Monday, April 23, 2007

USMLE Step 1 Advice

What you NEED to have:

1) QBank, 2) First Aid, 3) BRS or other relatively high yield review books for most, if not all subjects. 4) BRS Micro Flash Cards and Clinical Micro Made Ridiculously Simple


“You spend 20% of your time learning 80% of the material.” - Dr. Wiese

Don’t get hung up on minutiae. Details will get you nowhere without the big picture.

“Do QBank and First Aid and you’ll be fine.” – Maya Jones T4

Getting ready is actually pretty easy. There are excellent resources at your disposal. Below, I have some suggestions to maximize your return on these investments.

According to Dr. Markert, students will burn out if they schedule their Step 1 more than 3 weeks after they finish their shelf exams.

Burnout is something that should be respected. Three weeks of prep time is optimal. Trust me. You’ll go crazy with any more. 3 WEEKS.

Be humble. Do the work now so you can relax when you take the test.

Medical students are neurotic messes about this Step 1 thing and it gets ugly. Good preparation will make this a considerably less-painful experience.

Micro was not the strongest subject last year. Learn it yourself. Use the Clinical Micro book with the flash cards and you’ll be very well prepared.


Already you should be using your First Aid to help review for your block exams.

Working on current material is very important. Don’t cheat yourself out of learning the material well the first time.

Get registered for the Step in January. Plan a 3-4 day break after your shelf exams in June. Schedule your test day to give you 3 weeks to prepare for the Step.

In February, you should put together a schedule, giving yourself enough time to blast through a BRS in a week or two. Getting up to study is the hardest thing here. Make sure you spend time on your weaknesses!!!

Studying with a friend helps a lot as other people will constantly throw you great material. Don’t study with anyone who is overtly competitive or negative.

In March or so, start using QBank. There are pitfalls you can avoid: 1) using the “tutorial mode,” 2) doing short tests and 3) not checking answers. You MUST do FULL-length tests of RANDOM questions at the correct pace to build your stamina. Tutor mode and short tests give you a false sense of security. Checking the answers is essential because QBank tests 2,000 important factoids/concepts/buzzwords.

By April, you should be getting better results on QBank as you develop your test taking strategy (ie. get questions by eliminating wrong answers instead of knowing the right answer). Finally, use your QBank Percentage Right as a monitor of your improving test-taking strategy and knowledge. That Average Percentage Right means nothing.

Before your shelf exams, use the BRS books, and First Aid for Path and Pharm. Condensed material will help get through everything (remember Dr. Wiese’s advice).

AFTER the Shelf exams, take three or four days off. That’s right Turkey. You will need some rest.

If you finish QBank and are dying for more computerized questions, try QBank is better, but these will help you on your test stamina and technique.

After a day off, take the Kaplan Full Length exam TWO weeks before your test day.

After a day off, take another full length test ONE week before.

Then blast through first year stuff you haven’t gotten to. Get through Pharm and Path again. In the last few days cram any memorization intensive stuff.

Take a day off before test day. Relax. Drive to your test center. Watch a movie. Have a good dinner. Get some sleep.

TEST DAY!!!! Bring some sandwiches, coffee in a thermos, fruit etc. Avoid things that will provoke a huge insulin surge. I suggest bringing 2 bottles of Fresh Samantha (the green stuff). Don’t stress on the first section as it’s notoriously difficult.


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