Did anyone take the CBT?

Just out of curiosity, did anyone take the CBT? How was it?

I’ll show my ignorance here, but what is the CBT?

Sorry about that. I meant to expand it out in my post, but I forgot.
The CBT is the new computer-based MCAT. I gathered they were offering limited spots for it in April and again in August.

Wow, I had no idea they were doing that. I wonder how it is going to work. I personally liked the paper form and don’t think I would like it on computer.

Ewwww - I would hate to do it on a computer! I have major trouble with eye strain after reading a computer screen too long (as in after an hour!)and literally get to the point where I can barely read. I hope that doesn’t become mandatory.
(a pencil and paper kind of gal!)

Well, get used to computer testing because your USMLE Steps 1, 2, and 3 are all on a computer! I had the same reaction as you, Christy, when I found out I’d have to spend so much time on the computer. I still don’t like it as much as pencil and paper, because I like to write all over my tests crossing out wrong answers and such like - you don’t get to do that with a computer screen. But with practice, you get used to it and it is manageable.

I remember griping(sp?) about having to take all of my med school exams on our issued laptop. But now that I am 7 weeks from Step I, I am really grateful that I have been forced to learn how to spend long hours in front of the screen, answering questions.
My point is not to fear it, but to know that with practice you will get the hang of it.

I’m a paper-and-pencil person myself but I feel by the time I take the MCAT (probably April 2006), it won’t be optional anymore–everyone will be forced to use the computer.
I happened to be flipping channels the other night and caught the end of ER (a show I quit watching after Dr. Mark Greene died) and I noticed Abby (the nurse who is now a med student?) was taking USMLE, Step 1 on a computer screen and I was wondering how accurate that was–whether it was computerized or pencil-and-paper. I definately prefer scratch paper–the computer makes me a little dizzy and you can’t “flip pages” as easily. I guess there must be some kind of “back” button though.

Yea, I saw that also. I was wondering about that too. I didn’t know the boards were computerized.
Abby was in med school years agao, but her husband didn’t pay something in her loans or tutition and they kicked her out due to money. I have no idea how that could happen, she would have just taken out loans. And how you could re enter years after to finished your first 3 years is beyond me. Oh, you gotta love TV realism.
Oh and she was taking the USML 2, because she was already finishing her rotations. I thought she was a 3rd year as well as the others, but the previews showed her graduating. Must be a 3 year med school program

USMLE Steps 1,2,and 3 are all computerized. Last I heard COMLEX was still pencil-and-paper. In USMLE, you’ll spend much of your prep time practicing with a download test they provide, AND with QBank, so you’ll get very familiar with the computer format. You can mark questions that you want to go back to and review and change answers during a block (approx. 50 questions in 60 minutes). Once you’ve completed a block and exited it, though, you can’t go back to it.
It’s really a pretty good interface, doesn’t take long to get used to.

Ugh, I had heard that about USMLE - that it was switching over to computer. Guess it has!! Where have I been?
And there are 3 steps? Why did I think there were only two? I need to get my head out of the sand!
I’m glad to hear one can get used to it though. Maybe I’ll ask my eye doctor about some of those anti-computer glare lenses…
Thanks for the input!!

Well, I can’t speak for the USMLE, but when I took the computerized GREs there was no back button, so the strategy is quite different. I think I still prefer paper tests, but the computer version not so bad once you get used to it.
Does the USMLE have a back button?

GRE is a totally different animal because your response to each question is being used to choose your next questions… if you are getting a lot right, the questions are going to get harder and harder and harder. My husband took the GRE last year and said that by the end of the test, the questions were so hard he almost cried. (there is a term for this kind of testing that escapes me at the moment) Note that at the end of the day, your score on the GRE shows up on the computer screen - it’s scored immediately. Not so the USMLE, which takes about 3 weeks (still better than the MCAT’s 60 days).
USMLE Step 1 is 7 blocks of 50 questions each, with one hour given to each block. Step 2 is 8 blocks of 46 questions each, again with one hour per block. When you are within that one block, you may go back and forth, recheck answers, mark questions that you want to think about and come back to, etc. Once your hour is up for that block, however, you cannot ever go back to it again. You move on to another group of questions.
USMLE Step 3 is one day of the same format as Steps 1&2, then another day of clinical scenarios where your responses are more interactive than just choosing a,b,c,d. I haven’t seen Step 3 or spent even a minute investigating it so I can’t describe it exactly. I do know that two days of computer testing is a looooooong time, but (shrug) ya gotta do it.

