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

Member Profile

Michael Blasco (2014)
Member Type: Student, Junior Member Campus: Chicago
Specialty: Otolaryngology Program: Wayne State University
Advice
Before the wall of text to follow, if you have any questions AT ALL (M2 or M3 years, Step 1 prep, BBQ sauce recipes, etc), please e-mail me at mablasc1@gmail.com.

OK, M2 advice:

First off, do not separate studying into "Step 1" and "classes" during the year. Your Step 1 studying is REVIEW. To review, you have to LEARN THE MATERIAL FIRST. The best way to learn the material is, unfortunately, to bang it in your head by studying really hard for your classes.

You are in the process of creating a vast framework of medical science in your head. There is no easy way to do this other than sitting down and studying by repetition. That doesn't mean read First Aid 100 times. That means learning the material in depth the first time through (whatever works for you: class, textbooks, review books [not the same thing!], etc), and then consolidating that learning by going back, putting things together into a schema, recognizing connections, etc. This only happens when you look at the material multiple times, using multiple strategies. I would usually go to class, then review my ppt notes at the end of the day, then read on the topic in a textbook (not necessarily the assigned textbook). On weekends I would try to do a brief review of my notes that week. As test time approached, I would add questions and review books. By the time I was taking the class exams, I had reviewed the material a half dozen times. By the time I took Step 1, I had organized my knowledge base and filled it in.

On texts/sources: there is no magic bullet to do well in classes/Step 1. Different people succeed with different strategies and texts. Find what works for you and STICK WITH IT. The only things I would caution against are 1) substituting cursory review book reading for actual thorough learning of the material, and 2) buying 8 different sources. Pick a text, a review, and maybe some questions, and learn the hell out of them.

Lastly, a few words on Qbanks. 1) DO NOT "SAVE" SOURCES! I have no idea why people bought some crappy Qbank during the Spring semester so they could "save" UWorld until May. UWorld is your single best resource. Go through it twice. The more you see the material, the better you will retain it. 2) Qbanks are NOT assessments! Qbanks are active learning. Don't get downhearted when you have a brutal block of questions or seem to regress.

My own study plan for Step 1:
Starting in ~February, I began going through UWorld and taking notes in First Aid. I would also make a notecard for topics/questions I didn't remember well or knew I would have to revisit. My goal was to finish a first pass through UWorld with First Aid annotations by the time April practicum finished. I did not do any other "dedicated Step 1" studying before the end of practicum. Like I said above, the best thing you can do is lay down a strong foundation by studying for classes. When your dedicated study times begins, most of the material should be REVIEW. There is not enough in 4-6 weeks to learn even half of this stuff for the first time.

I did 5 weeks of prep starting the Sunday after practicum finished. I did a review test to start each week (so 5 in total, 3 NBMES, 2 UWorld). These are your assessments to track your progress, not UWorld blocks.

Resources used (mileage may vary, this is what helped me):
-- First Aid. Obv.
-- Goljan Pathology Rapid Review. Used continuously throughout M2. One complete read during prep.
-- Pathoma. Used at the start and end of all subjects throughout year. Read once completely during prep (no videos watched since I already annotated).
-- BRS Physiology. Usually refreshed myself before subjects throughout M2 year, then read once during prep.
-- Deja Review Pharmacology. Used throughout year, read once during prep.
-- BRS Behavioral Science. Did some of my weaker sections during prep, but never used before.
-- HY Neuroanatomy. Read once through during prep.
-- Microcards. Used throughout year, flipped through occasionally during prep.

Daily plan:
-- Question blocks in the morning (usually started 8:30am or so, finished by 11am). I repeated UWorld and also did Kaplan over the 5 weeks.
-- Reading from 11am to 2-4pm. I used the Cram Fighter iPhone app to make a reading schedule for the above resources. I annotated into FA during this time.
-- Review morning's questions until finished (usually by 6-8pm). Once again, annotating into FA. I also made notecards for questions/concepts I wasn't strong on.
-- Most nights of the week I did another hour of reading in First Aid or flipping through my note cards (I had a stack about 8 inches high by the end). I did not do this every night. I usually was able to have a nice dinner/have a drink/relax/go out.
-- I did that 6 days per week, then took a practice exam the seventh day. I took the afternoon off after a practice exam. So I was doing 9-12 hours per day, 6.5 days per week.

Thoughts by subject:
-- Behavioral sciences -- I thought behavioral sciences was one of my weak points going into the exam. Between the excellent Kaplan questions and BRS, I turned one of my weaker areas into a strength. Worth supplementing beyond FA/UWorld. I think most people write this section off (oh, it's just common sense), but it's a pretty high yield subject that's easy to grab or lose points on. Do the questions in BRS if you're worried.
-- Biochemistry/Genetics/Nutrition -- FA+UWorld was great for factual recall, but the exam has a lot of molecular biology that requires reasoning and data interpretation. When you are learning about biochemical tests and assays, learn how they work and what the results mean.
-- Gross Anatomy/Neuroanatomy/Embryology -- FA+UWorld was good (aside from FA's horrid brachial plexus section). Anatomy was probably my strongest area going into the exam, so I didn't need a lot of extra prep. If you want to expand beyond FA+UWorld, focus on musculoskeletal anatomy. Once again, know how to interpret physical exam/radiologic findings. Neuroanatomy is such a broad subject that an extra resource might be useful to refresh your memory if you have a good base, but if you don't already have a strong background, it's not worth going through HY Neuroanatomy for the first time.
-- Histology/Cell Biology -- Easy peasy. FA+UWorld will get you there fine.
-- Microbiology/Immunology -- FA + Kaplan Qbank + stupid CMMRS mnemonics was great for microbio. I liked the Microcards, but I feel like microbiology is about organizing and comparing bacteria, which Microcards didn't do that well. My self-made notecards were pretty microbio heavy. FA was great for immunology. Focus on clinical applications of immunology (reactions, transplant, atopy, disorders, etc) rather than an in-depth knowledge of Th17 lymphocytes.
-- Pathology -- Goljan every day and twice on Sundays. Honestly, the guy is a legend for a reason.
-- Pharmacology -- FA + Deja Review was great. Focus on mechanisms, adverse reactions, and interactions of the common medications. I don't remember the pharmacology questions being really obscure.
-- Physiology -- BRS Physiology + Uworld + Kaplan. I think FA does a HORRIBLE job of physio, considering how important it is. Know the physiology behind pathologic derangement.

With regards to mental health, don't isolate yourself during study time. See friends/family/eat out/exercise. You're not going to do yourself any good becoming a hermit and sitting in the same spot for 5 weeks straight. Believe me, things start to drag a couple of weeks in.