Now that I have my results back I feel more comfortable blogging about the methods I used to study for the exam. Major disclaimer: this is a sample size of 1 person and in the end you really have to do what works best for you personally. I wouldn’t go out and try some new study techniques you have never used before. Stick to what you know works well for YOU. That being said, here is what I did. In the end I scored above average and was happy with my performance.
My test day: May 4th
My first official day studying: March 13th
I really didn’t study much specifically for Step 1 before March. I focused on my MS2 classes and did well on all the shelves leading up to the end of the year which got me honors in all my classes except for one and also laid a solid foundation for Step 1. I did use the UWorld question bank to study for shelves so I had already gone through about 40% of the Q bank.
Resources I used and my opinion on them:
Uworld Question bank: Absolutely the best resource you will use. Start using the questions as soon as possible and repeat questions many many many times.
Kaplan: I purchased their review course and stopped using this about mid-way through my dedicated studying. Not sure if it was that helpful. Just another way to see the same information. If you like Kaplan, use it, but nothing new that helped me on the exam came ONLY from Kaplan.
Pathoma: This is why I honored Path. I continued to re-read my Pathoma and watch some videos during dedicated studying. It is essential for pathology.
First Aid: Whether you like it or not this book has ALMOST everything you need to score incredibly well on the exam. If you can focus on anything just make sure you know everything in this book. I had only a handful of questions on the exam that could not have been answered by looking up First Aid but otherwise it was pretty spot on.
Behavioral Science Review Book: Probably worth going through a quick review book like BRS. You will notice once you start taking the NBME practice exams that you are getting really easy BS questions wrong simply because you don’t know how Step 1 wants you to answer them. These will be easy points so prepare for them! Don’t ignore Behavioral Science or the statistics stuff. Also, go over things like the stages of clinical trials.
SketchyMicro: This is why I honored Micro. A really fun and easy way to remember microbiology stuff.
NBME practice exams: These are ESSENTIAL. I took 4 NBME exams and 2 UWorld practice exams. My 2nd UWorld practice exam was about 10 points higher than my actual score, which is what I have heard from a couple of people. The best predictor, in my own experience were the NBMEs. I scored 2 points higher than my best one and almost 20 points higher than my first NBME practice exam that I took 2 weeks into studying. When you buy them spend the extra $10 and get the version that lets you see which questions you got wrong.
My Daily Schedule:
Before you begin studying it is essential that you make a plan for yourself. For me, I did my review by organ system so I would review all the pharm, path and physio within each of those. I gave myself between 3-4 days for each organ. In that time I completed every UWorld question for that topic and read that specific section in First Aid at least once or twice.
AM: I would start with 1 or 2 question blocks in UWorld. If it was day 1 of a new organ system I did tutor mode and would just spend time reading the answers. Otherwise I would do the questions then go through and read each answer at the end. I took notes on things that I had forgotten and then reviewed those notes every couple days.
PM: I read First Aid. I read Pathoma. I did more question blocks.
There is no magic secret to Step 1 studying. Literally just spend 10 hours a day either doing questions or reading First Aid and you will be fine. Periodically (I did every Saturday) take a practice exam to make sure your score is continuing to go up. Remember to review information you have already gone over. Do this by doing random question blocks, question blocks with missed questions. question blocks with marked questions and re-read your notes as much as you can. The key is repetition.
A few things I wish I had done differently:
-Probably not wasted my time with Kaplan, I would have done just fine with out it
-Started UWorld questions even earlier
-Reviewed my notes more often
-Been more relaxed in general; my anxiety was through the roof and that was not conducive to studying
-Made sure I really knew the biochem pathways: THEY WILL COME UP!
-Been conscious of trying to eliminate stupid mistakes- these will be what brings your score down from your absolute possible maximum. I know I made MANY stupid mistakes. Not sure if you can avoid them, but try!
-Don’t use too many resources. If you give yourself too much to do or cover this will backfire. Pick 3 or 4 (max) essentials and stick to those. You have to use First Aid and Uworld- KNOW THESE WELL. Other than that, you can pick 1 or 2 more things that will help you in your weaker areas.
-Enjoy it! This is your time to put everything together. Somewhere mid-way through everything will come together and things will just click. It’s really awesome when that happens and you may actually enjoy this nice time you have to learn medicine.