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Best Resources for USMLE STEP 1! How to Study and Prepare for STEP1?

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Best Resources for USMLE STEP 1! How to Study and Prepare for STEP1?

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I hope you enjoy reading this blog post.

If you want my team to help you with your USMLE preparations, click here.

What are the best resources for USMLE STEP 1? How to Study and Prepare for STEP1? In this article, I will answer these two questions and share with you a USMLE STEP 1 study guide to show you the most popular resources and materials that helped me score +260.

How to Choose the Best Resources for USMLE STEP 1?

Before we dive into the different books and resources, you need to understand that the choice of study resources is highly individual. A student who will prepare for the USMLE STEP 1 exam in 3 months will not use the same resources as a student who has one year to prepare for the STEP 1exam.

A student might feel very confident with one subject that they would want to go directly to First Aid and UWorld, while another student might need to spend more time reviewing STEP 1 books and watching STEP 1 lecture videos before they start solving questions.

To know what resources are best for you, start by asking yourself some simple questions: Do you have a solid knowledge of the STEP 1 materials? Are you a fresh graduate? How long was it since you studied the basic sciences? Was your medical school in English or your native language? Were you an average student or a top-class student? How high do you want to score? How much time do you have to prepare for the step 1 exam?

Once you have a clear idea about these questions, you can tailor your STEP 1 study plan based on your needs.

First Aid STEP1: Is it enough for the USMLE STEP1?

First Aid STEP 1 is a great review book. However, it will not provide you with explanations to form a solid understanding of the complicated STEP 1 concepts. First Aid STEP 1 is basically a pack of all the information you need for the USMLE STEP 1, condensed into 860 pages. You can think of it as a collection of all the high-yield topics that are tested on the exam, collected and presented to you in this book.

The first half of the First Aid STEP 1 covers the general principles tested on the USMLE Step 1 exam (behavioral science, statistics, microbiology, immunology, biochemistry, general pathology, general pharmacology).

In contrast, the second half of the First Aid STEP 1 is divided system-wise, where the book takes one system, and it covers it from its anatomy and embryology, continuing to its physiology and pathology, and ending with the pharmacology related to that system.

First Aid STEP 1 is always updated to reflect the newest tested materials on the STEP 1 exam. That’s why I recommend reading the latest version of the First Aid STEP 1 before taking your exam.

📚🛒: Here is the link for the latest version:

The First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 2021

https://amzn.to/3NdB2KS

You will realize that the First Aid STEP 1 is best with topics that need memorization, comparing and contrasting, and plenty of mnemonics such as Microbiology. On the other hand, subjects like physiology and biochemistry, that need a deep understanding and knowledge of the mechanisms, need to be read from other resources before going to First Aid STEP 1 (unless you have a solid understanding of these topics from your medical school). So one strategy is to use resources other than First Aid STEP 1 to have a general idea about the topic, and then memorize the take-home points from First Aid STEP 1.

Some students prefer to use First Aid STEP 1 after they finish their first read of other STEP 1 materials while others like to incorporate First Aid STEP 1 with studying other STEP 1 resources. We will write a separate blog post about the best strategy to use First Aid STEP 1 and other resources.

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Best Anatomy Resources for USMLE STEP 1

Kaplan STEP 1 Book: Anatomy

The Kaplan STEP1 lecture notes and videos are useful resources to understand anatomy for STEP1. The book is 652 pages, and it is divided into three main sections: Early embryology and histology, Gross anatomy, which is further divided by system, and neuroscience. The neuroscience part of the Kaplan book is really good. This book can be used as a resource to build your base in Anatomy before you go to First Aid STEP 1 and UWorld.

USMLE Step 1 Lecture Notes 2021: Anatomy:

https://amzn.to/3sND8oM

High-Yield™ Neuroanatomy 

If you have a weakness in neuroanatomy, especially in the spinal cord and brain stem anatomy, you can rely on other resources in addition to Kaplan STEP 1. I used High Yield for neuroanatomy, a 200 pages comprehensive book of neuroanatomy https://amzn.to/3xl3iCW

Anatomy Videos

You can watch videos in the areas that you need better understanding rather than watching the whole series of videos of certain STEP 1 resource. I watched a few Kaplan videos and Dr. Najeeb’s lectures for spinal cord and brain stem anatomy. They were so helpful that I can still remember them many years after.

