Step 1 study schedule?

Hey all,

Well, I made it…yessir, passed the last class of the year (not real pretty and some cuts and bruises but I PASSED…) and have had time to enjoy a celebratory cigar (or two)…but now the reality of what I have to do in six weeks is setting in…

So, I need some advice on study schedules for step one…did you do the 14 hours/day, 6 days a week with 10 hours on sunday or treat it as a normal 60 hour week with one day on the weekend?

While individual strengths/weaknesses apply, what did you emphasize and when did you start it in the study schedule?

I went to our first Kaplan course and was hoping that the prof would do some in depth explaining—no such luck – he blew through some of the basics and was more intent on repeating the bullets in the outline in the books rather than expanding on it…I’m wondering if I’m trying to understand too much or is this merely a refresher…I’m giving him this week and if it doesn’t get any better, I’ll punt and move on to something else…


Hm. I doubt you want to follow my schedule. I was happy if I got five GOOD hours of studying in a day. I’ve talked to people who claim they did the 14 hours a day stuff and others who said they did more like 8 - 10. I think you really need to analyze your quality vs. quantity when figuring out how long you need to study. I don’t see any point in spending 12 - 14 hours a day with the books when you might only really be getting 8 - 10 hours of good quality productive time out of it. I knew I wasn’t capable of making 12 - 14 hours productive, so I worked hard to make the time I did have as productive as possible.

I didn’t really take whole days off, but if I had been putting in 10 - 12 hours a day, I think I definitely would have taken most, if not all, of a day off. If you keep that kind of schedule and don’t feel like you can take an entire day off, spend an hour or two doing questions from a question bank or qbook.

Good luck with your studying. I’m glad step 1 is behind me.

I think the 12-14 hr/day plan is unrealistic unless you are truly exceptional. You will be burned out and exhausted by the time the exam comes around. Remember that this is a long exam and you will need endurance as well as alertness.

For me, lectures are useless; I prefer lots of practice questions with targeted review on my weakest areas. For Step 1 I set up a systematic 4-week review by system and topic. You can find sample study schedules online; mine was fairly typical. For example, if I had a half-day on cardiac phys, I did the cardiac section from Costanzo Phys Cases & Problems. The schedule is important to keep you on track and prevent you from getting distracted and stretching out 4 weeks to 8 weeks.

I used First Aid as a template and annotated heavily with diagrams, tables, etc. and knew I had covered everything in it. I also listened to all the Goljan audio lectures multiple times. If you had a Kaplan lecturer that good, then I’d go to lectures. Otherwise, forget it.

In total, I did approx. 3500+ questions from qbank, webpath, NBME, etc… I would not necessarily recommend qbank, but that’s what was available at the time. Do not make the common mistake of trying to use too many textbooks and review books. Pick one, such as first aid, and learn that. You do not have time for everything else. Use the review questions as a guide to your weak areas and do some targeted review as necessary.

In total, I studied hard for 4 weeks after the end of classes, probably averaging 6 GOOD hours per day on my best days (not including breaks etc.).

One month before the exam I took NBME practice test #1 and scored a 198. This was demoralizing but motivating. I ended up pushing back my test date by a week, which was good. It gave me the time to develop and memorize some tables like the alpha/beta agonists/antagonists, etc., which I used throughout the exam.

I never scored above 201 on the NBME tests but ended up with a 224 on the real thing. I was an average student in MS1 and MS2.

As you already know, you need to take this test very seriously in order to do well. If I were you, I would plan for a max of 8 hours a day of good-quality study time, no more than that. That does not include breaks, e-mail, surfing, etc. I would focus on areas of weakness instead of just doing an all-around review. Also, do not underestimate the importance of tying everything together across subject boundaries, in a way that my med school certainly did not teach.

Excellent points, meowmix, especially on burnout. I also agree with the books. I used First Aid and Goljan path extensively. I supplemented with a few other HY books that I had found helpful during med 1 and med 2 and were in areas that were weak for me. I felt the First Aid biochem section was insufficient and a couple other sections were marginal.

I did one of the NBME tests one week before my real test. I scored a 221 on it - very close to my actual score. I really struggled first year (considered repeating) and did average or a little better second year.

