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Member Profile

Klaudia Urbaniak (2006)
Member Type: Student, Junior Member Campus: Chicago
Specialty: Neurosurgery Program: UC-San Diego
Advice
USMLE STEP 1 ADVICE

USMLE STEP 1 GENERAL INFO:

Score: Very High
Time: 1.5 months full-time (8-12 hrs/day)
Key Resources: Kaplan Step 1 books, Kaplan Q-Bank, Pathophysiology for the Boards and Wards for Step 1, First Aid for Step 1, Lippincott PharmCards and MicroCards

Schedule Overview (1.5 months including several days off for rest or catch-up):
1. Read First Aid (2 days)
2. Read Kaplan books (one every 3 days or so for approx 3 wks) + 4 hrs Q-Bank every night
3. While reading books take at least one day for mid-point full-length exam
4. Finish Q-Bank (approx 5 days) 5. Read Ayala's Pathophysiology for Boards & Wards (2 days) and re-read First Aid if you have time
6. Review MicroCards and PharmCards (while finishing Q-Bank and Ayala's book)

I'm the type of person that likes to cram for exams (study intensely the last 2wks before the exam) rather than spreading out my studying over the whole semester, so I used a similar strategy to study for boards. I didn't study for Step 1 at all during the school year. Instead, I focused on doing well in all of my classes and felt that would be good preparation. I recommend following my study plan only if you feel confident that you have a similar study-style and did well first and second year. Once classes ended, I spent 1.5 months studying full-time for the exam (8-12hrs/day).

I used the Kaplan materials and felt they were absolutely outstanding. I started by reading First Aid quickly-this book has extremely little detail and information. It is grossly inadequate by itself, but is a good way of getting warmed-up and getting a brief overview of the material tested as you're starting your test prep. Next, I read all of the Kaplan Step 1 books (approx 3days/book). I read all of them in their entirety once and thoroughly highlighted them (I didn't have time to read them more than once, but that's certainly a great idea if you read faster than I do). These are fantastic books and all the material you need. I didn't watch the lectures on-line because it didn't seem helpful or necessary, but some people like these.

In addition, I went through Q-Bank once in its entirety. It's essential to read the answers/explanations in their entirety even if you get the question right. I had a dedicated notebook that I used to keep notes on new facts/concepts/explanations that I learned from doing this. Taking notes helped reinforce the information and created a resource that I could easily reference/review later. This is very time-consuming (about 3-4 hours for a full block of questions), but I cannot overstate how critical this was to my test preparation and clinical performance M3 year. I learned many, many things from doing this that I wouldn't have learned otherwise.

I started by doing about 4 hours of Q-Bank in the evenings to break up the monotony of reading all day and then moved to doing Q-Bank all day once I finished reading the Kaplan Books (it's really better to save most of the questions until you're done with the books, so you can accurately test what you've learned). There are just over 2,000 questions in Q-bank. I don't think there's much use in doing them more than once although some people do this. I didn't have time to do the new Q-bank clinical vignette series-I think it's not necessary but can't hurt if you have time.

After I was done with all of this, I read Ayala's Pathophysiology for the Boards and Wards. This is a fantastic book to read last once you're mostly done studying for the exam. If you read this too early, it will be too difficult and dense, and it won't help you. Save it for last and use it to tie together all of the things you've already learned. You can also re-read First Aid now if you have time.

In addition to these resources, I used the Lippincott PharmCards and MicroCards. These were great because pharm and micro details are very easy to forget, and I had a hard time remembering this stuff before the test since I read the Kaplan books early in my studying. So, I just went over the flash cards a few times the week before the test, and they really reminded me of most of what I needed to know. The PharmRecall book is great for this too.

There are tons of other materials you can buy. I personally bought tons of stuff I didn't have time for (Board Simulator Series, Blackwell's Underground Clinical Vignettes, NMS, Step 1 Made Ridiculously Simple, Pathology SmartCharts, and others). You really don't need anymore stuff. Just pick one set of comprehensive books/questions that you like and stick with them. In the end, if doesn't matter which series you use as long as you really read the books well.

Lastly, I did several full-length practice tests (provided by Kaplan). I did 1-2 midway to test myself and spent 3-4 days of the last week before the exam doing tests. These are helpful to get an idea of the pace/stamina required but the questions are just like Q-Bank, so you don't need to over do this. It doesn't add that much to your prep so you really only need to do 1-2 before the test if you don't have much time.

Finally, don't forget to take care of yourself. If you're tired and not absorbing the material you're studying, take a break. There's no point in staring at a book if you're not really learning it. This is why I starting doing Q-Bank in the evenings before I was finished with the books. It just made me more productive to add some variety to my days. Taking a day off per week for rest is also great if you're got the time. Also, I recommend taking the day before the exam off and doing something fun. You can't learn much more the day before the test, and you really need to relax and get ready mentally.