Anatomy Images and Atlas

Studying anatomy without clear, colored, and labeled images can be a torture. While you can always use Google images to accompany your favorite book, the Netter interactive atlas of human anatomy is an amazing resource that I used in my preparation. It is so elegant, and it covers everything you need for the USMLE Step 1. You don’t need to go through the whole Atlas but rather use it as a visual supplement to other resources you are using. For example, if you are studying the anatomy of the GI tract from the Kaplan books or First Aid, you can open the Atlas on the GI images to facilitate learning.

Link for the Netter Interactive Atlas of Human Anatomy: https://amzn.to/3azaVMo

Other good resources for anatomy images (I recommend picking one and use it throughout your studying):

Gray’s Anatomy for Students Fourth edition:

https://amzn.to/2QUCA3c

Gray’s Atlas of Anatomy (Gray’s Anatomy) 3rd Edition

https://amzn.to/3gxFLst

Atlas of Human Anatomy (Netter Basic Science) 7th Edition (Book)

https://amzn.to/3evg2OM

Should I read expansive books for embryology and histology?

 

While there are certainly some good books to cover these subjects, especially from the BRS series and the High-Yield series, I didn’t feel the need to waste the limited time reading extensive books about them. They are definitely important topics for the exam, but for me, the few pages in the Kaplan books with the First Aid STEP 1 and UWorld were enough to cover everything important for the exam purposes. I would only recommend going to a dedicated reference to clarify an ambiguous topic that you couldn’t understand well from the First Aid STEP 1 or Uworld.

Here are links if you wanted to check other resources

High-Yield Embryology (High-Yield Series) Fifth Edition

https://amzn.to/3ni1jdM

BRS Embryology (Board Review Series) Sixth Edition

https://amzn.to/3dNFrnB

BRS Cell Biology and Histology (Board Review Series) 8th Edition

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Best Biochemistry Resources for USMLE STEP 1

 

Unfortunately, molecular biology and biochemistry for STEP1 are one of the subjects that are hard to read directly from the First Aid STEP 1 without proper explanation. Therefore, it is highly recommended to read it from additional resources prior to studying it from First Aid STEP 1 or UWorld (unless you have a solid understanding of these topics from your medical school).

There is almost a consensus on the best initial biochemistry resource to prepare for the USMLE Step 1 exam: Kaplan. As we know, biochemistry is huge, with many enzymes and metabolic pathways. Therefore, it is essential to know what to focus on when you study. Reading the biochemistry Kaplan book alone might not be enough to recognize what is important. However, the videos are full of golden tips and are recommended to highlight the crucial information for the exam day. After the first round of biochemistry Kaplan lecture notes, you can go to the next stage with First Aid STEP 1 and UWorld.

The biochemistry Kaplan book (692 pages) also covers genetics and the information in this book is more than enough for your genetics preparation when combined with First Aid STEP 1 and UWorld.

USMLE Step 1 Lecture Notes 2021: Biochemistry and Medical Genetics:

https://amzn.to/3xlG6o3

Best Microbiology Resources for USMLE STEP 1

 

The good news is that microbiology is one of the subjects that is very well covered in your First Aid with plenty of mnemonics that will make studying microbiology easier for you. However, if microbiology is not your forte or you learned it a long time ago, you might want to consider other resources to refresh your information.

Best Pharmacology Resources for USMLE STEP 1

 

I used Kaplan’s book and videos to understand the concepts of pharmacology and the mechanisms of medications. They were beautifully explained there. The book is divided by system, so you can pair it with First Aid. The book is 500 pages but it is well written and goes fast.

Link: https://amzn.to/32HoSTY

Additionally, flashcards can always be a good option to create while studying if you struggle with names.