For me, question banks were crucial. I think I learned far more from reading the explanations of the question answers than probably any of the review books. I used Qbank, but if I had to do it over again, I would probably choose USMLE World. I’ve heard very good things about it. Then again, what I probably would have done was buy one month access to a couple of different question banks instead of spending $400 on 9 months of Kaplan access that I only used for a month.

Thanks for all the good info. I do have some questions with respect to First Aid.

I’ve got the 2007 version and am a bit anal – is it worth buying the 2008 version ($45)?

I purchased Kaplan MedEssentials when I went through first year the first time. Never really used it but when I did, it had pretty much all the info from the classes in sufficienct detail to pass the freakin’ class. It’s almost like their entire set of USMLE/COMLEX books rolled into one TOME that’s about 1.5" thick. First aid seems to be soundbytes of certain things in certain subjects and I’m wondering if Kaplan MedEssentials is too much detail and if First Aid is counting on you knowing the stuff pretty well…

Based on the COMLEX Dx from Kaplan, I’m weak in Pharm, Resp. Phys, Renal Phys and average to kickin’ it in the rest.

I’m thinking about spending the next 4 days doing the general principles type of stuff and then doing focused system by system study until about a week to week and a half prior to COMLEX and then burning through FA as much as possible? Questions will be done within the systems study and I’ll do as many as possible.

Any comments - I’m planning on taking Saturday afternoon to Monday morning off each week until two weeks prior - Gotta have some family time…

I don’t think I would spend the $$$ on buying the 2008 FA if you have 2007. It generally doesn’t change much from year to year. I did buy the 2007 version last year since I had the 2004 or 2005 version and they had actually changed the format significantly.

I made a pledge to myself to work out my calendar by the end of today. If I pledge to the Oldpremeds board that I will do something, it generally comes to pass! Will post again this evening.

Hey Matt,

When exactly is your Step 1?

Mine is on June 26th. I have a rough study plan - still have to sit down and figure out how many pages each book has and divide it into days and hours.

I’m going to start on May 16th. During this time I’m going to take 3 days off (in half-days - so it actually seems like 6 days), and I’m going to take 4 days for wrap-up at the end.

This will leave me with 27 study days.

3,5 days - physiology

5 days - pathology

1,5 - behavioral sciences

5 days - micro & immunology

5.5 days - pharmacology

3 days - biochemistry and molecular biology

2 days - neuroanatomy

1.5 days - gross and embryology

My days are going to be 8 +3 hours - meaning 4 hours of book study in the morning, 4 hours after lunch, and 3 hours of two different qbanks before going to bed.

This is so called ‘Costanzo’s Step-1 bootcamp’. People in MCV have been using it for ages and it works.

And for now I’m stuck on neurology - exam is coming up next week. It’s definitely not my favorite subject.


Biochemistry - 4 days

Embryology - 1 day

Microbiology - 3 days

Immunology - 2 days

Pathology - 3 days (I think I may lengthen this to 5)

Pharmacology - 2 days

Cardiology - 3 days

Hematology - 2 days

Endocrinology - 1 day

Renal - 2 days

Reproductive - 1 day

Pulmonary - 1 day

Behavioral Science & Psych - 1 day

Musculoskeletal - 1 day

Neurology - 3 days (again, this one i’ll probably lengthen)

Then I do a 2 week quickie review through everything again. I’m trying to do 1 or 2 sets of 50 QBank questions today. I already subscribe to USMLERx which I love, and will probably get a USMLE World subscription too, since I’m likely to run out of USMLERx.

May I strongly, strongly suggest you look into…I’m using his review for step 2 and really wish I had it for step 1.


The shortest option on the website you suggest is 12 weeks or so! This definitely wouldn’t work for me.

  1. I don’t have 12 weeks

  2. Even if I had 12 weeks I think taking so long to review for the exam, I’d get to the point of diminishing returns, where I would risk forgetting whatever I reviewed at the beginning.

  3. I have to have some time off to catch my breath + recharge batteries before getting back to school on July 30th.

    So I think I’m going to stick to my plan and hope for the best.


I’ve done some searching for others’ study schedules on and the user Taus had the best one I’ve seen so far. He took both the USMLE and COMLEX exams and knocked them out of the park.

You can find a thread about it here and there’s a link to the schedule in the thread.

Just throwing it out there for you all.

Thanks, Meg. I’ve got quite a while to go, but it is something I put in my arsenal for future reference.