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

Member Profile

Matthew Markese (2013)
Member Type: Student, Junior Member Campus: Chicago
Specialty: Radiology Program: University of Minnesota Medical Center
Advice
I'm sorry this is so long, it's from an email I sent a student asking for advice and I just copied it here.

So, first thing that is helpful is to know when you plan to take the test because that will dictate when you start different steps in the process. My test date was June 2nd, about 10 days before starting M3 year, leaving me plenty of time to study (about 4 weeks completely free and another 2-3 during practicum where I was going about half speed) but also leaving me enough time to relax and recharge before starting clerkships.

The two most important tools to use are nearly indisputable within the med student community: First Aid and UWorld QBank. These were my must haves and I think that they should be yours as well.

First Aid was essentially my one-stop shop for all Step 1 information. I began looking through it right about this time and started using it more and more to study from for my M2 courses in the second semester just to become very familiar with it over the winter and spring months. UWorld Qbank became the primary study tool however. There are a lot of questions and 2 practice exams (each 4 blocks long, while the actual test is 8 or 9 blocks long). Here's how I used both of these tools together:

Beginning in late February or early March, I started doing full 46 question blocks on UWorld. I liked using the timed test and then reviewing the answers afterward. This simulated the time-crunch of the real test so that by the end of my studying I could basically know, without checking, whether or not I was answering questions at the right pace to finish each block on time for the real exam. I did about 1 (maybe 2) question blocks per week until the spring practicum. This is a slow pace, but I did it this way so that I could still put a primary emphasis on my M2 schoolwork. THIS IS STILL VERY IMPORTANT, LEARN YOUR COURSEWORK WELL because it will be on the test too, that way you won't have to study everything again because you didn't learn it poorly the first time.

After completing a 46 question test. I would go through each question, whether I got it right or wrong, and make sure I understood the explanation and why each of the other answers asking me to think about. If it was something I thought was valuable and something that I could not find in First Aid, I would add a note about it in the appropriate section. Occasionally, I would pick up a review book about that topic and read something quickly about it to reinforce the concept or put additional notes from that source in First Aid. This way, by the time I got through the full QBank, First Aid would represent an extremely comprehensive, yet concise source of information to study from for the exam.

During this early period I would also read through about half a section of First Aid few days so that I would be generally familiar with everything in the book by the time I picked up the pace during the 4 weeks preceding the test. I did NOT spend time trying to memorize pages with charts on them (do this later in the last week or two). Examples of pages in First Aid that fit this chart description are: Lysosomal Storage Diseases, Glycogen Storage Diseases, the Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasias, most of the Pharmacology charts like the Diabetes medications. In my opinion you should leave these until later.

When practicum ended, I picked up the pace dramatically, doing about 2 46-question blocks per day in the same style described above. I finished the whole question bank once through with about 2 weeks to spare before the test. During this "pick up the pace period" I also spent about 1/3 to 1/2 of each day reading a review book. I used the following review books to address the areas I felt particularly weak: High Yield Neuroanatomy, Lippinocott's Biochem (arguably a review book), and Goljan Rapid Review Pathology. Don't feel like you need to read all of Lippincott's Biochem, I just found it helpful to review certain areas that were really cloudy in my mind. I did feel like the High Yield Neuroanatomy was really helpful (but probably because I was already familiar with it, try to revisit review books you've already used a bit because the info will seem more familiar) and Goljan is a must read (some areas are very slow in the beginning but everything in that book is pretty great review). I tended to use the Goljan audio to follow along in the book as much as I could and I listened to Goljan audio a lot on the El or in the car or in the shower just go get through it all. It's a sad existence when one man's voice can permeate your life so deeply, but it did help a ton.

The last 1.5 weeks were very different. I put away UWorld and the review books and only looked at First Aid. By this point, First Aid had everything I needed to know and everything that I had written in First Aid was no longer NEW information but rather something I had at least seen once or twice before. In this way, I could read through First Aid 1, 2, or maybe 3 times and really internalize the information and be able to picture different pages of the book in my head or where I had written a fact or concept. It sounds obsessive, but because all of the knowledge was in one very familiar location, it was much easier to recall than trying to think about this review book or that UWorld question. As I went through I started highlighting the things that continued to give me trouble so that by the last time I was reviewing First Aid before the test, I was only looking at the highlighted material and skipping all of the stuff that I knew I knew already. Each trip through First Aid during the last 2 weeks took less time because I was looking at smaller amount of material that I had trouble with.

Lastly, I took the two practice tests sometime during this whole process. Probably one at 4 weeks away from test day and the other one at 2 weeks away from the test. My scores were very predictive of my actual score on the true exam. The most helpful thing about these tests, however, was just getting into the rhythm of taking more than 1 block of questions in a row, i.e. developing stamina for an 8 hour test. Try to treat these practice exams as realistically as possible. Don't take longer than allowed breaks. Don't look anything up. Don't get distracted. Treat them seriously.

I studied on the last day because I have no self-control but I would recommend relaxing for at least 1 full day if not more. Did I take breaks on weekends sometimes? Yes. Did I go out to dinner with my girlfriend? Yes. Did I have to say no to my friends a lot during some of the nicest weather days in Chicago? Yes. Strike a balance, but more likely than not, that balance will be a scale tipped towards studying hard for 4-5 weeks. I can say now that it was definitely worth it. Set a goal for yourself and work hard to be proud of meeting your own goal.