Lippincott for pharmacology is a very renowned resource for pharmacology. I didn’t personally use it, I felt it was  too detailed for the Step 1 exam, but many students found it useful. It is 576 pages long. Link: https://amzn.to/32LfQFC 

 

 

Best Pathology Resources for USMLE STEP 1: Golgan vs. Pathoma

 

This is a question asked by many students at the beginning of the preparation for the USMLE Step 1 exam, especially that pathology is one of the most heavily tested areas in the exam and has the biggest share of the exam questions. Most students argue that Pathoma is more than enough for the purposes of the Step 1 exam, while Golgan is a more in-depth review of Pathology. Golgan might be more time-consuming, but it could be worth it in the long run. Personally, I read both books, and these are the main differences between them:

 

You can also use the Kaplan book or the BRS book of Pathology if you like. They are not as high-yield as pathoma and don’t have as many photos and explanations as Golgan. With the availability of better and more focused Pathology resources, there is no need to spend time on other resources.

The Kaplan book is 577 pages.

USMLE Step 1 Lecture Notes 2021: Pathology: https://amzn.to/3dOVp0Y

The BRS book is 464 pages.

BRS Pathology (Board Review Series) 6th Edition: https://amzn.to/3ex2X7k

 

Best Biostatistics Resources for USMLE STEP 1

 

Biostatistics is a topic that depends on logic and on understanding the concepts very well to be able to solve the exam questions. Reading abstract concepts from the STEP 1 books might be a little challenging without proper explanation. I found Kaplan videos to be very efficient and effective in simplifying the biostatistics terms and helping you get a good grasp of what you need to know for the exam. With the STEP 1 Kaplan videos, I read both the Kaplan book and the High-Yield book of Biostatics. They are very short, and you can read them easily after understanding the concepts from the videos. Links to the books below:

High-Yield Biostatistics, Epidemiology, and Public Health (150 pages) https://amzn.to/3aFgCrU

Kaplan biostatics is in the behavioral science book (less than 50 pages): https://amzn.to/3xhGy6V

Besides, UWorld STEP1 has a separate Qbank, called “Biostatistics Review,” which is available for 25$. Since memorization will not help you much with the research scenarios and the abstract questions on the exam, the more you solve questions, the better you will be in approaching the questions on the exam. Keep in mind that biostatistics questions take more time than other questions to answer on the exam day, so if you want to be faster and save that valuable time, I would recommend answering the UWorld Biostatistics review Qbank. Other students did not find much value of the Biostatistics Review Qbank after solving the UWorld STEP1 Qbank.

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Best Ethics and Behavioral Sciences Resources for USMLE STEP 1

 

For ethics and behavioral sciences, I found the UWorld questions, Kaplan ethics videos, and the “100 cases by Conrad Fischer” enough to know the principles you need while answering ethics questions on the STEP 1 exam. Everything that follows is just common sense. The 100 cases might seem a lot, but the book of Conrad Fischer is very easy to read with practice questions, and you can go through it in a day or two.

Kaplan Medical USMLE Medical Ethics: The 100 Cases You Are Most Likely to See on the Exam (216 pages) https://amzn.to/3xoqlg0

USMLE Step 1 Lecture Notes 2021: Behavioral Science and Social Sciences: https://amzn.to/3xhGy6V

Some students also recommend the ethics YouTube videos from “dirty medicine.”

 

 

Best Video Resources for USMLE STEP 1! Do I need to watch lectures while reading the books?

 

Kaplan lectures and “Boards and beyond” lectures are available for all the step 1 courses. As mentioned above, for some subjects, lectures can be extremely helpful to know what is high-yield for the STEP 1 exam. However, you should keep in mind that watching videos can double or triple the time you need to cover a topic. Therefore, you should choose your videos carefully not to waste the limited time you have to prepare for the exam. From my experience, the Kaplan videos of biochemistry and biostatistics and the Pathoma videos for pathology are very high yield.

Other lectures you can watch are Dr. Najeeb’s lectures (https://www.drnajeeblectures.com/) , which are more like classroom lectures. They are very time-consuming even if you speed it up, but personally, I loved them. I would only recommend them for the topics that you are very weak at.

 

Best Question banks for USMLE STEP 1! Which Qbank should I invest my money on?

