Reflection on the Introduction of an Individualised Learning Plan to Support Students’ Preparation for United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 1

Christian Gray

School of Clinical Medicine, The University of Queensland, Brisbane, Australia

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Introduction/background: The USMLE was established to provide a uniform evaluation system for medical licencing in the United States. Step 1 is the first of three examinations that must be completed prior to attaining a full licence.

The University of Queensland (UQ) Medical Doctorate (MD) includes students from the Ochsner Health System in the United States who undertake their first two years (phase 1) in Australia before finishing clinical rotations in the USA. It is a program requirement that these students attempt Step 1 prior to progressing to phase 2 at Ochsner Clinical School. A dedicated USMLE preparation course was established to support student’s preparation for Step 1. Students are encouraged within this course to develop an individualised learning plan to support their Step 1 preparation according to their individual needs.

Aim/objectives: To evaluate the acceptance of an individualised learning plan to support student’s preparation for Step 1

Discussion: Students find it challenging to prepare for Step 1 alongside the UQ MD program. To support their preparation, students were provided with a learning plan template and encouraged to individualise this plan. A subjective assessment of this learning plan was conducted through survey. The impact of adopting this learning plan on student performance could not be validly compared due to COVID-19. Students reported that the learning plan helped them to monitor their progress and identify areas for attention. Students who found the learning plan template useful were more likely to report improvements in confidence and reductions in anxiety. Students who were less positive, reported the learning plan template did not reflect their preferred learning approach. These students also reported they found the exercise to be too time consuming and viewed it as an additional assessment task. This suggests further guidance on the value of planning their learning may be motivating and a variety of provided learning plan templates may better match student preferences.

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