nice one. it is not very impressive to have to take out a pent that looksl ike it was givenaway on a pharmaceutical lecture or promotion.

4. Be talkative. Be friendly, outgoing. You want to present yourself that you are able to get along well with people. You also want to present that you can communicate effectively.

5. Dress appropriately.

6. Do not be late.

7. Make sure you remember names.

8. Don't forget the thank-you cards.

9. Don't pass up the opportunity to spend time with the residents, whether in a set activity, dinner, or a chance to observe them in action.

10. Know your CV well and be ready to explain any point raised about it.

11. Orient yourself to the area: tourist information, hospital info, etc.

12. Know SOMETHING about the program. It does not sit well that you applied to a program but know nothing about it. Be INFORMED.

13. Mind your manners.

14. Be aware of body language.

15. Confirm your interview. If possible, get in touch with program coordinator and work out details of your interview, whether it be a short event or a day-long, sometimes even a weekend event.

Hmmmmn. I know there are more, but I'm drawing a blank. I guess, that's it for now.

Friday, September 22, 2006

waiting for interviews

i really hate waiting... as if i have not done enough of that in this whole USMLE/Match process. you take an exam, you wait for results. especially the CK result, it was bas enough to wait the normal 3-4 weeks, but to say that there is delay is torture!!

then you send your documents..... more waiting. uploaded documents. apply. wait.

the most nerve wrecking so far is waiting for invitations for interviews.... hoping to be found worthy enough to be invited. gosh. i'd hate to think of the many programs missing out on having me in their hospital. Ha!

i started this application pretty early but not early enough for some people. due to the delay in my CK score reporting i thought i had enough time. i also made the msitake of waiting for my MSPE before sending my documents... my documents were not uploaded until the 12th, i think. kinda sucked. and i thought my score reporting would be delayed futher. i didn't realize that i would've been able to start applying on the first of september. but my personal statements weren't done and my documents were not uploaded.

hence, send your documents early. finish that personal statement (or statements in my case).


then wait.

and hope it is fruitful.

and so far, 3 interviews and 0 rejections after 1 week of applying. i hope this trend stays. :D

Saturday, September 09, 2006

personal statement blues

i sit here staring at my countless drafts of my personal statement.... waiting for inspiration to hit me... or maybe run me over. my writing ability has left me years ago... around the time i entered medical school, actually. it's gone downhill since then.. any creative writing undertaken after that time has been strained... like it is now.

it helps to have friends to go through your personal statement. also helps to have a brother who's gone through it before (but i'd rather that he not read my personal statement).

so... i'm still sitting here staring. mainly because i really don't know what else i can write about or how to even add any more things to it. and i've sworn i won't go down to shameless plugging of how i am such a fabulous doctor. haha.

but i guess for the sake of others, i'll share some of the wisdom that had been passed to me:

1. don't restate your CV - i know it's tempting to just re-emphasize all that, but i've been told that the personal statement is not the place for this... that's why the CV is separate. it should stay there.

2. keep it brief - now it may sound harder to write something long, but when you really think about it, writing a brief statement is actually harder. but they say that the briefer, the better. mainly because it's harder to do (choosing from amongst the countless things you can say to boost yourself). PLUS, they say that you really don't want to bore the reader and lose the point and the attention. also, don't be too redundant.

3. don't go over melodramatic or too verbose - it's not an essay-writing contest, they say. go for content instead of style. but of course, don't be too boring.

4. be able to explain why you chose that specialty - don't be too vague. they want to know why that specialty inspite of a multitude of specialty choices.

5. future plans - some say that you should state where you see yourself after residency (i.e. plans of fellowship, etc). i haven't gotten to that in my PS but i'llt hink about it.

6. catch their attention - i did say not to be melodramatic but it helps to hook their attention. they say it is best to do so with a use of a quote, a story, or a theme.

7. remember to tie everything together. everything makes more sense when it's all somewhat related and not jumbled together. make it fluid. it's easier to read. and also easier to understand.

8. it really helps to get a second-opinion. have someone read it through and critique it.

Now, all these are really easier said than done. I'm still sitting here staring..... waiting for inspiration to hit me or run me over. Some time soon, i hope.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

STEP 1 exam experience

i was talking to a friend of mine today. she's starting to study for step 1 and she had asked me a few familiar questions. i decided to write it all down so as to just answer most, if not all, of the question sin one sitting, and perhaps direct further questions to this site instead. haha. (it really does get tiring to answer the same thing over and over and over and over again! ha!)

