My name is Dr. Hamza Aftab and I am a graduate of King Edward Medical University, Lahore. My graduation year is 2017. I gave my exam on March 8, 2018 and by the Grace of Allah, I scored a 272. Alhamdulillah!
A little about myself:
Before starting my MBBS at K.E, I was a slightly above average student. My MCAT scores were decent and so were the SSC/HSSC scores. However, during med college, I was a little too involved in the extracurricular activities. I would end up studying only before exams, every year. My scores dropped considerably and I struggled during the professional exams. So, for those of you who were not as attentive during the med-school, here’s a silver lining!
Exam Date: March 8, 2018
UWorld 1st pass: 92% UWorld 2nd pass: 98% UWorld 3rd pass: 100% NBME 11 offline: 17 mistakes (2.5 months out) NBME 13 online: 263-8 mistakes (1.5 month out) NBME 16 online: 259-11 mistakes (3 weeks out) NBME 18 online: 267- 8 mistakes (1 weeks out) UWSA 2 online: 271-11 mistakes (2 days out)
Real Deal: 272 (Alhamdulillah)
– Total: 11 months – Dedicated: 9 months – Study hours: 8-12 hours/day in the beginning, 14-16 hours/day towards the end.
Sources and Study Material:
My major sources were Kaplan, Pathoma, F.A and Uword with supplementation from other sources for my weak areas mentioned in detail.
Kaplan: Kaplan is extremely useful and extremely low yield at the same time. For those with good concepts from the medical college, or if you are and undergraduate with good grasp, you can skip this step. However, people like me, who realize what biochemistry is for the first time after becoming doctors, Kaplan is the best way to go. Kaplan is not meant to be learned by heart. You are likely to forget everything you read from Kaplan but it will have inculcated in you the concepts that were lacking.
I started my preparation with Kaplan. I had watched some videos in Final year MBBS and completed the rest during the initial stages of preparation. I did Kaplan Physiology, Pharmacology, Biochemistry, Biostatistics & Behavioural Sciences and Immunology. I annotated the lectures on the books and tried to learn whatever I could from the annotated lecture notes. This built the base for my preparation as I did not have a sound foundation from my medical school. For every Kaplan book that I tried to learn, I tried to cover the relevant portion from F.A. For example, after doing Kaplan Physiology, I gave a quick read to the physiology part of F.A. This helped me understand F.A in a better way and probably lead to a good 1st pass percentage of UWorld.
Pathoma: Pathoma is hands down the best book for pathology. Dr. Sattar is a genius. Use pathoma during your med-school and then later during the early phase of your preparation. However, towards the end of your preparation, pathoma may not be the way to go. This is because F.A covers almost everything that there is in pathoma and much more. So, use pathoma to familiarize yourself with the subject of pathology and to understand the basics but moving forward, use F.A for the memorization part.
I had done Pathoma in 4th year MBBS as a part of my preparation for professional examination. I annotated the lectures on to the book and revised it at least 3 times before the 4th year exam. When I started my preparation for step 1, I revised it one last time and then just like kaplans, I gave the pathology part of F.A a quick read.
First Aid: I am sure everyone knows how important this book really is. It needs a lot of revisions to digest and even more to retain. However, “quality over quantity”, a deep revision which covers a lot of bases is better than a quick 5-day sprint. At the end, all I can say is that I’m sure if you have done F.A really really well and augmented it with UWorld, a 250 or even a 260 is a piece of cake.
I started the first read of F.A with Kaplan and Pathoma. I then gave it a quick cover to cover read just to be sure, which in retrospect was not warranted. I then moved onto doing F.A with UWorld system wise where I tried to cram 1 system from F.A and do the relevant UWorld online. Here came the technical part. You can make 1. UWorld notes on registers or 2. annotate very little onto F.A or 3. add blank pages into your F.A or 4. add sticky notes to the pages in F.A. I went with sticky notes because I learn better when I have a picture memory of what I read. You can also go with adding blank pages but then you tend to over-annotate and end up exhausted when you revise. Another way to go about is to annotate very little but at the risk of overlooking useful information in the nooks of the explanations. Making registers is another option but it gets cumbersome and you may not even open them. Having completely annotated UWorld onto F.A, I gave F.A with annotated UWorld notes a revision. So basically this was the 4th time I was revising F.A & the 1st time revising UWorld (from sticky notes). I then moved onto UWorld 2nd pass after which I gave my final read to F.A with annotated UWorld. This last revision took 20 days, but quality over quantity, right?
