Thursday, September 5, 2013

USMLE Step 1 Advice

These are the things that worked for me when I studied for step 1. The most important thing is to cover everything and stick to a plan. With that being said, if your initial plan isn't working then make modifications as necessary especially early on. I ended up studying for about 6-8 weeks. You will definitely be in a far better place if you study throughout your medical school years with First Aid then if you are looking at First Aid for the first time when studying for step 1.

1. I went through the material by using First Aid as a template. The basic stuff I just memorized as I went through. Then when it came to systems, I would go through first aid, then phys, then rapid path, embryo, anatomy, etc.
2. When you go through Qbanks do a full block(46), timed, unused and then go through the explanations when you are done. Add notes to your first aid as you go through and make a list of 3-5 things that you are going to master when you are done reviewing that block and then do it again.
3. I found studying the material more useful than doing just the Qbanks. This is different for everyone, but don't be afraid to focus on First Aid and other material and not Qbank if you aren't making as much progress as you want just using Qbank.
4. Regularly access how you are progressing and keep a list of the things you are accomplishing. It helps you to know if you are accomplishing thing and when you feel like you haven't done anything it is a nice reminder that you have done all these things and made all this progress.
5. Keep to a routine. Wake up and go to bed at the same time. Eat well, drink tons of water, exercise, drink tea, and have some "me" time. Go outside occasionally.
6. Set a goal score so you aren't just taking a shot in the dark. There is no reason to assess how you are doing if you don't know what you want. If you know what speciality you want to go into then there are charts to show the average board score of those who matched. You want to shoot for something over the average of your given speciality, but be realistic and don't set yourself up for failure.

1. FIRST AID! This is a skeleton of what you need to know and should be treated as such. It is a must have as anyone would tell you, but by the time you take boards half of the writing in that book should be your own from adding your own notes and information. Many things on step 1 can be found in first aid, but it isn't enough to get a good handle on a lot of the concepts or the details.
2. Goljan lectures. I would suggest doing these during path(I didn't but wish I had) and then doing them at the beginning of studying for first aid. These are really easy to listen to and he makes things that seem super difficult very easy.
3. Goljan Rapid Review Pathology. I LOVED this book! I think this is super helpful for understanding a lot of things and would suggest going through it. You can skip parts like the ear and eye which go into too much detail, but for the most part a lot of the information is essential. Knowing everything in this book will help you get above average.
4. BRS Physiology. This was useful for some sections. I liked the general information chap 1, endo, and GI. This is not necessary for success, but good if you are weak in phys.
5. QBanks. I used by UWorld and Rx. I wouldn't suggest Rx. I really only got it because I thought I was going to study for several months instead of just a few weeks. It has some good questions, but you are already spending a lot of money and it is not necessary. UWorld, however, is necessary. Unlike others who say you absolutely have to make it through UWorld, I don't think this is true. I did not end up finishing UWorld, but I do think you should do as much as you can get done. I learned more from first aid and goljan than Uworld but you need to know how the format questions and it helps to find your weak areas and helps you to know which concepts that you think you understand that you really don't understand.
6. NBMEs. I would suggest taking at least 3 of these, but if you can take them all and review the questions you got wrong. It is helpful to see where you are, but my score was higher than any of my NBME scores so don't freak out if you are not scoring where you would like. However, it is more like the actual exam than the Qbanks so do them if for no other reason then for simulating the actual exam.
7. Use some kind of Atlas for anatomy and look up anything mentioned in Qbanks and path in your atlas. First Aids weakest spot is anatomy.
8. Embryology. I did high yield. It has too many details for step 1, but I am still glad I did it because step 1 has more details than First Aid.

General Tips/Info
1. The pharm in First Aid is more than enough
2. The micro between first aid and rapid path is enough. You really don't need an extra micro book.
3. Review what normal XR and CTs look like so you can at least know what is abnormal and be able to take a good guess if you haven't seen it before.
4. Actually that goes for about everything. If you know what normal looks like and you have a good knowledge base, you can basically make a pretty good guess or eliminate things even if you have never seen it while studying.

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