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

Member Profile

Tiffany Kim (2011)
Member Type: Student, Junior Member Campus: Chicago
Specialty: Internal Medicine Program: UCLA Medical Center
Advice
USMLE STEP 1 ADVICE

General

I've written down some tips that I felt helped me a lot when I was studying to take this dreadful exam. By no means it is comprehensive, you should read the other AOA member's tips and talk to your classmates to find advice on things like: commercial test prep vs self study, how much time to take off to study, and "should I go to the testing center to take a practice test?" (the answer is yes!). I've contributed my two cents on some of the more general issues, like how to approach studying, which I remember caused me a lot of stress when I thought about step 1 during my second year. Step 1 is so important and there is a ton of material to cover, so hopefully my advice will give you a starting point and make a seemingly impossible task a little more manageable :)
Study Schedule

One of the best things you can do for yourself is taking the time to make a good study schedule. It sounds insignificant, but by creating a daily routine and breaking up the daunting task of learning "all of medicine" into manageable chunks, it actually takes a lot of pressure off. The worst feeling in the world is when you waste time by trying to read a chapter but procrastinate instead for hours, study aimlessly, and then waking up two weeks before the test realizing you don't know anything. For me, having a daily schedule prevented me from procrastinating too much because I had a deadline. Here's how I planned my day:
0800-1000 50Q
1000-1200 50Q
1200-1300 Lunch
1300-1500 50Q
1500-1700 50Q
1700-1800 Dinner
1800-2000 Goljan/reading
2000-2200 Goljan/reading

I know that I can't study for more than two hours or my head will explode. Also, I know I can't stay in the same place the whole day, so I spent the mornings in my apartment, went to Edelstone in the afternoon, and then went back to my apartment in the evening. I think the variety really helped me stay sane and kept me from rotting away in my pajamas for the entire month. Another thing that helped me stay sane was "catch-up" days, which I highly recommend. For me, they were Saturdays where I could go to the grocery store, do laundry, catch up on questions I didn't finish during the week, re-read a chapter of Costanzo and most importantly, relax. Life is always unpredictable and by giving yourself a little cushion makes everything easier. Btw, with the schedule I listed earlier, technically you could do 200Q a day, and finish the roughly 2000Q USMLE Qbank in 10 days. I don't recommend this, you wouldn't learn as much and your head might explode. Toward the end of my studying I was doing 200Q a day but that was the max and it was only for a few days. In the beginning, I was doing less questions and more reading, but still in the 2 hour chunks.
Study Materials And Strategy

One thing that helped me was investing my time in a few really good resources. First Aid was my bible and every time I learned something, I wrote it in there. All my notes were in one place which was nice because I could consolidate all my learning into one awesome book. Even after I took step 1, I would look up things in First Aid and Goljan to refresh my basic science when I was on the wards. These are other sources that I could not have done without: Kaplan lecture notes/videos (not all the subjects though), Goljan's audio lectures, Goljan's Rapid Review, Costanzo, Ridiculously Simple Micro and the USMLE Q-bank. I used a lot of other books (like UCV to help remember drug side effects, BRS behavioral science, etc). Another thing that was really helpful was making study guides for finals in path/pharm/clinical pathophysiology, and then using them for my step 1 studying too. The explanations were familiar because I wrote them and it felt like I was reinforcing material rather than learning new concepts.

To cover all the material, my general strategy was to spend December to April learning all the basics, so the hardcore month before the exam would be mostly reviewing. I knew that I was weak in biochem, physiology, pharmacology. So on free weekends, I read Costanzo and Goljan cover to cover (and Ridiculously Simple Micro). I watched the Kaplan lecture series on those three subjects with the accompanying lecture notes. And because I don't always get things the first time around, I listened to Goljan's audio lectures throughout second year, and then again during that month before step 1. That will probably be overkill for most people, but if you're looking to break the curve, it's not the worst idea. Goljan is a great source too, he ties a lot of concepts together and he's easy to listen to. Anyway, all this preparation made the month before step 1 less stressful because I felt semi-prepared going into it. For that month, I basically used David Jho's 30 day sample schedule to decide how many days I would spend on each topic. I compressed the 30 day schedule to have few days at the end to review and memorize minutiae that I would forget right after the exam.
The End

Thanks for reading this far, I hope you got something out of it! Take my advice with a grain of salt, everyone works best differently. Plan well, study hard, pace yourself during the exam and you'll do great :)

Best of luck!!!