If you’re reading this post, you’re probably like me – someone who neurotically spends far too much time on the internet trying to figure out the best strategy and plan to achieve a dream score on the USMLE Step 1 exam.
Early in M2, I heavily researched the topic to ensure that I was doing everything possible to set myself up for success on boards. I read countless reviews of study resources and question banks, as well as when to implement them into my board prep. I’ve scoured over dozens of Step 1 success stories from posters on Reddit, Student Doctor Network, and elsewhere on the web, in hopes to replicate their success. As such, I formulated my plan this past fall, and I’ve been doing everything I can to execute the plan to perfection.
Let’s hope this works out so that next summer I can post a success story of my own and impart advice to anxious medical students beginning their second year, instead of the contrary – writing about my board-prep regrets.
As we’re already in winter of M2, I have a few minor regrets about what I should have done in M1 and in the fall of M2, but there is still so much time left until the exam (mid June) that I won’t stress about that now.
I’ll break down the following:
- Which resources I am using (review resources and question banks)
- Why I chose to use that particular resource
- When I plan to implement it into my preparation
So, here’s the plan…
Why? It’s the medical school bible. I have recently purchased the fresh-off-the-press 2018 version of First Aid (get yours here), but I haven’t yet cracked it open. I have ignored my physical copy so far in favor of the PDF version, because I love the search feature. If I’m learning about any topic, I can search control-F search it and find every page where it is discussed. I will start annotating my physical copy when I truly dig into Pathoma.
When? Started using First Aid in the spring semester of last year, mostly using it to align what I’m learning in class with what is expected on the boards. Once I have made a pass through all topics in Boards and Beyond, I will rely on First Aid more heavily.
Boards and Beyond
Why? Doctor Ryan is a fantastic teacher, and this product is worthy of the title of “the Pathoma of everything else”. So far, I’ve mostly used First Aid as a reference book or for quick review of a particular topic, while doing most of my learning through Boards and Beyond. I have a hard time sitting down and actually reading First Aid, so a video review resource like B&B is invaluable to me. And it’s way cheaper than DIT. Read my review of Boards and Beyond here.
When? I started using Boards and Beyond in the very beginning of M2. At the time, I simply watched the videos that corresponded to the particular block I was in. In November, I began dialing it back a bit on my school lectures and started hitting the most dense (or my most troublesome) subjects heavily. I have systematically worked through Cardiovascular, Neurology, Endocrine, Psychiatry, Renal, and I’m halfway through Biochem. I plan to finish B&B by end of January-early February. My only complaint – I wish I had started using Boards and Beyond day one of medical school.
Why? You know why. Sattar is a master of the high yield. He gives us just enough information to get 99% of pathology questions right on the test – not too much to be overwhelming, and not too little to skip over important points.
When? I started using Pathoma in M1 (one of the few good choices I have made in my life). At the time, I simply just watched the videos for the corresponding block I was in, and I continued to do this in M2. So, I’ve worked my way through the majority of Pathoma, but most of that information vanished from my brain as quickly as the Falcons 28-3 lead in Super Bowl 51. I will begin making my second (first complete) pass through Pathoma after I have finished Boards & Beyond (in a few weeks).
Sketchy Medical (Micro & Pharm, Hold the Path)
Why? I can sit down for an hour at the end of the night watching Sketchy videos and not even feel like I’m studying. Sketchy’s illustrations make learning micro & pharm seem like a breeze. I have not heard good reviews of their new pathology section, so I’ll pass on that.
When? I was using a friend’s Sketchy subscription during our microbiology block early in M1, but when I came back to school for M2, it would no longer work on my computer. I believe, due to sharing the account with a friend at a different school, suspicious activity was detected and my IP address was banned. I worked my way around this and bought a subscription this winter, but I still have the majority of this to conquer. Major regret, but I’m working my way through Sketchy now, for about an hour each night.
Why? Alas, the final piece to the mandatory UFAP(S) regimen. UWorld is the gold standard for USMLE practice questions.
When? I will start UWorld sometime in February when I have completed USMLE-Rx. Deciding when to start using UWorld is a major concern of mine, with many saying wait til March while other said start ASAP. I want to complete Boards & Beyond before starting UWorld, so that I have a good knowledge base going in, because I feel like starting it now without seeing certain topics since fall of M1 (if at all) is a waste. Any advice here would actually be appreciated.
Why? Nothing solidifies and integrates your knowledge like practice questions. I chose USMLE-Rx because I like how it pulls questions directly from First Aid and gives direct excerpts (screenshots) of the relevant First Aid chapters that the answer can be derived from. The USMLE-Rx phone app, which I’ve regretfully downloaded just recently, is a great way to bang out questions throughout the day.
When? I started using Rx in the beginning of M2 for USMLE style practice questions on the block I was in (our school’s exam questions are often poorly written). Throughout the fall, I’d periodically do 20-question blocks on the subjects I was covering in classes and Boards & Beyond. However, I wish I had done more early on because I now want to finish it as quickly as possible to move onto UWorld. In hindsight, I really wish I had used USMLE-Rx throughout M1 to practice for block exams, so that I could have conquered Kaplan’s Q-bank throughout M2 fall and moved onto UWorld over winter break.
I don’t know. I had planned on finishing USMLE-Rx over winter break (still probably won’t finish until early February), starting Kaplan over winter break and finishing most of it by February/March, then moving on to UWorld. Because I still have a few weeks left of USMLE-Rx to get through, I am asking you to give me advice – should I scrap the idea of buying Kaplan’s Q-bank and move onto UWorld ASAP, or should I do Kaplan once I’m finished with Rx and delay UWorld? Any and all advice is greatly appreciated.
I have been making Anki decks since winter of M1, but mid-fall, I scrapped that and simply started a Step-1 master deck. I make Anki cards for just about each Boards & Beyond video I’ve watched. While this may slow me down, I retain everything through my daily Anki questions. If I’ve covered something in Boards & Beyond, I know it cold. Also, I make Anki cards for each question I miss in USMLE-Rx. I periodically study Brosencephalon’s deck for extra practice if I’m bored, but my Step 1 Anki deck is glorious and a major component of my plan.
I find myself driving in the car a lot, and in my opinion, 2017 wasn’t a great year for music. Goljan is engaging and ties concepts together in a memorable way. Supplementing the plan with some Goljan audio in the car is a strong move. Like making a delicious chicken pasta with tomato sauce and garnishing it with fresh basil. Something like that.
Yeah, I dunno. I’m going to do my first diagnostic NBME exam after I finish Boards and Beyond. I’ll figure out when to schedule the rest after that.
What I am NOT Using and Why
- Firecracker – I tried the free trial and I hated it. I am already a devout follower of the Anki religion, and I don’t want to overload on resources.
- Doctors in Training – Ain’t nobody got money for that. Too expensive. Boards & Beyond is better.
- Anything else – I already feel like I have too many resources.
So basically, I’m using Boards & Beyond, Sketchy, and USMLE-Rx to get a strong base. Once I’ve completed those, it’ll be heavy doses of Pathoma, First Aid, and UWorld from there on out. If anyone has any suggestions or questions on this plan, please feel free to write a comment below or shoot me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org). I am trying to prepare in the best way possible, so if anyone reading this has been through the process and would like to impart some advice, I’d be greatly appreciative.
I wish everyone the best of luck on the exam. Now please wish me the same. Thank u.
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