 

With all the reading you do with your preparation for USMLE Step 1, it is very important to solve questions to get familiar with the STEP 1 exam style and build your test-taking strategies. Answering as many questions as you can is crucial to solidify the information you read or listen to and test yourself on your learning. Some of the Qbanks available are: UWorld STEP 1, Amboss STEP 1, USMLE Rx Qbank, Kaplan STEP 1 Qbank, Pastest.

In summary, if you have time to solve only one bank, UWorld STEP 1 Qbank is your best bet. USMLE Rx can help if you have difficulties memorizing the First Aid. Amboss STEP 1 Qbank seems to have increasing popularity lately, especially with the great and easy-to-use library that it has. I answered a few questions from Kaplan Qbank and Pastest, but I did not feel they were as high yield as the other STEP 1 Qbanks.

The NBMEs (each is four blocks of 40 questions) and USMLE sample questions (3 blocks of 40 questions) are to test your performance before the exam, in addition to the UWorld STEP 1 self-assessments. We will have a detailed post on assessment tools.

Is it true that UWorld STEP1 and First Aid are enough? 

Many students like to start with UWorld STEP 1 as early as possible, while others prefer to answer questions only after studying the subject and feeling comfortable with it. There is no right and wrong here. The advantage of starting with the Qbank early and incorporating it from the beginning with your studies is to get an idea of how the information will be presented on the exam, which helps you direct your study in the right way. On the other hand, answering questions without having any idea about the subject will not give you the maximum benefits you could get from the questions. You will not be able to assess where your gaps are and where you need to focus on because everything is new to you. The best way is to have a gradual shift by starting to build knowledge before proceeding to solving questions and reviewing First Aid. As you approach your exam, this will change, and you will start focusing more on solving as many questions as you can and focusing on First Aid. As we discussed above, if you have a strong foundation from your medical school about the topics covered in STEP1, you can start directly with First Aid and UWorld of STEP 1.

By Anas Khouri and Malke Asaad

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How to Register for USMLE STEP 1? Step-by-Step Guidance

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How to Register for USMLE STEP 1? Step-by-Step Guidance

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How to Register for USMLE STEP 1? Step-by-Step Guidance for USMLE STEP1 Registration.

 

If you are looking to register for the USMLE STEP 1, this post will provide you with a Step-by-Step Guidance on the USMLE STEP1 Registration

Step 1: The basic requirements:

 

1.  A Valid Passport

C:UsersmikeDownloadsboarding-pass (1).png

    • Use the exact printed name, if any changes are to be made, do so prior to registration.

    • Example: “William Bradley Pitt” is registered on ECFMG as: Last name = Pitt, Rest of the name = William Bradley.

 

2.  A Medical School RegisteredC:UsersmikeDownloadsschool.png on the World Directory of Medical Schools

 
    • Warning: Effective 2024, only schools with ECFMG accreditation will be allowed to participate in USMLE exams.

 

3.  A Credit/Debit Card with transferC:UsersmikeDownloadscredit-card.png limit of around $1100. If not available, you can link your bank account to PayPal and pay from there.

 
    • Read more about registration fees here .

4.  If graduatedC:UsersmikeDownloadsgraduated.png:

 
    • A Copy of your degree certificate PLUS a certified English translation.
    • A Performance transcript from your university.

5. Further info regarding eligibility can be found here .

 

Interview Preparation
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Step 2: Obtaining an ECFMG identification number

 

To start your USMLE STEP 1 registration, you will need to request a USMLE/ ECFMG identification number

First, go to the ECFMG website and select On-line services (as shown in 1) then choose IWA – Interactive Web Applications as shown in (2):

C:UsersmikeDesktopaaa.jpg

 

 

Click on “If you have never been issued a USMLE/ ECFMG identification number and want to request one, click here” as shown below (arrow):

C:UsersmikeDesktopserser.jpg


Once you get redirected to the online portion of the application (Form 186),
fill in all details as appropriate, then pay the initial $150 fee.

Next, you will need to complete and notarize the Certification of Identification (Form 186).

Prior to the pandemic, notarization was a difficult and lengthy process. Luckily, it has been simplified to great extents.

