When is it Time to Ditch the Study Buddy and Get a Tutor?

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usmle tutor

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We have all been there – studying for USMLE Step 1 or 2 CK with friends, yet realizing your productivity is slipping and the test day is fast approaching. While quality time spent with friends is ideal for maintaining school-life balance, it can actually be a huge impediment to successful study time. The “all in this together” synergy is surprisingly quickly replaced by either long segments of distracted YouTube or Instagram binges, or worse yet by increasing anxiety that pits you against your friends/classmates. The truth is that, as compared to your study buddy, you may have very different target scores and/or study needs. Furthermore, even the best laid plan with a study buddy can be ineffective if your partner doesn’t have the time, the energy, or the ability to explain critical and confusing concepts to you. If any of this sounds familiar, you should seriously consider a change. Below, we will review the pros and cons of trading in your study buddy for a professional tutor.

Pros

Your tutor is a “pro.” This may sound obvious, but one of the major advantages of a tutor is that your tutor is a professional! If your car suffered a serious mechanical failure, you might be able to gather a few friends together for a collective look under the hood, but can you be sure that your car has been assessed from front to back, with the expertise and reliability that comes from a professional? Similarly, while you and a study buddy may be able to assist each other, there is no doubting the improved service, knowledge, and assurance of a professional. If you wouldn’t trust an amateur with your car, why would you entrust a non-professional with your success on the USMLEs? Your tutor will not only have taken the exam before (expertise), but will have also helped many students, just like you, achieve their goals (reliability). Be mindful however that not all tutors are created equally! Just because Jill got a 266 or Ryan got a 262 on Step 1 or Step 2 CK does not mean they are experienced or qualified to tutor another student for the exams. Find a reliable and trustworthy resource with a proven history of success. You are making an investment in your future. Check out the Elite Medical Prep team for a complete roster of our experienced, professional tutors who are ready to help you achieve your goals.

It’s ALL About You

With a study buddy, you are metaphorically climbing a mountain with a colleague with approximately the same degree of experience and skill. At times, you will need to wait for them to catch up and visa versa. In an example of a poor study environment, you may need to spend a majority of the time helping your classmate up the mountain, rather than tackling the concepts you are struggling with. When you work with a tutor, YOU are the only climber and the tutor is singularly concerned with helping YOU. The entire focus of your time and energy will be on YOUR master of the material. While learning by teaching is an effective and proven study technique, it is not nearly as efficient, which should be of prime concern to a student preparing for exams as vast as the USMLEs.

A New Perspective Can Be a Breakthrough Opportunity

You and your study buddy are likely classmates, meaning you have sat through the same lectures and reviewed the same texts. Often, if a concept doesn’t make sense to one individual, it won’t make sense to another who experienced the same information in the same setting. While a Google search may yield some helpful information, more frequently you may find yourself on a protracted internet search, filled with message boards with erroneous material or published manuscripts which gloss over the critical point of confusion. In the end, you are no closer to the correct understanding with time quickly passing by.

A breakthrough will more frequently occur when a new person who experienced this information differently is added to the mix. With a tutor, particularly a professional who has learned how to teach this material in a variety of ways to a number of different students, you can identify the root cause of your confusion and build a solid foundation where before there may have been gaps in knowledge. When preparing for the USMLEs, you simply can’t afford to spend time trying to understand concepts with a faulty foundation.

Cons

The most obvious downside to a professional tutor, as compared to a study buddy, is the cost. While cost is not a superfluous concept by any means, ask yourself this question: how do you value an improved performance on the USMLEs? If your practice tests indicate you are close to your target score or you are applying into a field that does not require a stellar board result, a tutor may not be of much value to you. But if you find yourself below your target score and are applying to competitive residency programs, one might argue that your result on these exams could be a critical factor in determining your chances of success. There is no doubt that paying for a professional tutor comes at a cost, but if you identify a trustworthy resource with a proven record of success, then you can be assured that you are spending your resources wisely. Just as with our car example above, money spent for professional assistance, if it is high-quality and reliable, is an investment in your future.

 

That’s all! We hope this post helped to provide some clarity on why and when one might want to consider choosing a USMLE tutor over a study buddy. If you need additional help preparing for your exam or think that it may be time for you to get a USMLE tutor, please don’t hesitate to contact us here.

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About the Author

Michael Zobel, MD

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