UWorld: UWorld is essentially everything on the exam. It covers almost all the concepts, facts and materials you will ever need to familiarize yourself with. UWorld helps explain First Aid and going through it for the 1st time broadens your horizons. However, there is a proper way of using UWorld.
UWorld 1st pass: THIS IS A LEARNING TOOL! Having read a system from F.A, I did the relevant UWorld questions and annotated them on F.A. Important to note, the annotations should be precise and comprehensive. Overdoing with annotations always results in over-whelming pressure during revisions. Underdoing it can have you overlook many important points. I did the 1st pass system wise and in timed tutor mode. This is important because it helps you understand those 1 line concepts in F.A that are equivalent to a 6-page topic in the textbooks. UWorld 2nd pass: THIS IS AN ASSESSMENT TOOL! After a cover to cover revision of F.A with annotated UWorld, I did the 2nd pass in random timed mode. I did 10 blocks per day to build endurance and stamina. It also helped me understand how to tackle questions in the exam. This pass was essentially the essence of my preparation. By the end of a 10 block day, I read the explanations of marked and wrong questions and revised from F.A anything I felt I was weak in. Having done UWorld the 2nd time in almost a week, I had my performance profile in front of me. An assessment of performance from 2500 questions (although you remember the answers to many) is much more accurate than a 200 question NBME. So I started working on the weak areas as pointed out by UWorld. UWorld 3rd pass: The 3rd pass essentially consisted of some 400 questions made up of marked and wrong questions. It was a one-day job with 10 blocks. After the 3rd pass, I felt really confident for the 1st time and everything felt integrated.
Sources and Study Material for each Subject:
Biochemistry, Molecular biology and Genetics: In my opinion, this is the one subject that definitely needs Kaplan lecture notes and videos even if you have had a firm grasp in your med-school years. Later, move onto F.A and UWorld. It is very volatile so you’ll have to go through it many times before you feel confident. At-least 5 times in my case.
I was very weak in this area to begin with, so I did Kaplan videos and read lecture notes. I then revised the annotated lecture notes because let’s admit, this subject sucks when you do it the 1st time and then the next 15 times. I then did F.A followed by UWorld. Since it is very volatile, REVISION is the key. Apart from the regular revision schedule, I gave a few extra revisions to biochemistry to force it down my throat, specially the storage disease and enzymes and stuff!
Immunology: F.A and UWorld are more than enough in my opinion, even if you do it for the 1st time. However, you can add Kaplan for a topic you find hard to understand.
I did Kaplan videos but skipped lecture notes and jumped right onto F.A, followed by UWorld and it was more than enough. However, it has a lot of stuff that is easily forgotten. So, like biochemistry, I gave a few unscheduled revisions to some topics like immunodeficiencies etc.
Microbiology: Sketchy Micro is GOLD! For me, sketchy was the best source I’ve ever used in my life. Add F.A and UWorld and you know more than a microbiologist himself.
I was very stubborn about not doing Sketchy. I had almost started F.A when my beautiful Fiancée, amazing as she is, convinced me to just watch one video and it changed my course of preparation for good. The subject I once hated was now my most favourite. After sketchy, F.A and UWorld felt like a piece of cake. I revised sketchy pdf 2 times later and the images were so clear in my head, micro felt like my strongest suit.
Epidemiology and Biostatistics: It was an all-new territory for me and therefore a weak area for the most part of my preparation. I paid special attention to this subject in the last days of my preparation. Thankfully,
this turned everything around in the end. So, the more resources you use the better. I used F.A, UWorld, Kaplan step 1 and 2, High yield Biostatistics, UWorld Biostatistics Review Questions, BRS Biostatistics and a few topics from the internet. This one subject can considerably change your score. So, a little effort in this direction pays off very well in the long haul. I turned my borderline and low performance in earlier NBME (13) to a high performance star (in NBME 18 and the exam) by just going through the additional resources.
