Step 1 Question

I am now about 7 months from the time I can take Step 1 and wanted to know how people studied for it. I suppose in a US medical school you have to take it within a small window of time, unlike offshore schools, where you can schedule it when you like basically. I don’t want to rush into it after 5th semester but also don’t want to take too long to sit for it. Any input would be appreciated.

First I would recommend figuring out what kind of studier you are. Do you love to sit down and read text books? Can you study alone? Do you do better with a group? Do you like to have one study partner that you know and trust who will push you when you need it? Do you do best with just cranking out hundreds of questions? Everyone is different, but I think figuring out your studying personality is the most important step.
For me, I realized that I do best with a broad overview book (First Aid or Boards and Wards, etc.), flash cards and TONS of questions. I did every single Q-Bank question out there for Step 1 and did fine on the test. That doesn’t work for everyone, but it worked for me. I did something similar for Step 2 and actually went up over 20 points on that test. Anyway, hope this helps and good luck with your studying.

I agree about doing Q-bank questions. If I had Step I to do again I would have done more questions. I spent way too much time trying to review and memorize First Aid rather than just doing questions (though you do need to review, it needs to be balanced).
Also, I used the book USMLE Step 2 Secrets and wished I had known about the Step I Secrets book. It is a question and answer format which suits my study format better than the pages of info in First Aid.
And, I looked at my last month of didactics and exam prep as Step I prep as I knew that material would be most fresh in my mind and that I would need less review of that material.
Good luck!!

Hi there,
When you start to study for Step I (or II or III for that matter) depends on when have to take the exam. For example, at my medical school, you had to have a passing Step I score in order to start third year. Third year started on August 15th so you had to take Step I by the second week in July in order for your scores to be back in time. Most of my classmates took Step I the second and third weeks of June. Our classes ended April 20th so you had a pretty long period of time to study.
I had a pathology fellowship that required that I start the third week in May. I took Step I the second week in May so that I could go to my fellowship. I did only Q-Bank and it turns out that Q-Bank was enough.
My last rotation third year was Internal Medicine which ended the second week in August. I took Step II the first week of September and Step III in September of my intern year so that it would not interfere with my ABSITE (in service exam) study. We were required to have a passing score on Step II in order to graduate but I relished that time after the Match and before graduation when all I had to do was show up and pick up my diploma. I did not want Step II hanging over my head.
I found that doing questions works well for me. I also had plenty of great outlines too. Step I was the easiest of my three steps and Step II was the most difficult (long). My best score was Step II but it was much more difficult than Step I for me. Step III was a PITA because I just wasn’t into studying for it. Turns out that I actually did not have to do much. All I needed was a P.

Depending on how you study, I might recommend “Step Up”. It is arranged by systems, which was a more natural way for me to review, since that was how I learned the materially initially. It does have some errors in it (or did 2 years ago), but they were pretty obvious and easy to catch. I also used Q-bank. I would start by selecting questions in the subject I had just studied, and then as I progressed I would select all the subjects that I had covered to keep me current on that stuff. Like Tec, I wished I had done more questions for Step I. I didn’t get through all the Q-bank questions. I did fine, but for Step II I got through all the Q-bank questions, as well as using other sources of questions, and I did nearly 20 points better. I also felt like I had conditioned myself to concentrate for the long period of the exam by doing long blocks.
I would caution you to make sure you’ve covered all the pertinent areas in your course work before you schedule the exam, as you should be reviewing, not learning material for the first time-- but I’m sure you knew that!
Good luck! I’m sure you’ll do fine.

My system primarily focused on Q-bank - Nat’s suggestion - First Aid (not too helpful) & Step Up (very helpful). When the dates drew nearer I picked up a copy of Buzzwords for the Bopards - do not expect too much enlightenment from this last text, but there were several occasions when those buzzwords synched & it ended up facilitating the process of elimination or outright showing me the answer. I would not use Buzzwords early or for sustained study, but it made for some nice ‘clean up’ work.

Also, I picked 1 study partner who had a similar study style & was equally driven. We started in Jan w/ 1hr every other night, later increased that to 2 & then as the date drew near (for the last 6~8weeks), 2hrs every night. We challenged each other. We also allocated 4~6hrs/weekend, which I split into 2~3hrs each weekend day for solo study time.

Personally, even though I scored well, I think I overstudied. My scoring peak was about 2 weeks prior to the exam 85~90% correct answers on Q-bank practice exams. They fell toward the exam to aroun 75% correct and that corresponded very closely to what I actually scored on both COMLEX & USMLE - approx 1 standard deviation above the mean.

The new 2006 First Aid is now systems based…just fyi.


The new 2006 First Aid is now systems based…just fyi.

See, now I think that would make it much more helpful!
Oh, one other study partner suggestion to add to what others have said. You don’t necessarily have to study the same thing as your study partner. My study partner and I seldom were actually studying the same thing, (although we did try to line up our systems to overlap as much as possible), but we met to study most days and held each other accountable for being there, and provided moral support for those times when you start to doubt yourself. We also would discuss questions that came up for either of us. We called it “studying alone together”.

A part of my ‘study buddy’ system was not just that we held one another accoutable - but we pimped, drilled, cajoled & quizzed the hell out of one another. He & I were friends, but competitive by nature - we were also weight lifting partners.

Thanks for the advice. Since I’m in a foreign school, my window for taking Step 1 is more relaxed, though I do have to pass it in order to go on to 3rd year. I finish my second year the third week in August (since its a 3 semester per year program) and hope to take the Step before the holidays. I noticed that no one mentioned a program (like Kaplan) in their personal experience. I have to be accountable to study enough, so I will find a partner if possible. The school does a class wide review with Kaplan and I want to do everything I can to pass it the first time without a problem, so I can go on to clinicals.

Kathy, I did know people who used a Kaplan course but it was far less common to use a prep course for Step 1 than for the MCAT (and the folks I knew who took the course did not feel it was worth it in hindsight). I guess by the time we’d been through the first two years of med school we’d realized that we knew a lot about preparing for and taking exams!
However, just about everyone I knew did QBank and I would highly recommend that.

To echo Mary’s advice, I absolutely can not conceive of taking Step I without doing Qbank. I’m sure there are other good products out there, but I would ABSOLUTELY make sure to get one that simulates the electronic environment well, and provides realistic questions. Qbank is a pretty well proven product. And no, I have no financial interest, or any other interest at all, in Kaplan.

QBank = da money!

Thanks guys. I’ve got the QBank materials and I’m starting review for older subjects NOW! I won’t take the Step 1 until around September or October but I don’t think its too early to get started!