Saturday, June 20, 2009

Running Diary: The Boards

Yesterday I finished my United States Medical Liscensure Examination Step One Examination. Which, as uninteresting as it sounds, was actually a mildly enjoyable day. If only because I allow my test day taking quirks full reign on big days. Anyways, here's what transpired starting the on the eve of the exam.

12 noon: My former roommate and classmate and I travelled to Detroit's best pizzeria in the Eastern Market area of Detroit. Despite the state of general disrepair the city usually finds itself, there are still pockets of thriving city life. Needless to say, the pizza was delicious and this was the first step in my relaxation strategy.

4 pm: Step two was a jaunt to the driving range on Belle Isle. Again, this driving range is another reminder that there are sweet things going on in Detroit. Belle Isle is an island in the Detroit River, which seperates Detroit from Windsor, Ontario. It's a massive park, and quite enjoyable to drive through and the driving range is actually one of the nicer ranges I've teed off on. Which can make my lack of game all the more embarrasing. Although, I am now consistently able to make solid contact with the golf ball, whcih is immensely satisfying.

8 pm: The initial supplies run. I have a fondness for having ample sustenance in my employ during test days. So, I went to the local Rite-Aid and commandeered the following essential items: One and a half liters of Citrus Green tea (for the anti-oxidants), two 32-ounce gatorades (including a bottle of the new Gatorade Focus for obvious reasons . . . and because Tiger Woods is on it), two bags of trail mix (the ultimate sustenance source), and a Snickers Dark (beacuse if I'm paying 88 cents for a Snickers bar, it needs to be special in some way.

8:30: I begin preparations by packing my breakfast/lunch/dinner for the day (the exam is eight-hours long, and in case I forgot to mention, I like a solid quantity of food). Bonnie Blair (the olympic speed-skater) said she ate PB & J for lunch daily for most of her life. I think that is a fine idea and pack myslef a couple of those. However, because I cannot predict my sandwhich desires in 16-hours, I throw in a ham and cheese because its both nearly as classic and delicious as the peanut butter standby.

9:00: The office. If there is a better show on telivision I defy you to name it. And that's even counting my new favorite The Big Bang Theory. The episode was the one where Michael, Oscar, and Andy go to Winnepeg for business. Classic. Adding Andy to the cast might have been one of the great all time additions to the cast (because I know so much about television show cast chanes).

10:00: I prepare for bed by unwinding with American Lion, a pulitzer prize winning book on Andrew Jackson. And if you think this is a poor choice, read the first part of the previous sentence again.

11:00-5:50 am: Note, I can never remember having as vivid dreams as I did that night. And they were all somehow medically related, the sense that I Am Legend, was medically related.

Test day

5:50 am : Setting my alarm ten minutes early seems even sillier than when I did it last night.

6:00 am: Shower and shave. Nothing makes you feel ready for a day than these two events. I even got back on the after-shave train recently and it is fantastic. Feel my cheeks, seriously, they don't make cotton balls that soft. I don't care what that says about my manhood, at least they smell like alcohol (the rubbing kind, not the other, come-on, its test day).

6:45 am: How the heck did it get to be 6:45 already? I was supposed to leave at 6:30 and I still don't have my egg sandwhich, thermos of coffee, or cup-o-oatmeal ready yet?

6:57 am: Aforementioned items are ready and I am officially running late. I have to be there by 7:30 and am supposed to be there by 7:00. It's half an hour away.

7:13 am: Seriously, it's raining? How the heck did I let myself be put in danger of being late? They make it pretty clear on the form if you show up late they don't have to seat you for the test. And besides the academic ramifications, the test cost 500 bucks.

7:24 am: I make it to the testing center on time. Even after using the restroom. I didn't have time to eat my egg sandwhich in the car, however, which gives me something to look forward to.

7:29 am: There are 20 spots to srart the exam at 7:30 and since each person takes it individually on their own computer, the staff has to set people up one by one. This takes a few minutes for each person. I am number twenty of twenty.

7:45 am: because I don't want to risk it, I used the restroom again.

8:00 am: I get my book out of the little cubby/locker they give you to put your stuff in while I wait.

8:14 am: It's almost my turn, and I have to pee again. Seriously, I don't know how coffee does what it does to your system, but its impressive. So I went to the restroom for the third time since arriving at the test center.

8:23 am: I begin the test. I can't tell you how many times the following sentiments occured in my mind in response to test questions: (1) seriously? I thought there would be no way this would be on the test. (2) seriously? I knew this would be on the test, how don't I know it. And just (3) Seriously?

9:07 am: I finish up the first of seven sections. Now, this exam is structured so that you have eight total hours to complete the test with seven-hour long sections and one fifteen minute tutorial. I had previously decided on a strategy for the exam to avoid burn-out because every time I practiced doing blocks of questions my scores followed a clear downward trend due to fatigue. That strategy was to take a break after every exam and because I changed more answers from correct to incorrect than vice versa, I would only cursorarily look over my exam before moving on.

9:08 am: I use the restroom again before travelling back to my car to partake in the delicious egg and cheese sang-which I had waiting for me. Delicious. I was also able to wash it down with some mildly warmed coffee left in my travel mug. It was surprisingly relaxing to set in my car in an office parking lot during the biggest test of my life and enjoy this delightful farm fresh breakfast (that had been sitting in my car for over an hour now). Look out Jimmy Dean.

9:15 am: I frequent the washroom once more just for kicks

9:17 am: Round 2. If you are keeping track on your scorecard I'd give the first one to the exam, but I think I scored enough jabs on the second to even it up at 1-1 after two rounds of play. Seriously though, my mentality was to kind of treat the day as a light-hearted game, and I believe I succeeded.

