Αξιον Ωφελειν τους Αλγουντας.” --Be Worthy to Serve the Suffering.

Member Profile

Deepak Mitra (2005)
Member Type: Student, Junior Member Campus: Chicago
Specialty: Internal Medicine Program: Mayo Clinic
Advice
USMLE STEP 1 ADVICE

First of all, I would like to emphasize that this is not as a recipe for people to follow. Rather, it is an example of how one person studied for boards. Everyone learns differently; no strategy will work well for everyone. What I did was talk to three of my friends who had done extremely well on boards and got their tips and strategies. From those, I constructed my own strategy, based on how I thought I learned best and what I thought I could do.

Prior to the last M2 finals, I really didn�t do too much studying for boards. I went on vacation during winter break, and I did not want to bring along any med school books. I made a half-hearted attempt to begin First Aid during January practicum, but soon gave up that idea. During spring break I did read through BRS Gross Anatomy. I knew it would be too detailed for boards; I read it mainly as a refresher.

Other than that, I didn�t do any specific boards studying before practicum. However, in some ways, I consider all the studying I did for M1 and M2 classes to be studying for boards. You can�t consider M1 or M2 exams to be isolated hurdles to clear and boards to be a separate exam. Probably, one of the most important factors in my boards score was all the preparation I had done during the first two years. For students reading this during M1 or early M2 year, don�t lose sight of the purpose of classes, exams, and med school: it�s to train you to become a physician. When you study for that renal physiology exam or for that molecular medicine test, remember that you�re also studying for the final exam, for boards, and for your life as a physician.

During practicum I really started studying during my free time and during down time at the hospital, and after it finished I started going really hard-core. In retrospect, one of the factors to which I credit my boards success is my decision to study with a friend. And by studying with a friend I mean sitting in silence together for hours, often in separate rooms. It was nice having someone with whom to take meal breaks and it provided motivation without which I would not have lasted the five weeks. If you do have a friend with whom you can study without distraction, I would strongly recommend it.

I took boards on a Friday, five weeks after the end of practicum. This left me two weeks for break. I am quite happy with the date I picked. Although I was very tempted, I am glad I resisted the urge to push back my date-two weeks of break was hardly enough to recuperate from the trauma of studying for boards. And I know by the end, I was burning out, and I was starting to forget what I had learned at the beginning of the five weeks. But during those five weeks, I really studied hardcore, like I�ve never studied before. And probably never will again.

On average, I slept 7.5-8 hours a day, and actual studying time was about 13.5-14 hours. Meals took a total of 1.5-2 hours (half an hour each for breakfast and lunch, half an hour to an hour for dinner). Honestly, I don�t know how I did it. I haven�t even been able to put in one day of studying like that since then.

I weighted my studying based on my perceived strengths and weaknesses, as well as on my guess of the subject�s relative importance on the boards. I believe that pathology, pharmacology, and microbiology are the most important. Although I was weak in neuroanatomy, since it�s only a part of anatomy, and anatomy itself wasn�t emphasized as much as other subjects on boards, I didn�t study it too hard.

Here are the books I used (in addition to a couple read-throughs of First Aid):
-Anatomy:
---Gross anatomy: High-Yield Anatomy, BRS Anatomy (too detailed; I read it earlier in the year, more for my own knowledge than for boards)
---Embryology: High-Yield Embryology
---Histology: Kaplan (I figured I reviewed most of this in pathology, anyway)
---Neuroanatomy: High-Yield Neuroanatomy
-Biochemistry: First Aid, and I skimmed parts of Marks, Marks, and Smith. I also really liked Nebeker�s Biochem (an interconnected chart of biochemistry pathways-my friend and I actually enlarged it onto four sheets of paper for a mini-biochemistry poster). Biochemistry was my strongest subject so other people may need to study for it differently.
-Behavioral Science: High-Yield Behavioral Science, Kaplan
-Immunology: BRS Microbiology and Immunology (the immunology section)
-Microbiology: Clinical Microbiology Made Ridiculously Simple, Kaplan, Flash Micro (flash cards, with my own notes added). Microbiology was probably my weakest subject so other people may not have to study it as hard.
-Pharmacology: Kaplan, Pharmcards (the second edition, with the blue cover)
-Physiology: BRS Physiology (again, I felt I reviewed most of this in pathology)
-Pathology: BRS Pathology! (multiple times)

I should also admit that I attempted to go through Board Simulator Series, but they were beyond my level and rather depressing, and as question-and-answer-with-explanation does take time to read, I decided I could better spend my time elsewhere.

I definitely recommend doing Qbank. I like doing questions at the end, so I did four 50-question tests a day for the last eleven days. Doing questions and reading the answers and explanations takes longer than you think. I would struggle to finish a 50-question test in two hours. Here is what my schedule was like then:
12:30-8 or -8:30 Sleep
8:30-10:30 First 50-question Qbank test
10:30-11 Breakfast (actual time varied, but was always half an hour)
11-1 Second 50-question Qbank test
1-1:30 Lunch
1:30-3:30 Third 50-question Qbank test
3:30-4 Shower, sometimes after a quick one-mile run (actual time varied)
4-6 (-7) Fourth 50-question Qbank test, after finishing up the slack from the morning
7-7:30 or -8 Dinner
7:30- or 8-12 Review First Aid or BRS Pathology
12-12:30 Read a (non-medical school) book in bed

The day before the exam, I did some light First Aid reading and mostly relaxed, as well as made sure I knew how to get to the test center and where to park. To the exam, I brought several granola bars, two sandwiches, and a water bottle. I also brought First Aid and BRS Pathology, under the (self-imposed) condition that they were only for last-minute reviewing of some area I had forgotten, not to look up the answer to a question I had already done. The testing facility was well-organized and provided ear plugs (which I used almost the entire time). I got there early, started early, and left early. For test day, like for boards studying, planning is key. I scored well, and believe it or not, I look back on the boards studying period with fondness, although it definitely was a very trying time.