  • First, visit NotaryCam and create an account.

  • Upload a scanned copy of your completed form 186 as well as the first page of your passport.

  • You will then receive an email to schedule for a video call, where you will verify your identity and sign the needed statements.

  • Following the notary call, you can check the status of your application through ECFMG’s Online Applicant Status and Information System (OASIS) or the mobile app (MyECFMG).

  • Tip: Make sure to dress appropriately, your profile picture is taken during this call!

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Step 3: Completing the application form and paying the fees.

 
  • Following the notary confirmation, you will receive an ECFMG Identification Number in 5 business days. Once you have it, go back to the IWA page and Login.

     

C:UsersmikeDesktopasdasdasd.jpg

 
 
  • Click on “Begin New Application”. Choose the exam you want to apply for and fill in the required information accurately. Here are the instructions to fill the application. Note that only starred fields are necessary to fill in, the rest is up to you.
  • You will be asked about an eligibility period for your intended exam, this typically spans 3 months, but due to the pandemic, it may be longer. Very important to ensure that it is appropriate to your schedule.
  • It is crucial to choose an appropriate testing venue for the exam. Just choose your testing area after checking the Prometric website for the most up-to-date details on availability and testing center locations.
  • You must pay the examination fees at the end, which is currently $975. If you’re testing outside the US or Canada, an additional fee of $180 is imposed.
  • Note: You can postpone the date of your exam up to 3 times (the closer to the exam however, the higher the penalty fee). More information about rescheduling fees here .

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Step 4: Status Verification via the Student affairs at your Medical School

 
  • If your school is registered in the Medical School Web Portal (MSWP), ECFMG will send the request electronically. You just need to contact the academic affairs office at your college for confirmation. Once confirmed, you will receive a notification email.
  • Otherwise, you can complete the paper-based Certification Statement (Form 183). It will be provided at the end of the online application through Interactive Web Applications (IWA) after paying the fees. In addition, detailed instruction will be provided about how to fill the form.

Step 5: Further required documents.

 
  • If you have already graduatedC:UsersmikeDownloadscertificate.png from medical school, you must send a copy of your certified medical diploma in addition to a performance transcript, in English translation. If your school has a compulsory transitional (internship) year, you can provide your temporary certificate instead.
  • These documents can be submitted through the address below, by mail, or through the mobile app (MyECFMG).

Step 6: Issuing the scheduling permit from ECFMG.

 

This is simply an official document containing the exam instructions and eligibility period, you will receive it once your registration is complete. Nevertheless, it is important to have it on your exam day! 

Step 7: Scheduling your exam.

 

After receiving the scheduling permit, you can apply for the exact exam date through PROMETRIC . You can only choose dates within your previously selected eligibility period.

Prometric Global on Twitter: "Prometric has announced a temporary closure of their test centers in the United States and Canada for a period of 30 days, starting March 18. We anticipate re-opening


I hope this article helps you in your registration for the USMLE STEP 1. It is definitely an exciting time in your medical journey. I would love to hear your thoughts and comments below. If you find any value in this article, share it with your friends and colleagues. GOOD LUCK everyone!

By Rami Elmorsi, Hassan Ahmed A Alsahaf and Malke Asaad

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USMLE STEP 1 Common Mistakes: How to Best Prepare for your STEP 1 exam?

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USMLE STEP 1 Common Mistakes: How to Best Prepare for your STEP 1 exam?

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This post will go over the common mistakes that students make when they are preparing for their STEP 1 exam.

While the gold-standard resources for preparation for this beast of an exam are well known, guidance on the best way to utilize these resources is sparse. Additionally, posts on mistakes to avoid during Step 1 preparation are rare. During my experience preparing for the USMLE Step 1, and guiding juniors/ contemporaries in their preparation, I observed a few common themes.

This is the last year Step 1 will be a scored exam, so for those taking it this year, solid preparation is essential. I will begin by explaining general, thematic mistakes, and then move on to resource-specific mistakes. Finally, I’ll discuss a few oversights by students in their preparation, which are not strictly related to preparatory material. These tips & tricks could be the difference between an average score and an amazing one.