I started preparing for Biostatistics with just Kaplan videos and lecture notes and then jumped to F.A. I then did UWorld Biostatistics review and moved onto UWorld. Everything seemed easy until I gave my NBMEs. I had a borderline to poor performance. So in between NBME 13 and 16, I did Kaplan step 2 Biostatistics, High yield biostatistics, BRS biostatistics, revised UWorld Biostatistics review and gave a quick revision to F.A with annotated UWorld. I also did a few topics off the internet that I found in NBMEs but absent in other resources. I wrote formulas with a marker on my door and I revised them every day.
Ethics: Also a weak area, specially for an IMG. Kaplan, F.A and UWorld are evidently not enough. This was another area on the borderline early in my prep. So, I added Conrad 100 cases, Khan 100 cases and BRS. This however did not improve my performance as drastically in the later NBMEs but perhaps paid off well in the end for there was a star in the real deal!
I began with Kaplan videos and notes, moved onto F.A and then UWorld. However, I had weak performance in NBME 13. I then did Conrad 100 cases and Khan 100 cases, gave a quick unscheduled revision to my annotated F.A but there was no improvement in NBME 16. I did not know of any other resource and I left this subject to luck at the end.
Healthcare Safety: F.A, UWorld and the few pages in Kaplan Biostatistics book.
Did it from F.A and then Uworld. Read Kaplan notes on Healthcare Safety once and that was enough.
Psychiatry: F.A and UWorld are more than sufficient. People like to add UWorld for CK but I found the 2 resources sufficient in both NBMEs and the exam.
I did Kaplan Behavioural sciences videos and lectures which was not needed at all. Did a quick F.A read and then UWorld. Revised as per revision schedule and it was sufficient.
Anatomy: There is no single resource that covers everything. However, a combination of F.A, UWorld, Shelf Notes and a few Google searches pretty much has you covered. Gross Anatomy, Embryology and histology: F.A, UWorld, Shelf Notes and inquisitive internet searches are enough. Add Snell’s review or Kaplan for pelvic and limb anatomy. Neuroanatomy: Kaplan lecture notes and Videos are very important. You may need to revise your Kaplan neuroanatomy lecture notes midway again. Add F.A and UWorld to the mix and it’s more than enough.
While doing Kaplan, I gave a quick read to the shelf notes which was the only time I ever read them. Otherwise, I did anatomy from F.A with the relevant system. Added UWorld annotations and revised as per schedule. This approach covered Gross, Embryo and Histo. For neuroanatomy, I did Kaplan videos and lecture notes, revised them once more and then moved to F.A. After which I moved on to UWorld. In the middle of my preparation, I looked up a few topics in the Kaplan Lecture Notes so keep it handy. The rest of the preparation followed the usual revision schedule.
The next 3 subjects, namely Physiology, Pathology and Pharmacology are extremely high yield. Why? Because all your questions will test at least one of them in the question stem, especially 2 or 3 tier questions.
Physiology: Kaplan Lecture notes with videos are a must. This subject is the centre of concepts asked in the exam. With all the up/down arrow questions as well as the underlying pathophysiology, this is the one subject where just memorization is not enough. You need to ensure that you understand everything and are able to make inferences from it. Plus, F.A and UWorld. UWorld is a very helpful resource in understanding general principles as well as system specific concepts.
I began with Kaplan lecture notes which I’d already annotated in my final year. Took some time to learn stuff and then moved onto F.A, and then Uworld. Followed the usual revision schedule and did not have much difficulty. I’ve heard BRS physiology is a good resource but I did not use it.
Pathology: “Pathoma, Pathoma, some more Pathoma and then F.A and UWorld.” Do Pathoma in your med school, learn it by heart, give your professional exams and thank Dr. Sattar. Then give a quick revision at the beginning of your step 1 preparation and bid farewell. Now, F.A and Uworld will have you covered for the rest of the journey. Having a lot of resources is very cumbersome and I found F.A and UWorld enough and never felt the need to go back to pathoma. So, basically for step 1, understand from Pathoma, memorize from F.A and UWorld.