10:03 am: Break two. Seriously, the breaks were getting fun. This time, I didn't want to risk getting hungry so I threw down most of my Fancy Mojo Mix trail mix. And I did feel fancy. And full of mojo. I also threw down an fuiji apple because they are delicious. I ran into another medical student taking the exam (most of the 20 people there in the morning were taking this exam) in the hallway at the end of my break. The interesting dynamic during the breaks is there is always this knowledge in the back of your head that the computer is timing your breaks and it is slowly dwindling. So, after I exchanged cordial greetings and "how's the test going?" I was attempting to end the conversation and get my test going. Unfortunately, this student was not in the same mindset and began playing the "I know person x who goes to your school, do you know them?" game. As much as I usually enjoy this game (and her performance was exceptional, she went 2-2) now was not the time nor the place, so I excused myself and went back into the den of pain (read: testing center). Also, to note, I continued the trend of using the restroom twice per break (for a total of 7 times on the day).

10:47 am: Round 3 ends. I'm going to give this round to the challenger. I'm starting to get into a groove. I only have one more block to go before I allow myself a lunch break so I eat a lighter break snack of a bannanna paired with piping coffee from my thermos. I remained sitting in my car at this point because it is still gloomy out and if ever I felt like I was on a stake out, now was the time. I sat watching people enter and leave the building while pouring myself cup upon cup of coffee. Delicious. Bathroom tally at 9 now.

11:30 am: In the midst of round 4 I am starting to feel tired. I fight the internal urge to just click an answer and move on and try and actually think through each question. Good thing I have a lunch break coming. I'll probably have to give this round to the exam. We're all tied up at two now.

11:47 am: Sweet, sweet lunch break. I'm giving myself fifty minutes of freedom here. I set up camp at a picnic table under a large tree. I'm officially feeling fried as well so I decide not to read as I anticipated during the break. I pull a game time decision and trade out my expected PB&J for the ham and cheese. I had a hunch last night and it paid off. I also throw down most of my Tiger Woods focus gatorade and some of the iced green tea. Delicious. I also made a few phone calls just because I wanted to get my mind of the test.

1:07 pm: Okay, taking this test is seriously getting old. Is there any way to avoid the post lunch lull? I mean seriously, how can you not be tired after eating? And short of integrating the siesta into our culture what can a person do? Especially when I am taking a test that is timed? This run of question marks is really making my upward intonation fatigued? Round 5 goes to the exam 3-2, uh-oh, things are looking bad. I may want to reconsider a career in the promising field of semi-shady drug endorsements.

12:31 pm: I have banked a significant amount of break time now, so I decide to take a walk around the office complex. Granted, its about as full of character as a cardboard box, but the walk is still pleasant. And I stumbled upon a park of sorts with tennis courts that turned out to be some sort of private club. The park was next to a school so I kind of wandered around the schoolyard until I got some strange looks from some other people and realized I probably looked like a creeper. Time to get back after the test.

1:47 pm: Whew, another tough round, but I felt like I battle back strong. 3-3 after six rounds with one round to go. As if we didn't see this coming. I still have a good twenty minutes of break time and here is when the strategy gets interesting. I can conceivably go over my break time and suffer the consequence that it will be taken out from my last block. And generally I finish the blocks with 15-20 minutes to spare. I make the decision to take all my break time and not worry about getting a few minutes shaved off the exam. I saved a pear and had a bit of gatorade left so I finished those off and sauntered around some more.

2:17 pm: As I walk back into the testing room the proctor plays Final Countdown in the background. Okay, at least they should have. I show up to my computer with a giant warning message saying "Warning! You have exceeded your alotted break time and any additional break time is being taken out of your final section." Okay, seriously, that freaked me out a little bit. I had a general tension run through me. Then to compound things, A windows error message popped up. Son-of-a. I envisioned my entire test disapearing into cyper space and having to do this all over again.

2:19 pm: The error message is corrected and am back in the saddle. The test decides to further extend its competetive advantage by placing a giant "!" mark next to my timer on the bottom of the screen to let me know that because I took a longer break, my time was reduced. I still feel kind of panicked and consider doign a rapid run through just to get answers down. I close my eyes and take five deep breaths. And then another five. Allright, I'm back.

2:49: Almost done, I peruse the answers one final time and then click submit. I am done. I feel good about it. And I'm giving myself the "W" in the final round. 4-3, I think I beat the boards in a close match.

2:52: Seriously, I cannot imagine thinking long about any of these survey questions because I feel just cashed.

3:22: I finally finish all the required junk and stop by to see my old friend the restroom one more time before leaving. Ah, a good day. I look at my phone and discover that my former roommate and classmate mentioned above has sent me a text. He is already at Buffallo Wild Wings awaiting my arrival.

4:26: After an eternal drive in traffic I show up at B-dubs (has their ever been a more universally accepted nickname for an institution) and meet two of my other friends who have finished their exam.

5:43: The fourth member of our crew taking the exam today arrives and the day is complete. The general sense of relief is intense. We make wisecracks about the test and trade stories about ridiculous questions and our likely ridiculous mistakes. There is a strange feeling like we've just tackled something huge and conquered it. We did it all individually, but in some sense it feels like we all just accomplished together. Unless of course, I didn't pass.

Well, anyways, so that is what I did this Friday. And although it may not have seemed like it once I got it down on paper (or the white screen at least) it was a rather entertaining day for me. Now, onto year III.