USMLE Study Strategy by Successful Students (Part 3 of 6)

General Advice about Step 1

  • Have your goal in mind which is realistic otherwise either of the ways it will disappoint you. You should not go through many books and acquire bit knowledge from each of them. Instead, go thorugh one detailed book thoroughly understanding the concepts. Keep a record of things which you feel difficult or need to revise once before the exam.

How did you approach this exam?

  • Whatever score I got was going to set the tone for my third and fourth year goals, so I really couldn't study hard enough. I just made up mind to work hard everyday and make up to my plan regularly and revise the content.

Did you use a subject review or a system-based approach, and how well did that prepare you?

  • I used organ systems approach and subjects because that is how first-aid and DIT are organized. I think it did a great job of preparing me because you need to learn the organ system first then apply that to the subjects (eg musculoskeletal and heart, then microbiology or biochemistry related diseases that affect both)

Did you form study groups, how did you go about forming them, and how effective were they?

  • I worked on DIT with one other person, which helped me keep on task. I always chose to have a person who is responsible and smart but I do not know him well because if I get to study with the person whom I know well, I will easily get I get off topic.

What books were essential for preparing for this exam?

  • First Aid for USMLE Step 1

What other books did you use?

  • BRS Physiology, DIT manual are the other books which I went through:

What review courses did you use? Did you use notes from 1st and 2nd year?

  • I used DIT review course. I don't think I used notes from 1st or 2nd year as I believe its easy to find answers from internet rather than waste time searching for them in thousands of pages.

Do you have any recommendations or general comments about Question Banks? How useful were they in your studies? Which ones did you use?

  • I used First Aid Question bank during Organ systems, which was great. During step 1 preparation I used used UWorld Question bank. Both are great question banks.

How early did you begin studying? Would you go back and change that if you could?

  • I gave myself 5 weeks to study. However I was able to complete the study in 4 − 4.5 weeks as I has to attend some family gatherings. But I don't think anyone needs to spend more time on study because you start to forget more instead of remembering as you start to study the minute details which are not required.

How long did you prepare for?

  • I prepared only for the 4 − 5 weeks that I studied. I did do questions from the first aid question bank to help study for organ systems during the year but did not use it for reviewing. I reviewed through AEC whenever I had time.

What was your everyday schedule like once you began to study? How did you prevent fatigue?

  • The first week I went through First Aid and help myself make a schedule of study. I didvided the day between reading and practise questions as well as reviewing lectures between the two breaks of lunch and dinner that I took. The next three weeks I began DIT at 8AM and usually went till 3 − 5PM. Then I would take a dinner break, and begin reviewing the lectures from the day until 9 − 10PM. The last week I tried to work at my weaker areas and relaxed a bit so that I would be energetic and confident on the day of exam.

How did you plan your schedule?

  • The later 2.5 weeks I worked as the DIT lectures suggested me to do. The inital 2 − 2.5 weeks I studied on my own in which I tried to use the cram fighter Iphone app-. Though I didnt love it much, but it did help me be more realistic about my study goals each day.

How much time did you dedicate to each subject? What was the breakdown?

  • I devoted more of my time on my weaker sections. Most of my time was probably on Biochem and micro-high yield and dense material.

What did you do a week before and the night before the exam?

  • I utilized that time to review and revise and focus on my weaker sections. Also I practiced a lot and lot of multiple choice questions (NBME sample questions, DIT questions, Uworld questions-did questions from anywhere I could find).

How did you deal with difficult questions? What do you think about changing your answer?

  • Just accept that when you appear for competitive exams, you will not be able to answer all the questions. There are some questions which you would not know anyway and they won't contribute in your marks. I typically went with my gut feeling on 50/50 questions unless I suddenly remembered something specific to change my mind.

How did you avoid fatigue? When did you take your breaks during the exam?

  • I took a break after I completed every section except for the last two. I made sure I was hydrated and caffeinated.

What was your strategy at reading and answering the question in the allotted time/dissecting a question stem?

  • I first read the question so I had the idea of what important points I had to sort out while reading the vignette. Then before looking at the options, I would try to answer the question myself and then try to get the closest option of what I thought of as the answer.

If you had to redo it all over again, what would you do differently, and what would you keep the same?

  • I tried to complete both the Uworld and First aid question banks thereby dividing my precious time into two halves which I wasn't able to justify. I should have focused on completing one instead of studying part of both of them.