As described earlier, I revised pathoma at the beginning of preparation and then subsequently used F.A and UWorld for memorization. There are usually 3 ways people go about using pathoma. 1. Annotating missing points from F.A to pathoma and using pathoma for pathology. I find it a little difficult to juggle between books. 2. Annotating from pathoma onto F.A. This is an extra effort because most of the stuff in pathoma is ultimately covered by UWorld. 3. Understand pathology from pathoma, and then use just F.A and UWorld. I liked this approach so I went with it.
Pharmacology: F.A and UWorld for everything. Add Kaplan Lectures and videos for General Pharmacology and Autonomic Nervous System. Sketchy Pharma for a few drugs that you forget easily.
I started with Kaplan videos and lecture notes but I did the entire book which was totally uncalled. ANS and General pharma are the 2 topics which need Kaplan. I then did F.A and UWorld and followed the usual revision schedule. I did a few drugs that I kept forgetting like epilepsy drugs from Sketchy Pharma and it was helpful.
I relied, like most others, on NBMEs and UWSA. However, I used UWorld 2nd pass for assessment as well.
NBMEs: NBMEs for step 1 are very important. They can be used as an assessment tool as well as a question bank in itself. However, there is a deeper implication of how it’s used that needs to be understood. All NBMEs are very similar. Most of all concepts are repeated and asked in essentially very similar ways. Don’t be surprised if you see the exact same question repeated. Then, what if we use NBMEs for learning? Offline NBMEs 1-12 and even the online ones can be used for learning, but by the time you reach NBME 18, which is considered very predictive these days, you would have learned all the NBME questions and now, it grossly over predicts your score and provides poor feedback about your weak areas. On the other hand, these NBMEs are a huge question pool that may help you with some out-of-nowhere questions in the exam as well as your weak areas. It is a 2 edged sword and there is no right answer in my opinion. A possible middle ground is to use them after NBME 18, somewhere close to your exam. This is what I did. I solved the difficult questions from NBME 7,12,15,17,19 towards the end of my preparation, thanks to my friends who would ask for explanations to the difficult questions they encountered in these NBMEs.
My experience with NBMEs was very pleasant. My 1st NBME gave me a head start and I did not have to put a lot of effort after that. But, there was one problem that persisted. I realized that I tend to mark all the difficult questions correctly and I always marked the easier questions wrong. This resulted in a disparity between number of wrong questions and the assessment score when compared to others. For example, 8
wrong in NBME 18 was a 267 for me but a 274 for some other person who had marked the difficult questions wrong. Since it is the easier questions that carry the most weightage, do not worry about the difficult ones in the exam.
UWSA: UWSAs are usually considered over-predictive, especially UWSA-I. For example, a total of 40 mistakes out of 160 questions still land you a 240-250. I therefore skipped it. UWSA-II on the other hand is another story. It may be extremely predictive or may over predict but not as grossly as UWSA-I. I took UWSA-II which for me was extremely predictive.
I found UWSA 2 very similar to UWorld and I was a bit worried that it might over predict my score. However, from what I’ve heard, UWSA-II was supposed to be hard which I did not find it to be, probably because of all the revisions that I had given to UWorld.
UWorld 2nd Pass: Unlike the 1st pass of UWorld which is used for learning and integrating with F.A, the 2nd pass is an excellent and a very accurate assessment tool. Using UWorld 2nd pass in random, timed mode with 7-10 blocks per day builds stamina and endurance. At the same time, it tests how strong your reflexes are and what are your weak areas. Always try to outperform your 1st pass percentage by a good margin.
