USMLE. It is one of the biggest hurdles that medical students must pass in their journey to becoming a physician. This 7 hour long multiple-choice exam has the potential to determine the students’ future (although it is not the only thing that residency directors consider in an applicant). The second years at my school are gearing up for the final push as they go into the last few weeks of intense studying. As the editor of my school newspaper, I sent out a little survey to my classmates about their Step 1 studying strategies. Here is some of what they did to tackle the beast.
Duration: 6 weeks
Resources:UWorld; First Aid; DIT; Dr. Najeeb videos
Strategy: 8-12 hours/day. Went through all of DIT and annotated FirstAid, made flashcards from the high yield sections at the back of FirstAid as well as additional areas that I thought would be high yield for me, and did all of the UWorld questions in timed mode. I ended up spending about 3 hours on every 40q UWorld block because I went through the answers and explanations after every question set & took notes. I also did 3 practice NBMEs and both UWorld diagnostics.
Advice:STOP FREAKING OUT. You will be fine, and then it will be over, and everything will be awesome again. Only go back to the US (or Canada, or wherever) to study if you are sure you can avoid the temptation of socializing, etc. with friends and family. Get enough exercise. Unless it’s unavoidable, don’t take the Step after you have started 3rd year.
Duration:All year 2nd year, 7wk for final countdown
Resources:UWorld; First Aid; Goljan; Summary textbooks for each system
Phase 1 – doing all UW, reading textbooks, going in order of Physio->Patho->UW, hopefully in 3 weeks. Noting all wrong questions and pertinent info to FA. I used the anatomy phases to make up for whatever I didn’t cover.
Phase 2 – Doing all wrong questions of UW and bringing it, and reset, do UW again
Phase 3 – Did UW one more time. Each week NBME, no score spike.
Had to postpone one week because score wasn’t improving
1. Do everything possible to keep you from burnt out.
2. I put too much energy in writing everything in my FA.
3. Learn how to learn efficiently. Spaced repetition is gold.
4. Maintain your schedule and stick to it.
5. Don’t aim for a mediocre score head-on. Aim for 273. Work as hard as you can.
(FOR FIRST YEARS): Set up everything before summer break: Then, ENJOY that summer break – it’s the last one you can truly enjoy. (FOR 2nd YEARS): You can kill Step 1, don’t let anything distract you from it. You can do it, and all of us are rooting for you. But really put in everything into it. Don’t burn out. Last of all, good luck!
Duration: 7 weeks
Resources: UWorld; First Aid; Goljan; DIT
Strategy:12 hours/day at the library. A couple short breaks each day.
Advice: Highly recommend DIT! Go study wherever you feel most comfortable. Do your best and don’t worry too much about the score – 30 years from now we won’t care what we got!
Duration: 5 weeks
Resources: UWorld; Firecracker; Kaplan
Strategy: 8-9 hours/day, workout at lunch, dinners/beers with friends/family in the evenings. Pounded 150 questions/day.
Advice: START NOW! TAKE OUT BASIC SCIENCES NOW! Be in the passing zone via NBME practice exam going into the summer!
Disclaimer: These are what 4 different students in my class did to study for Step 1. They all had passing scores and some did very well. There are many other blogs and forums with advice on how to study. Everyone has his or her own style of learning. Take any advice with a grain of salt.