USMLE Study Strategy by Successful Students (Part 6 of 6)
General Advice about Step 1
- Fix up a study plan for yourself. Do not try to work how others advise you. You know your pattern well. Study accordingly.
How did you approach this exam?
- I made a schedule for myself which included what all I had to study in that particular week and kept sunday as a free day so as to complete all that remained incomplete during the week days. Making up a schedule and sticking to it is the most important thing that you need to do.
Did you use a subject review or a system-based approach, and how well did that prepare you?
- I used mostly a system-based approach because I had learnt it that way the entire year of my school study. So I felt comfortable using that method.
Did you form study groups, how did you go about forming them, and how effective were they?
- I always believed in self study. I cannot study well in groups as I cannot focus there and keep remaining distracted. But here you should work as your pattern demands. If you feel comfortable studying in groups, do it that way. Decide what can be the most productive method for you.
What books were essential for preparing for this exam?
- I referred First Aid, BRS Physiology, Robbins Question Book, USMLE Cases
What other books did you use?
What review courses did you use? Did you use notes from 1st and 2nd year?
- I used DIT and USMLE World Question bank. I would recommend DIT for those who are not focused enough and find time whiling away as this book urges you to be focused and brings you back on the track. But if you are the one who is highly determined and focused, form your own schedule and work out the question banks well. I never used my notes.
Do you have any recommendations or general comments about Question Banks? How useful were they in your studies? Which ones did you use?
- Question banks, according to me are a must! I used USMLE World question bank and went through it twice. If you want to put your knowledge into practical usage, all you need to do is practice from these question banks.
How early did you begin studying? Would you go back and change that if you could?
- I started doing practice questions about 3 months before my test (in March) and I kept on reviewing portions in January, but I didn't start full on studying until after 2nd year classes had ended in April. I started studying only after Organ Systems was over. But yes, you are to focus critically in those classes to get a thorough grip over the subject. This is the preparation for the test in a way. I don't think starting to study before Organ Systems was over would have done any good. I found that the 8 weeks from end of 2nd year until I took my test were more than enough to study.
How long did you prepare for?
- I studied for step 1 only for about 8 weeks (after 2nd year ended until my test mid June)
What was your everyday schedule like once you began to study? How did you prevent tiredness?
- I studied about 12 hours every day except for Saturday. The saturdays I would stop studying at 6 and would relax my mind that day. I got a workout twice every week. Relaxation is absolutely essential else you will freak out after studying for 3 − 4 weeks and the rest of the weeks would not be much productive and would seem as a burden. I think that if you manage some relaxation time throughout the week the burnout stage will be a lot later and a lot less intense.
How did you plan your schedule?
- I went through first aid and brs physiology for 2 weeks before I started DIT for a month. After dit, two weekd I dedicated for practice questions. My agenda was to work more on the areas of my weakness and devote less time to what I was comfortable with. I saved biochemistry for the last week before the test because it's a lot of blunt memorization.
How much time did you dedicate to each subject? What was the breakdown?
- It totally depended on the subject. I spent about a day on each subject. All of my other time I devoted to my weaker sections. You can refer to DIT as it gives a very set schedule for subjects.
What did you do a week before the exam and the night before exam?
- A week before the exam I just practised questions and revised blunt memorization factoids. A few days earlier I used to study only till late evening to get back my schedule of sleep. The day before exam I just relaxed and hung out so I was fresh to give the exam next morning.
How did you deal with difficult questions? What do you think about changing your answer?
- First of all do not get worked out if you go blank and cannot answer few questions. You can go through a nice test even after answering a few questions wrongly. Just do not panic and have patience. When it comes to changing your answer, don't do it unless you're positive the new answer is the right one. Throughout doing practice questions I often found that your first instinct really is usually correct.
How did you avoid fatigue? When did you take your breaks during the exam?
- During my study schedule, I just slept so as to keep myself afresh. Similarly I did not work out while taking the sections. I took a break almost after every block and assured that my mind is fresh before I get to solve another section.
What was your strategy at reading and answering the question in the allotted time/dissecting a question stem?
- My best advice is to read carefully and slowly. The more quick you try to read, you realize that you end up skipping important points for which you have to read the question all over again resulting into more time consumption. If the question is really very long, read the last line of the question first which may not require you to read the whole thing at all. If the stem has a graph or chart or something, look at that first too.
If you had to redo it all over again, what would you do differently, and what would you keep the same?
- I would actually take my test earlier. By the last week I was so anxious to take the test and was very impatient that I could not work much productively. Other than that, I'm happy with how it turned out:
- Try to find what works best for you. Dont panic, try to stress out. If you panic, things will only go worse, your mind just won't work as well if you're totally stressing out. All you need is time and focus.