Timeline and Revision Schedule:
3rd Year MBBS to Final Year MBBS: It wasn’t until 3rd year MBBS when I realized I wanted to pursue USMLE. So, with lots of enthusiasm I and 2 of my friends started reading Kaplan books but that did not last very long and the next week, we found ourselves basking under the sun, chilling and watching Netflix. Came 4th year and the only achievement that year was that I did pathoma very well. In final year, I again started with a lot of zeal only to be put off by hectic ward routine 2 months later. Having tried starting twice and failed, I started looking towards other options but eventually decided to complete MBBS and then decide. After graduation, I decided to forego house job and sat for my step 1, this time more enthusiastic and determined than ever. So all those amazing fellows looking to complete their step 1 and 2 exams within college years, I’d recommend reading the timelines of those who made this kind of stuff happen for themselves. A huge shout out to all the fellows out there who make do with both their professional and step exams.
First 3 months (April 2017-June 2017): I had listened to the lectures for some of the Kaplan books already in final year, so I began with reading the annotated books with their relevant portion in F.A. I also listened to the lectures I had not covered in final year and read those books again. It was very time taking and one mistake that I made was to try to cram the material from Kaplan which unduly added to my preparation time. I gave a quick revision to pathoma during this time period as well.
At the beginning of your preparation, make a plan and strictly adhere to it. This includes organizing resources, choosing a spot to study, making a time table and planning a few days off just to blow off steam. I talked to many of my friends who had given step 1, read many experiences and decided on the resources I was going to use. The initial resources are usually the same but the subjects you find your weaknesses in, may sometimes require additional resources tailor-fitted to your needs at that moment. So ask people for advice again at that point. I prepared for my exam at my home. This is a very difficult thing because I have a habit of studying in my room, ON MY BED! So I had to struggle with sleepiness in the morning and with insomnia in the evening. However, for those who can study at a library, it’s your best bet. I had some days off to take a break which included friends coming over and family gatherings. I wanted to be done with the exam by the end of 2017 but having wasted 2 months during my preparation, it was extended by almost 3 months. So, make a plan and follow it! Have a talk with your family and friends. This is very crucial. You need to have a very strong social support. I had my parents sisters and fiancée constantly supporting me throughout the highs and lows of my preparation which kept me sane.
July of 2017): I started a cover to cover revision of F.A which took roughly a month because I got distracted.
In addition, August being a birthday month in my family, I lost a few days there too; almost adding up to a month of wasted time.
Revising F.A cover to cover did not seem very helpful. This is because it is so concentrated and you need UWorld to digest it. I could save a month here, and add another revision to F.A with annotated UWorld which is far easier to understand and retain.
The next 3 months (August 2017-October 2017) I bought an online subscription of UWorld for 6 months. It took me 3 months to complete the 1st pass with annotations. Reading a chapter from F.A in a day or slightly more and then solving the UWorld questions, I started slow with 1 block per day but went up to 2 blocks per day towards the end. There were some off and on breaks during this time.
It seemed like I was wasting a lot of time writing stuff down onto my F.A and just reading explanations. I was wondering if this was the right way to go. However, I talked to some of my friends and they encouraged me to have faith and keep working this way. Although, at some point in time during this phase of preparation, I began to doubt that I was wasting time, I had a very important realization when I began my 1st revision of annotated F.A. In annotating all the information onto my F.A, I had created an excellent picture memory of where’s what! Also, a sticky note right above a topic in F.A helped consolidate the concept there and then. So, I was reading explanation of a 1 liner from F.A and therefore understanding and memorizing it at the same time.
November of 2017 was a very busy month and it went almost entirely wasted. We had our concocation. It was very distressing to realize that I had wasted almost an entire month. However, this was the time I completed the paperwork and applied for the ECFMG registration and submitted my exam application.
I’d recommend getting ECFMG registration early on and selecting a triad immediately after your 1st NBME. If you are a person like me, you are definitely going to need some sort of a deadline to work efficiently.
December of 2017: It was the recovery period. It had been 1 month since I had done UWorld and it seemed like I had forgotten a lot of things. However, with time, albeit 1 month, I gained back my momentum and revised the 1st part of F.A with annotations, which was the most likely part that I had forgotten. I then gave an offline NBME 11 in the last week of December with 17 mistakes. It was somewhat reassuring to realize that I still remembered most of the stuff. I then continued with my revision of systems.