A reminder that for everyone from the current third year class onward, the USMLE Step II will also include a clinical skills exam with standardized patients (now Step IIB or something like that). They have definitely not computerized that part.

If I recall correctly, Step III is only given at a certain location and you have to travel there to take it. Am I remembering that correctly?

I believe it’s called adaptive testing, and he must have been doing well. If they were getting easier, he’d have been in trouble!
I think I almost starved to death during that exam. I was so hungry and cranky by the time I was done. If I can bring a fridge full of food to the MCATs, I will!

I for one, am VERY glad to know that the USMLE is computer based, and wish I could have taken the CBT rather than the pencil and paper MCAT. I am HORRIBLE with all those damn little bubbles!

According to a friend of mine who adminsters the COMLEX, that exam will be going to computer soon as well. Either this year or next year is the last year it’s paper and pencil, if I understood her correctly.
I also dreaded the computer testing, since I write all over my exams, but in practicing with Q-bank it hasn’t been too bad. My biggest concern was that as a notorious question skipper (I skip any question that I’ve had to think about for more than about 30 seconds, at least early in the exam until I’m “warmed up”) it would take too much time to go back to questions. But with the ability to mark the questions, I have found that it doesn’t add any more time than flipping back and forth through the pages did. Now my biggest concern is that the chairs be somewhat comfortable, as I get back aches when I sit too long.
What I think will be interesting is when they go to the Computer Adaptive Testing where the questions are ranked hard or easy, and if you answer an easy question correctly they give you a harder one-- once you have demonstrated that you would have statistically passed, the exam terminates! I think that would make me nervous if I was still there for a long time. Of course, if you finished fairly early in, that would be nice! I don’t know when that will take effect though.
(By the way, I think the ‘experts’ recommend that you not skip questions, but this method has worked well for me for two years, so I’m not going to change it now!)

I dunno who the experts are who advise against skipping questions but that is definitely not the way I handled either Step 1 or Step 2. On both of these I had practiced enough that I had a “sense” of how long I was willing to spend on a question - it probably was a minute max. If I wasn’t getting anywhere, whooops! it’s on to the next question. The thing is, there are lots of questions you’ll be able to answer in just a few seconds (well, a few seconds of considering the answer after however long it takes to read the dang question; some of 'em especially on Step 2 are LONG). You want to make your first pass through a block of questions, answering the ones that you can readily answer without serious heavy lifting. THEN you will have lots of time to go back and ponder the ones that require more thought.
On Step 1, I didn’t have many epidemiology Qs but when I did, those automatically got deferred because they required me to stop and do a little math. That interfered with my rhythm, so I saved them for the “second pass,” where I looked at the questions that required me to figure out something.
To be honest I can’t imagine doing it any other way. By the time I got to the last block of Step 2, I had this system down pat and could spend several minutes, if I needed to, figuring out complicated questions. And the thing is, I knew just how much time I had for however many questions - I’d often be facing, say, 15 questions but I would have 30 minutes to work on them during my second pass.
I highly recommend this method!


If I recall correctly, Step III is only given at a certain location and you have to travel there to take it. Am I remembering that correctly?

Amy, that’s the clinical skills portion of Step 2 - 2B or whatever they’re calling it. This was part of the objection to doing it - it is going to cost students a LOT of extra money and the fail rate is projected to be so low as to make you wonder what is the point of the test? My colleagues in the Class of 2005 are the lucky guinea pigs to kick off this new feature; presumably we’ll start hearing from them in a few more months.