my journey with step1 started october 2005. yup, that was last year. and i had taken it end of february 2006. int hat time i spent an average of 3 or 4 hours a day except on the last few weeks where i was doing AT LEAST 8 hours. but technically speaking, if you ask me, i'd usually answer that i DID study 8 hours a day throughout my studying. *grin*

here's what i had used for my study references:
i actually had Kaplan lecture notes, First Aid for step 1, QBOOK, Underground clinical vignettes (for those nights i couldn't sleep, i read those to get me sleepy. haha!) I did find that the lecture notes were quite enough. but i did find that my recent graduation helped since some were fresh from med school (i think). Maybe it also helped that i actually did study in med school. anyways, i spent a good time reading the lecture notes. read over it only once.. making sure i did not move on unless i fully understood it.... i didn't want to have the notion in my head that i was going to read it again... that idea will just make me slack off and tell myself to just read it more thoroughly on the next reading... i do wish i had some of my textbooks with me for reference but i left them all behind. no matter, i had to make do with what i had. i took as much notes as i can but only to help me remember. i really never got into the habit of reading my own notes. i just write to help me remember better. technically speaking i studied for4 months. but in reality it was more like 3months. i made sure i went through the lecture notes. i did first aid about a week or two before the exam date. so that's that for references.

practice questions:
practice questions, i believe are important. i made sure to start doing practice questions at 1 month before the exam. that would mean that i had finished reading the lecture notes by then. i had practice questions from qbook and some other sources. I used mainly QBOOk. i made sure that i did blocks of 50 at a time and reviewed the answers and explanations. only in doing questions did i really remember everything that i had been reading. before that, it seemed utterly hopeless. it felt as if i wasn't retaining anything i read. but questions helped that. I did do NBME self-assessment exams. I did them twice. once at 1 month before the exam. another at 2 weeks before the exam. I used it mainly as a learning tool to assess my stronger and weaker points. and made sure i address them.

exam day:
i arrived 30 minutes early as stated by our exam permit. i arrived having a full night's sleep and a hearty breakfast. it was somewhat nerve-wracking but i had to do it. i signed in and i was assigned a computer by which to work on.

the very first question scared me. and the question after that. and the question after that. It really knocked me off my chair! (well, it really didn't but that's what it felt like) there was a part of me that wanted to just bawl and cry and another wanting to run out of the room screaming.

i realized that there were question i felt i could have never have known to study or could possibly answer. it dealt with the braod spectrum of coverage. but i tried to answer them as best as i could.

it was here that i realize that studying images such as xrays and slides, and gross specimens were important. in my studying, i never made much emphasis and regretted it. but i tried to answer as best i could. some questions were really long. others are quite short and straight to the point. i took my time. tired to read the question carefully and also try not to rush through it. i kept careful note of the remaining time and makred questions i wanted to go back to (i never got a chance to review them again since the time was tight).

managing break times are important. i didn't want to use them all up so early. i wanted to have some time to refresh in the afternoon when my mind grows tired. for me, i spread them apart, taking more breaks in the afternoon and building a momentum in the morning. my schedule is as follows:

in general, i thought it was hard. many of the questions felt as though they were some weird form of writing or language and just had no clue. some were a little better. but most important is to stay calm and answer as best as you can... make sure to look through all the answers and do not jump to conclusions too fast.

take a deep breath. read carefully. and move on.

and after about 3 weeks... you'll get that piece of paper with your results.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

first day MATCH chaos

it's the end of the first day of application of match 2007. already you would've noticed tha many (countless!) posts regarding this application process.

What to do with the MSPE?
why haven't my application been downloaded?
How long till i get an interview?
How come my documents aren't uploaded?
how come my documents aren't scanned?
Whya re my LORs missing?

etc. etc.

people begin to panic. people aren't sure if what they are doing are correct. in a way i'm glad i have to wait a few more days. and i'm glad for forums. because when it comes for my time, i will know what to do. or at least some clue.

this is why forums are so helpful. some questions can be very ridiculous. but others are real helpful. in the case that i encounter the same problems, i will have an idea of what to do. or what to expect.

do not underestimate forums. it can be helpful in a lot of ways. but remember tot ake it with a grain of salt

Friday, September 01, 2006


"Our records indicate that you have already passed this Step or Step Component or the equivalent NBME® Part."
Those are the words that i have been waiting to read for over 4 weeks now. I really thought that i would have 2 more weeks of waiting for my STEP 2 CK results. whew! At least, my waiting time has been shortened. However, i guess i should've mailed my documents to ECFMG sooner. Had i known, i would've. But there's nothing i could do about it now. I will have to wait some more now for my documents to be scanned before i can apply for the match. Oh well, a few more days won't kill me. I'm sure those programs would have to wait just a few days longer for my application.
The OASIS trick has always been somewhat unnerving. You hate to think that IWA will let you apply. Yet you long for those words: "Our records indicate that you have already passed this Step or Step Component or the equivalent NBME® Part." It is somewhat bittersweet to have to wait so long yet read those words. I guess waiting isn't so bad. Now, onto the match. At least when my documents have been scanned and uploaded, that is. Sigh.
For those that do not know how to do the OASIS trick, I'll give you a (very) brief breakdown:
1. Check OASIS for when your score has been reported.
2. If your score has been reported, try to apply for that same exam at IWA.
3. If you pass, you will read those wonderful words mentioned above. If you do not see those words and it lets you apply, it is not necessarily the end of the world. Nothing is final until you have taht piece of paper (your score result) in your hands.
* the oasis trick is not an exact science. although there seems to be a high degree of accuracy in pass/fail, it is not always correct. best wait for the official test score in the mail.