Revising F.A with annotated UWorld for the 1st time is the most important part of your preparation. The level of effort you put into this revision sets the baseline score. So, take your time, read carefully, be meticulous and not just memorize but understand everything. It took me almost 6 weeks with the 1st revision because of my distraction but don’t be surprised if it takes you 4 weeks. Revising many times while overlooking key concepts is not a very wise approach.
January of 2018: I completed my 1st FA plus annotated UWorld revision by the 3rd week of January at which point I gave an online NBME 13. I got a 263 which boosted my confidence. At this point I realized my weaknesses were biostatistics and ethics. So I spent 1 week improving these subjects from the various additional sources I’ve already mentioned. The time between your 1st and 2nd revision of F.A with annotated UWorld is an excellent chance for you to use additional resources to cover your weak areas. This is also the time for you to give the remaining NBMEs. For me, NBMEs were more of a score assessment, so doing a lot of them was not as helpful because I could not gauge the subject wise preparation level from them because there was a star in almost all subjects. But, for someone with a score in 230-250 who wants to improve his performance in the relevant subjects, giving NBMEs periodically can help assess the improvement in the level of preparation. For example, I jumped from NBME 13 to 16 after a 263. Had I gotten a 240, I would have needed to revise my weak areas and given another NBME, let’s say 15. Here, I could have found out that I scored a 245 with improvement in some of the said weak subjects. I could have worked even harder
on the remaining weak areas and given another NBME, say 17 and scored a 255. So, use NBMEs according to the needs of your preparation.
Biostatistics and Ethics are the 2 subjects that will make or mar your score. You can use additional resources as I mentioned to cover biostatistics and ethics. Realizing I was weak in biostatistics, I did Kaplan step 2 Biostatistics lecture notes in a day, High yield Biostatistics in 2 days, UWorld Biostatistics Review Questions in 1 day, BRS Biostatistics in a day and a few topics from the internet. For ethics, I did Conrad 100 cases and Khan 100 cases, each in a day.
The Last Month (February 2018): I completed the 2nd pass of UWorld in the beginning of February and after quickly completing 3rd pass of marked/wrong in a day, I gave NBME 16 with 259. This was a minor setback because the score had dropped by 4 points and the ethics portion still seemed weak. However, I let of Ethics and it was mid-February and I had started my 2nd and final F.A plus annotated UWorld revision which continued into 1 day before exam.
The 2nd pass of UWord with 10 blocks per day was the turning point in my preparation. If I could do 400 questions in a day, 280 on the exam day were not going to be an issue. The 2nd revision of F.A with annotated UWorld was easier. I had already done it once. Also, the explanations from the UWorld 2nd pass were still fresh in my mind. It took me roughly 20 days to complete my 2nd revision.
1 week before exam (March 1-7, 2018): I gave my NBME 18 on March 1 and got a score of 267. This was when I decided I was ready because I had been having recurrent thoughts of postponing my exam for no reason at all for the past few days. I continued revising the remaining part of F.A, completed it and gave UWSA-II on March 6, 2018 which further boosted my confidence with a 271. On the last day, I did ECGs, heart sounds, CT/MRIs, some histo slides, dermatology pictures and some pages I’d marked as easy to forget including hereditary immunodeficiencies of course!
NBME 18 and UWSA-II are very predictive these days. So, save them for the last week. Free 120 questions which I did not have time to do are extremely important too. I’d recommend keeping the final week for a quick revision of F.A. I did not have the liberty of time to do it and this meant, on the exam, I solved questions from biochemistry which I had last revised some 20 days ago. On the day before exam, I was very anxious and excited. I felt like I knew everything and nothing at the same time. This is when you need to calm your nerves. Relax! Go out, watch movies or just hang out with friends. Trust your NBMEs and do as little as possible. Conserve your energy. I, however did not do any of this. Instead, I overwhelmed myself with a long list of CT/MRIs, ECGs, Heart Sounds, UWorld pictures and histology slides. I have always had this habit of sleeping in the day and staying up all night. This social jet lag caused me a lot of trouble on the night before the exam. I had been trying to push my circadian rhythm towards sleeping at 10 pm and waking early in the morning for a week but in vain. The night before the exam, I took a zolpidem 5mg and went to sleep at 11 pm. Zolpidem is really good for sleep onset and causes almost no dizziness or psychomotor depression the day over, however, it does not maintain sleep. To my horror, I was wide awake at 2 am in the night and I spent the entire night trying every other way to sleep but ended up going to the prometric centre sleep deprived. Needless to say, try setting your sleep schedule according to the exam time at least 1 month before the D-day!