General STEP 1 Mistakes
Failing to do one’s due diligence before using resources

 

There are numerous posts online explaining what resources were used by high scorers. Most of these, however, do not explain the best way to utilize these resources. For example, while First Aid is a beautiful resource and a must-do, it is not a comprehensive review to understand the concepts you need to know for the exam. Similarly, I’ve observed IMGs attitude towards flashcards being either extreme love or extreme hate, and in most cases, the latter stems from a lack of understanding of how to use this unique resource.

My recommendation – spend a little time in your pre-dedicated period to understand what the resources are like, their optimum use, and plan accordingly.

C:\Users\mike\Downloads\life_style_working_49.jpg


Blindly following others’ advice

This applies to this article as well. At the end of the day, the USMLE is each one’s individual journey. Advice and guidance are crucial, but you have to figure out what works for you. You must take some time to figure out what your optimum style of learning is, and what resources work well for you, even if it is slightly unconventional

Interview Preparation
The best way to learn something is to do it. That’s why we divide our one-hour interview preparation sessions into two parts. The first half of the session would be a mock interview as if you are interviewing with a program while the second half would provide you with feedback on your performance.

Failure to analyze one’s weakness/ adjust according to self-assessments

The best way to score high is to have a high baseline in all subjects, rather than being extraordinarily strong in one or two, and weak in the others. As one moves deep into the dedicated period, one must tailor their preparation to target their weaknesses. UWorld gives you a fantastic depiction of what your strengths and weaknesses are. For example, I was weak at psychiatry and biochemistry, so in the last two weeks, a significant portion of my time targeted these subjects. On exam day, the representation of each subject is variable, so one must have well-rounded preparation.

Software installation. contract adjustment, agreement terms regulation, program fix. coworkers holding gears cartoon character. application bugs. Free Vector

Memorization over concept-based preparation


You should focus on understanding the concepts of the information you are reading rather than just trying to memorize them. You can watch videos, search on Google, or have a quick read from a book if you are having a hard time understanding an idea. Try to understand the links across subjects. This represents a different challenge; for those coming from India, for example, where the focus in our medical school exams is long, essay-based questions requiring memorization. This new approach is something many initially struggle with.

C:\Users\mike\Downloads\nervous-stressed-female-student-feeling-headache-studying-cafe.jpg

Not spending enough time on media-based questions


Image/audio/video-based questions form a good proportion of the actual exam. Compared to text-based questions alone, these can be quite difficult without practice. I’ve seen many candidates reluctant to do targeted study for these types of questions, and as a result, their scores drop.

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Resource-specific STEP 1 Mistakes
First Aid (FA) STEP 1

Treating FA like a textbook – this may be controversial, but I believe this is the wrong way to approach FA. The strength of FA is that it summarizes what you must know for the exam. However, it is not the best resource to learn from. Therefore, use other resources to understand the concepts and FA to review and solidify the high-yield topics.
UWorld

Doing multiple passes of UWorld in the dedicated period – UWorld is the gold standard resource for Step 1. However, the goal of doing UWorld should be learning how to approach questions in the right way, it is not to memorize all the information in the question bank. When you do a second approach soon after the first one, your percentages are falsely elevated, and you learn nothing new.

My recommendation – Take notes in an efficient way to review certain ideas you don’t know rather than review the whole question bank. Do a second question bank if you have time. In my opinion, AMBOSS is the next best question bank. This will further reinforce topics and prepare you for the multiple ways the same question can be asked.

Rushing through UWorld – The strength of UWorld lies in its explanations. They are incredibly well researched and well written. Regardless of whether you get the question right or wrong, regardless of your percentages, you must read the entire explanation and understand it. This is how you progress.

    • Reading too much into UWorld percentages – I have seen candidates be complacent, and take fewer NBMEs/ practice tests because they assumed that they were well prepared, based on their high UWorld percentage. UWorld percentages are not predictive of real-world performance.
 

Videos


These are great to lay the groundwork. However, in your dedicated period, there is no need to review the entire coursework. Candidates waste an inordinate amount of time re-watching the entire catalog, with minimal returns on score.

