Academic Blocks and Question Banks

Academic Blocks  

Data suggest that students who achieve 80% or higher on their academic blocks enhance their readiness work and performance on Step 1. In addition, national research suggests a strong foundation in pathology, physiology, and pharmacology is key. To support student learning and successful block completion, students have access to faculty office hours, free peer learning mentoring services, formalized study group sessions, exam reviews, learning workshops, and a dedicated Learning Specialist.

Learning from Exams

While students are provided an exam review opportunity through the Office of Assessment and Evaluation (OAE), Student Development is happy to facilitate an exam trend analysis opportunity.

What is an exam trend analysis opportunity?

  • An exam trend analysis opportunity is offered when requested by a student or recommended by a Learning Specialist (LS). 
  • One type of analysis is provided by unpacking a Strengths and Opportunities Report on a specific exam in Examsoft. When this report is reviewed, LSs look for patterns or themes in the data with the student. 
  • Another type of exam analysis is a Longitudinal Trend Report of the aggregate data across block exams to look for more global trends in their learning. The data is reviewed with the student to identify areas of strength and areas for future self-directed learning. This data is particularly helpful when gearing up for Step 1, etc.
  • Learning Specialists use these reports to tailor feedback and recommended learning and study strategies.
  • No exam questions or averages are shared in either report. 

What if a student is unable to attend an exam review provided by AES?

  • If students would like to review their exam and are unable to attend the scheduled exam review, please contact OAE to arrange an alternative time. 

The Learning Phase 

In an effort to enhance readiness for Step 1, students are encouraged to work in a learning question bank (q-bank) of their choice prior to moving into UWorld. Typically students leverage Amboss or Kaplan. To support students' efforts, the College of Medicine-Phoenix purchases these q-banks for our medical students. 

Our data suggest that this approach supports:

  • Block study
  • Works as a learning q-bank to create a strong foundation for future work in the UWorld q-bank
  • Enhances performance on Step 1

The College of Medicine-Phoenix purchases also provides students with a Kaplan Diagnostic in the fall. This feedback helps affirm or redirect independent readiness work. Learning Specialists work with their students to develop a plan to integrate question bank usage within their learning system. In addition, students have the option to enroll in a Step 1 Readiness Elective during the Personalized Academic Learning (PAL) block to complete questions.

  • "The Kaplan Q-bank provides a detailed review of content that should be used as one of the foundations to a successful study plan. The time and effort you spend early in learning and finishing these questions is an investment that will pay off as you move into more dedicated study time later in the year." - Mark Roehr, 2020
  • "I think I started to benefit the most from the Kaplan Qbank when I stopped viewing it as a tool to quantify my success and started recognizing it as a resource not only to get question practice, but also to learn content as well. I would utilize the questions I got incorrect as an opportunity to reference those concepts in First Aid, which helped me gain familiarity with this resource and solidify the content that was being tested. I also found it helpful to keep a log of my incorrect answers so that I could easily review the content I was weaker at." - Amber Sandoval-Menendez, 2020
  •  "I did Kaplan prior to UWorld, and often did it to match block material early, helped me not feel like I was ill prepped or blown away. Also, it helped going by systems to match my review. Once I switched to UWorld, it felt like my second pass. Also, it is indeed a security blanket, so don't be afraid to let go. However, you also only get so much benefit from repeating UWorld questions, so switch wisely." - Alex Cooke, 2019
  • "Kaplan QBank was a necessary resource for me. It allowed me to test my knowledge for block exams while letting me dabble in USMLE-style questions as a warm up to UWorld. Questions touched on topics not necessarily covered in class but important for Step 1. The answer explanations were thorough and explained difficult concepts in a new way. As someone who uses questions heavily as a study tool, Kaplan was the perfect bridge between block studying and UWorld!" - Lauren Auerbach, 2019

The Refining Phase

Students purchase and use UWorld after they have leveraged a learning q-bank. The readiness work in a learning q-bank helps students maximize their learning in UWorld. The work in UWorld usually serves as a refining phase for Step 1 readiness.

When do students make the transition from their learning question bank to their refining question bank? Be sure to connect with your Learning Specialist. This timing is unique to YOU and YOUR Step 1 readiness work. 

Testing Accommodations 

If you anticipate a need for accommodation based on a temporary or chronic medical condition or disability for any board exam, please review our link on access and learning.  

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