Exam Day (March 8, 2018): Exam day is usually less anxiety provoking than the day before with all the anticipation. I reached the prometric centre 30 minutes before the exam. My exam started at exactly 9 am. Time went by and soon it was over. 7 blocks with 40 questions each, 1 hour for each block. 45 minutes of break with an added 15 minutes if you skip the tutorial. The exam had the same interface as the UWorld or free 120 questions. The question style was a mix of NBME and UWorld and the questions were doable. 85% questions were straight up F.A and UWorld. 10% needed a little thought process but answers could be excluded from the knowledge of F.A and UWorld. 5% were out of nowhere.
Sleep deprived from the last night, I took a cold shower, wore pocket less pants, t-shirts and sandals as it helps with the check-in every time you take a break. I had a sandwich, porridge and strong coffee for breakfast. I took my passport, I.D card and permit with me. For the breaks, I took with me dates, bananas and sandwiches, some more coffee, juices and water. My experience has another important advice and that is: Always visit the examination centre to pan the route you are going to take and factor in all the traffic and other issues that you may face on the exam day. I, on the other hand went to the centre for the 1st time on the day of my exam, ending up at the wrong gate of the college, the centre is located in. I lost 15 minutes in driving around, reaching the correct gate. All of this got me extremely worried and my sympathetic system was on full drive. Although a scare, it was a blessing in disguise for me because it took all the sleepiness away! Haha. The people at prometric, Lahore are amazing. They were very kind and cooperative. There at the centre, I met a wonderful soul. He was also appearing for his step 1 exam. We talked for a while and it was a huge support to have someone to talk to. So, if you can, plan with your study partner to give your exam on the same day. After all the security checks, I reached my desk and thus began a journey that passed in a blink of an eye. But before the blink, there was a minor moment of panic on the 1st block. I was too tired to concentrate and I started marking more questions than I needed to. But, by the 10th question, the coffee had kicked in, the sympathetic system had warmed up and everything started falling in place. The exam felt easier than UWorld and somewhat the same or easier than NBME 16 and 18. I marked on an average 5-6 questions per block and ended up with almost 15-20 minutes to spend on the marked questions at the end. Block 5 was a little hard with an additional distraction from the fellows typing relentlessly for their GRE exam. I marked roughly 12 questions in this block with almost as many minutes to spare for the marked questions but it was still doable. I did 2 blocks and took a break for 10 minutes. Then, did another 2 blocks and took a 10-minute break. The 5th block was a little overwhelming so took a long break, ate lunch, offered prayer and washed my face like I had been doing in every break. After the 6th block, I took another break because I still had time to spare. I was feeling happy that just 1 block had remained. I took a walk in the garden of the prometric centre and went back to complete the final block. Completing the final block, I came out of the centre satisfied and happy.
Result Day (March 28, 2018): The result is usually provided on the 3rd Wednesday from the exam date at 9 am EST. An email is received that tells you that the result is available on OASIS. The anticipation of the result is usually very stressful so try to invest yourself into activities that take your attention away from the constant worry.
For me, the wait and the anticipation was very painful. I was so stressed I almost got an ulcer. I talked to seniors and those who had taken the test and they reassured me that it happens to everyone. So sit back and relax. Trust your NBMEs and pray. Do not make the mistake of checking if you got a question wrong. Do not try to calculate the number of wrong questions. Supress as much as you can, everything related to the exam.
Things I did differently:
preparation, I knew the answers to most of the questions and now this exercise started reinforcing my knowledge, much like flash cards do.