My recommendation – solve more questions; you learn from your mistakes. If you really feel like you’ve forgotten the topic, watch that specific video. There is absolutely no need to watch everything all over again, it is a low-yield exercise.

Flashcards
 

These mistakes generally stem from failing to understand how the system works .Blitzing/ going through reviews too quickly – with this, you may ‘finish’ your reviews for the day, but you haven’t actually utilized the principle of active recall. When you rush through the cards, rather than thinking about the question they are asking, you are using visual recall of the pattern of the flashcard to answer, i.e you are regurgitating the answer, not relearning the content.

My recommendation – take your time to do justice to each flashcard. There are add-ons available on the Anki online store to make sure that the pattern of the card changes each time you review it – this can help you really learn the card.

Not keeping up with reviews – Anki is a scientifically proven method that works only when you follow the algorithm. I’ve seen plenty say that it didn’t work for them, but that is because they failed to keep up with their daily reviews; they opened the app sporadically, and on seeing the piled-up cards, could not continue.

My recommendation – Anki is not a must-do. But if you do choose to embark on using the popular decks, please learn beforehand about how the algorithm works, and the best way to use it. The AnKing Youtube channel is fantastic for this.

Self-assessments (NBMEs/ UWSAs)

Not analyzing mistakes
– NBMEs and UWSAs are the gold standards. While it may be overkill to study all 160+ questions per exam, analyzing one’s mistakes gives you a huge benefit. You can broadly classify mistakes as (a) silly mistakes, due to exhaustion, overthinking, or impatience (b) failure to recognize what the question was asking (c) mistakes due to lack of knowledge, and (d) sufficient knowledge but failure to link different facts together. The approach to each type of mistake varies but identifying these mistakes can go a long way. Many candidates simply move on to the next NBME, only to repeat the same mistakes.

Not assessing early enough or frequently enough
– I’ve seen many candidates delaying taking their first NBME. This is understandable; the exam is huge, and anxiety is considerable.

My recommendation – take an NBME around 2 weeks into your dedicated period. This may give you confidence because you’ve progressed. It may also give you a reality check, and force you to think about changes in your approach. Either way, self-assessment is critical, and identifying mistakes/ weaknesses early on can drastically change exam-day outcomes.

Not purchasing NBMEs – I’ve seen a lot of people using ‘offline’ NBMEs, and simply finding out how many mistakes they’ve made. I think this is a big mistake – self-assessment is critical during your exam preparation; it can tell you whether you’re making progress in the right direction, whether you’re ready for the exam, and even what your weaknesses are.

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Other Mistakes During STEP 1 Preparation

Too long of a dedicated period


Some students take months or even years of dedicated time to study for their STEP 1. Try to balance the time you need to get your target score (if you take the exam scored) or pass (for STEP1 pass/fail) without burning out.

C:\Users\mike\Downloads\cropped-shot-female-college-student-working-minimal-worktable.jpg

Not preparing for the STEP 1 exam day itself

  • Prior to Step 1, I had never given an exam that was more than 3 hours long. Step 1 is a whopping 8 hours. In addition to this, candidates may have to travel early in the morning, sometimes to a different city or even country. Without preparing for this grueling experience, candidates may see their scores drop.

My recommendations:

  • Take breaks during your NBMEs as if you’re in the actual exam.
  • Take 2 NBMEs (or 2 UWSAs) to make it similar to the actual exam.
  • Set your sleep cycle so that you function optimally from 8 AM to 4 PM. For example, I was in the habit of taking a nap right after lunch. However, I knew I couldn’t do this on exam day. So, I would force myself to stay awake till at least 4 PM.
  • Plan your food, drinks, and travel on the exam day well in advance.
  • Ensure you get a good night’s sleep. This is easier said than done, so please do your due diligence. If you’re planning to take a sleep supplement, please try it beforehand, do not try it for the first time on the night of the exam; this could be disastrous. The Dirty Medicine Youtube channel has a video with fantastic advice for food on exam day and ensuring you get a good night’s sleep.

Good Luck everyone!

By Vivek Bhat and Malke Asaad

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