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

Member Profile

Christina Rojas (2017)
Member Type: Student, Senior Member Campus: Chicago
Specialty: Pediatrics Program: Children's Hospital of Philadelphia

As I’m sure many people have told you, there are lots of different ways people study, and everyone has their own methods. You have to determine what works for you —> On this note, I always used to get irritated when people would say this phrase, because HOW are you supposed to know what is working? There’s not enough time to try every resource and figure out if you like it??? So here are some quick points that I used to see if something was “working” for me:
— were my UWorld scores improving?
— were my scores in specific areas I was struggling with improving (for me, cardio, biochem)
— was I retaining information? In other words, if I studied MI and cardiac drugs one day, was I able to successfully remember that information in the next few days?
— how did I feel when I was using a specific resource? Not that studying is ever going to be super fun, but there were some resources I tried to use that I LOATHED and then found myself -
spending that time super inefficiently/complaining/on my phone etc. If you find yourself feeling this way, it’s time to use something else.

January/early February: I focused exclusively on class topics. What you cover in class during this time is a HUGE part of step - particularly what you learn in pathology and pharm. This is not to say that I went to class or kept up with lectures (I actually did not go to class at all, and would only skim lectures before tests). This was a hard transition to make (caring more about how I would do on Step than how I was doing in class), but ultimately I think it was worth it. The reality is that a lot of the info you learn in class is too detailed for Step (at least when I was there), so focusing on Step-specific resources is most valuable. (Take this with a grain of salt though!!! Maybe lectures have changed?). Resources I used during this time:
— Firecracker: I think Firecracker was by far the best resource I used during all of studying, though I realize many of you don’t use it. If you aren’t using firecracker, I recommend using some
kind of space-based repetition (it really is proven to help you retain information better). Anki is a flashcard system that has some good Step 1 decks, or even make your own flashcards (G
flash or something like that) and review them EVERY DAY.
— Picmonic: I LOVE picmonic (similar to Sketchy which I know you guys love), I used it for pharm and micro, and once in a while for path
— Pathoma: bc duh
— First Aid: I went to Kinkos and got my FA put into a binder, with tabs for each section. I LOVED this - made it super easy to flip around to different areas, and insert relevant notes.
My pattern was this: if we were studying renal for example, I would watch Pathoma (usually pretty slowly, taking good notes), go to FA and note the relevant section, flag a few things in Firecracker (never a ton in one day), see if there were any relevant picmonics. Repeat.

Late February: In addition to continuing all of the above, I opened up UWorld and started doing 1-2 blocks a week (I always did timed, nontutor, and only topics we had already covered). My method for using UWorld is perhaps a little more comprehensive/detailed than what many people did. I went through each question painstakingly, really taking the time to make sure I understood each question/answer/topic. For example, say I got a question on the diagnosis of emphysema. Rather than just going through that question and its answers, I would then go read about emphysema in FA and pathoma (pathophys, diagnosis, management) to make sure I understood all of the surrounding information. I will warn you that this is a time-consuming process - I moved at a much slower pace than my friends, which at times was discouraging. However, this method was ideal for me because I was able to really understand an entire topic, and synthesize the information together.

March-April: In addition to doing the above, I began to review some old information - mainly Kaplan biochem videos. I should forewarn you that I sucked (suck?) at biochem, so I basically had to reteach myself all of it. I watched all the kaplan biochem videos (ridiculous I know), and drew out everything. This took a lot of time, but ended up being one of my highest scoring sections on step. I also wasn’t very strong in physiology, so I skimmed relevant sections of BRS, and watched a few Dr. Najeeb videos on areas I was very weak in for physio (renal, cardiac). I also redid all of Pathoma (at a fast speed). By the end of April I was up to doing 2-3 UWorld sections a week.

May (free study time): how people structure this is VERY variable!!! You will see many people have specific days dedicated to different topics (i.e. two days of GI, three days of cardio, etc.). I found that this was not effective for me - it was better for me to do a potpourri of topics every day, and then have 1-2 specific topics that I would study based on troubleshooting (areas I noticed I was struggling with). So my daily structure would usually go something like this: spend the morning doing firecracker and picmonic, spend 2-3 hours doing U-World questions (strategy as above), and then spend 2-4 hours going over something I was struggling with. I think the “focusing on what you’re struggling with" part is critical — and this is where people make mistakes. So many people want to “review everything,” rather than just focusing on what they aren’t as good at. For example, I was good at GI, neuro, and renal, since I studied really effectively for these topics in the spring semester. As a result, I never dedicated any days to these specific topics. However, I was weak in cardio, so I spent a WEEK (yes a week) reviewing everything about it (path, pharm, phys etc.). This is what you might have to do. Trust yourself (and your scores) if you are doing well in a certain topic, and force yourself to troubleshoot. As far as NBMEs - I tried to take about one every week. I was MUCH better at UWorld than NBMEs (I actually cried after every NBME I took so that was cool) — make sure to take both the UWorld assessments and the NBME assessments because they are different in style and I found that my step exam was a combo of both.

**Bonus tips:
— keep a little journal/note/sticky whatever with topics that you come across that you know you suck at and need to review. This was SO HELPFUL!!! Every day I would write some random
stuff down (heart murmurs, antibiotics, gram+ bugs, restrictive lung disease, whatever), and it really helped to have this to look through to remember things that I meant to go back and
look at.
— I did use CramFighter to help me try to divide up my time in terms of everything I wanted to get through. I definitely did not stick to the schedule perfectly, but it was nice to at least have a
guide in terms of how many questions I would need to do per day in order to get through all of my resources.
— Do not drastically change your lifestyle or schedule. There are people who structured their lives very rigidly, and were adamant that they were going to only sleep 5 hours - these people
burned out and struggled. I naturally am more of a night-owl, and received some good advice from my M4 tutor that there is no need to change this. Honestly, I operated from like a 10am -
midnight schedule, because that’s what worked best for me (studying for about 9-10 hours per day at the max). All that to say - if you hate waking up early, or need to workout at a certain
time, or love watching a certain show (Bachelor for the win), then continue to do that!!! Whatever works best for you.
— Find good study spots/ambiances. I had days when I really wanted to be around my friends, and we would get a big study room and “study” together (we were all doing our own thing, just
in the same room). Then I had a couple weeks where I went to my parent’s house in the suburbs and studied at their house, the library, Starbucks etc. I needed variety. Some people want
consistency. Either is fine! Just do what you like.
— Take time off (obviously). I took 1-2 nights a week off to just do nothing - you will need it.

Lastly, I will say that you should really and truly believe that you can get the score you want. I was not an “excellent” student throughout M1-M2 year (I honored a few classes, but definitely not all of them), and I was actually turned away from being a PEP tutor because I didn’t honor enough classes. This happened to several of us who are now in AOA. All that to say, even if you have not been the most stellar student so far in medical school, you can still do really well on Step, because it is a TOTALLY different ballgame. You can do it!!!

Hope this is helpful - please let me know if you guys have any questions or would like to meet individually!