Lauryn Falcone and Dr. Eli Freiman contributed to this post.
For most students, the anticipation leading up to their first NBME practice test is the same. Most wonder: Am I truly prepared? What happens if my score prediction is much lower than my goal Step 1 score?
Frequently, the answers to these questions may initially feel negative (it’s common for students to receive an early NBME score or two that’s below their ideal score). Many students see this as an opportunity for improvement, but what happens if the NBME scores don’t continue to rise? What happens if you truly aren’t scoring where you want on NBMEs before your step 1 test day?
Don’t worry. Everyone experiences score plateaus on practice tests, and there are numerous reasons for this. There is no way for an exam to adequately test you on your specific growing body of knowledge, so there will be huge amounts of variability from exam to exam.
You could be at a 250 level but get a 235 – that’s how much variability you could have by nature of being tested on a finite, specific body of knowledge. You could also have a bad testing day, or just have not been up to taking a practice NBME when you just want to get the real one over with.
Often, we underperform on exam practices because they aren’t as important as the real test. Most students will interpret stagnation on NBMEs as a sign that they haven’t been studying the right information or that they are inefficiently studying – this is usually not the case. You’ve still been learning!
That said, we have some tips to help you break through score plateaus for your NBME practice exams. Read on for more on how to break through NBME practice test score stagnation!