I feel like this.
I HAVE FINISHED STEP 1. I. HAVE FINISHED. STEP ONE.
(Did you read that in Tom Hanks’ voice? I did.)
I will now say a few words about the test, and then we will never speak of it again. You can take Step 1 anywhere there’s a test station, which for me was conveniently ten blocks away. The weird thing about the test station is they offer all kinds of tests, because the company, Prometric, has a stranglehold on most of the standardized tests offered. Most of the people checking in when I got there were taking the GRE. A couple were taking the MCAT.
Anyway, once you’ve checked in you go through this ridiculous TSA-style security illusion. You turn your pockets inside-out, raise your pants to show you haven’t tattooed a blueprint of the Krebs cycle on your calf, then they wand you down. They take your picture, which then glares back at you from the computer screen every time you log back in from a break. As if to say, “hey, asshole, you signed up for this. Six blocks to go.”
So. The test.
I can’t get too specific about the questions. The NBME (the exam writers) consider even saying “there were questions and they had answer choices” to be a copyright/cheating violation punishable by stoning and simultaneous crucifixion, so I have to be vague.
I just spent the last four weeks studying the most basic of the basic sciences. I memorized cofactors for enzymes using asinine mnemonics. I pounded which drugs induce and which drugs inhibit liver processing into my brain. I tried to learn the anatomy of leg nerves.
I memorized effing leg nerves.
After all that detailed, intentional, scheduled-to-the-minute studying, I went to the testing center yesterday, sat down in front of a computer, and clicked through the tutorial to “BEGIN YOUR EXAM.”
The first question of the entire test was about a man who got sick after eating, and I’m quoting here, “1.1 kg (2.4 lb) of nearly raw bear meat.”
TWO POINT FOUR POUNDS OF RAW BEAR MEAT. I looked for the answer choice, “refer to Jurassic Park – patient is actually a Tyrannosaurus Rex” but couldn’t find one, so I guessed. I had no idea.
I try to avoid swearing, but what the fuck am I supposed to know about bear-borne infections? Am I practicing infectious gastroenterology in Alaska? Consulting as a parasitologist to a hunting community in the Arctic Circle? Bear Grylls-ing my way across the Siberian wasteland with an indigenous guide lacking in fire-starting skills?
There were lots of moments like that on the exam. One question was about a patient who had hypertension, diabetes, heart failure, AIDS, had recently been bit by a dog, had also recently stepped on a rusty nail, and was finishing a course of antibiotics to treat pneumonia. Oh and she had thyroid cancer. Really. The question then asked – I am not exaggerating – if you can get pneumonia from parrots.
(Yes, you can.)
Anyway. It was an eight-hour exam, which meant that I sat on my ass while two separate groups of test takers, doing shorter tests, rotated their way through the center. By the time it was over I looked pretty much like Tom Hanks himself right before he got rescued. Although, in retrospect, it really could have been worse – at one point, the girl sitting next to me was sweating her way through a test called “PATENT REGISTRATION EXAM: U.S. PATENT AND TRADEMARK OFFICE.”
I think I’ll take the bear meat, thanks.
After the exam, I came home to eat my way through a bag of chips and down somewhere in the vicinity of 3-5 drinks. I lost count. Later I met some friends for more drinks and the next thing I knew I was CAGE questionnaire-ing myself at 6 in the morning.
I’m not used to this kind of freedom. The last time I had anything resembling this type of free time was on my psych rotation in January. Zing!
…Tomorrow, I really need a haircut. But first, I’m cooking family dinner. Bear is on the menu.