Exam Preparation and Experience Step 1 Preparation and Experience USMLE Preparation and Experience

My USMLE Step 1 Journey by Dr. Archana Sreekantan Nair

I did my preparation in four phases.

Phase 1

Start off with research regarding resources.

Choose and collect the resources you finalized.

One tip
Don’t depend on too many resources, might be counterproductive towards the revision phase.

My resources
📚 Kaplan notes and videos (2010 for behavioral science and statistics, physio, and pharma. Rest all from Kaplan 2014 except Patho. For Patho, I used Goljan.

📚 High yield for neuroanatomy (but I can recommend Kaplan notes and UWorld as sufficient).

Too many resources counterproductive
📚 First Aid 2016 and online UWorld.

📚 Integrated cases videos 2014 and integrated cases videos by Dr. Raymon.

📚 100 cases in Medical Ethics by Dr. Conrad Fischer.

📚 Biostatistics review questions.

💡 2010 vs. 2014 videos
During the initial phase, I browsed through 2010 and 2014 videos

I liked the teaching methodology in 2010 videos for pharma, physio, and behavioral science.

Physio…many don’t like Dr. Conrad’s lectures, but I adore him. 🤓

Dr. Wilson is equally good, I just stuck to 2010, because it was more my taste in presentation.

Behavior and statistics – I strongly recommend 2010. Dr. Daugherty makes the concepts clear and concrete.

Pharma Dr. Raymon integrates pharma with physio very well.

💡 Goljan vs. Pathoma
I didn’t have a particular reason to choose Goljan. My friends used Goljan, so I used it too. Goljan is a little vast but integrates pathophysiology with other subjects. I didn’t go through Pathoma.

💡 Online vs. Offline UWorld
Online questions are frequently updated, and there are more questions compared to the latest offline versions.

Moreover, you can do tests in a random timed mode which would increase your capacity to read, comprehend and answer the questions in the stipulated time.

💡 When to Start UWorld
Ideally after your first review of Kaplan and FA.

Doing so makes you already familiar with almost all concepts, and you can add on extra knowledge from UWorld.

Also, it makes annotation easier, since you know what is extra and what is repeated in UWorld compared to FA.

USMLE Step 1 Experience

Phase 2

The aim is to understand the concepts.

You might have to go back to a topic multiple times to reinforce it.

Understand and question whatever you are reading.

Ask doubts.

Seek answers to your question in forums and from seniors.

Read Kaplan notes and do videos and Goljan.

After each subject, I would go through the corresponding section in FA and do subject wise questions from Pretest.

💡 Subject wise vs. system wise
It’s a personal choice. I did subject wise because it gives me a sense of closure after I complete reviewing each lecture note.

Phase 3

A quick review of FA and Kaplan notes if needed to reinforce weak topics.

I strongly recommend revising genetics section from Kaplan notes as it isn’t as widely covered in FA as in Kaplan.

When to start UW
Start UWorld online.

Preferably in timed random mode.

Understand each and every sentence in UWorld.

Annotate extra points and graphs on to FA.

I used sticky notes and sheets of paper attached in between the FA pages to annotate extra points.

After your first round of UWorld

Review FA and UWorld notes.

Then Do your first online NBME.

Don’t get disheartened if you don’t get a score you were anticipating.

Find out weak points and do more questions in those sections (either UWorld or a different question bank like Kaplan USMLERx) and review FA in those topics.

After that start second round of UWorld.

Do online NBMEs every two or three weeks.

Continue revising FA in total with particular emphasis on weak topics based on NBME performance charts.

Supplement with biostatistics review questions, 100 Cases in Medical Ethics by Conrad.

When you get bored of reading FA watch integrated cases by Raymon and integrated video cases 2014.

I haven’t tried DIT or First Aid Express videos.

But if you plan to, this phase might be a good time to do it.

Take your last NBME at least a week before the exam.

Taking it too close to the exam may stress you up.

If time permits practice old offline NBMEs

USMLE Step 1 Experience

Phase 4

Getting prepared for d day.

During the last week.

Plan your break time splitting.

Practice hearing different heart sounds and identifying common ECG abnormalities.

Go through the tutorial and sample USMLE Step 1 questions available in USMLE website.

Best of luck 🙂.

Doubts Solved by the Author

Q – Please share your study strategy

A – Here it is –

After finishing Kaplan notes and videos in each subject, go through and try to grasp the concepts in Corresponding sections in FA.
Then do subjectwise Pretest.
After the first read, do a quick review of FA, and Kaplan notes if needed
At first, don’t try to mug up FA
By the time you finish UWorld, reading and annotating extra points to fa, you will be more familiar with FA
Start doing NBMEs then
And redo UWorld second time
Conrads 100 cases in medical ethics and the biostatistics review proved useful
If you got time practicing old NBMEs can be extra beneficial.
Q – What was the duration of your preparation and how many hours you prepared each day?

I started about ten months back but took breaks in between
I used Kaplan notes and videos
For Patho, I used Goljan
After each subject, I did Pretests and FA
After Kaplan and FA did UWorld twice.
Q – I have two questions – Can I solve NBME 1 to 7 just for learning or do you think it’s a waste of time? Old concepts maybe? If not NBME 1-7 … can I do like NBME 11, 12 and 13 just for learning …by learning I mean not taking them as an exam then NBME 15 onwards online? Please tell me.

A – Doing earlier NBMEs definitely will benefit you. It’s practice for you to answer questions and learn new concepts as well.

Q – You did not use PATHOMA? Goljan Book or HY Notes? Which NBMEs did you do? Did you do Flash Cards system? Areas of Anatomy represented?

A – I used only Goljan book. I did online NBMEs except 19. I also did up to NBME 5. I didn’t use flashcards. Anatomy is well covered in UWorld. You don’t need in-depth knowledge like we are expected to in medical school.

Q – Do I need BRS physiology if I already did UWorld, FA, and Kaplan?

A – I never reviewed BRS physiology

Q – How much time it took you to do UWorld twice? I am planning to start UWorld in mid-Aug.

A – I took time. Almost three months first time. And one month second time. My preparation had breaks. But if you are doing nonstop three months altogether would be enough

Q – Pretests are useful? Do you advise doing it?

A – I did it and found useful. It is not exactly exam type questions. But questions on your concepts

Q – from where can I practice hearing heart sounds?

A –

Heart Sounds – Easy Auscultation
Heart Sounds Murmurs – Practical Clinical Skills
Q – How were your NBME scores…I got a 225 online in NBME 16…in UW, a first pass of 65 percent…and now doing UW second time with FA….but I am afraid to take another online NBME as I feel I might get the same to increase the NBME score, exam in 3 weeks?

A – Go through your previous NBME feedback chart. Review topics in FA and UWorld marked borderline do next NBME. See how much you have improved based on the feedback chart.


Dr. Archana Sreekantan Nair

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