Things I wish I had done differently:
– Would not have taken such long breaks. Follow your schedule very carefully. I took
unneeded breaks for a total of 2 months (plus added time for recovery). – Done Kaplan as quickly as I could. I tried to memorize Kaplan which was wishful thinking because you are bound to forget almost everything you read from Kaplan. If there is something so important that only Kaplan helps you keep it in, annotate that part of Kaplan onto your F.A. – Tried studying in a library. There are way too many distractions at home. – Exercised or at least taken out some time to walk. My health took a serious toll from the constant sitting and I gained 5 inches in the 11 months that I spent in my bed or a chair. Make time for some physical activity. – Corrected my sleep cycle in time. Sleep deprivation results in silly mistakes which I know
I made during the exam.
People I would like to thank:
I have tried my best to divulge everything I know or I have experienced to the best of my knowledge. However, I advise you to consult other people for advice as well. If you have any further questions, you can contact me at the following. I’ll try my best to answer whenever I could make time.
Email: [email protected] Facebook: www.facebook.com/hamzaftab
Dr. Hamza Aftab King Edward Medical University, Lahore, Pakistan.
Preparation Time : 11 Months
BRS Behavioural Science
My approach was to use minimal resources and master them. Rather than taking years to give the exam.. I felt that doing few resources but doing them well is the key to winning in USMLE. I did the above resources in following order:
FA + Pathoma —-> UW —–> BRS Anatomy & RoadMap Anatomy —-> NBME
I first started out by doing lectures of Sattar and Pathoma book together with FA. I did General & Systemic Pathology sections from FA during this stage. After doing this well i did the rest of the subjects: Biochem, Behavioural, Microbiology, Immunology. While doing FA + Pathoma.. I would make sure i knew each and every word. I made Anki cards of each and everything that was hard to remember. I would look up on google each and every topic which i could not understand in FA. I had to understand and memorize everything in the books before i go forward..else i would not go forward. In this way i took 5 months to do FA + Pathoma..
After this i was tense as i had not done a single question.. So i started UW.. Let me tell you UW is the most important resource and it took me 3 months to do it well. Again i would do each and every word of UWorld. I would google whatever i could not find.. I would make sure that i know the meaning of each and every word inside out before i moved forward. I would go to wikipedia, google, medscape, uptodate.. everywhere and anywhere.. I would search google images for relevant images of things like livido reticularis.. I would see YT videos for complex topics which i had hard time understanding. The goal was to make sure i learn every sentence before i move forward. I would not move forward if i dont have 100% grasp over the topic. So it took me 3 months for UW. I got 82% average score and i did mixed and not system wise.
Then after this much I started revision and doing NBMEs. The NBMEs were very helpful for my progress. I would give NBMEs even back to back sometimes if i felt in the right groove to do it. The reason NBME helped me is simple: Analyzing my mistakes and doing each and every single question with explanations. The important part was that i did the explanations for each and every question. This helped me learn many topics in great depth and that is not covered in UW, FA and Pathoma.. But its asked in test.. So if i had not done NBME with explanations maybe i would have got considerably low score.
I had packed a good dry snack in advance. I did not want to take a heavy meal with me..so i packed light food..Fruits, Red Bull, Chips, Energy bar and water. I did not take a full meal as it was meaningless to eat heavy and fall asleep in exam.
The exam was tough and the last 2 blocks were quite tiring.. Still i was alert throughout. I slept well the night before.. so i did not have an issue of sleepiness.. I recommend you to sleep well before the exam. I did not study 1 day in advance of the test and i also did not stay up till late.. So that helped me get optimal performance. I recommend you do the same.
Journey is long and tough..make sure you go ahead with faith in yourself and god.. You will do very well.
IMG Graduate – 2016
Kaplan Lecture Notes (2017) + Videos
Goljan audio + Lecture Notes
HY Gross Anatomy
BRS Gross Anatomy
BRS Behavioural Science
Kaplan Medical Ethics 100 Questions
Kaplan Qbank (Offline only)
UWorld (Online and Offline)
Did all NBME and 2 UWSA and 2 Kaplan Practice Tests and 1 Kaplan Diagnostic Test
The scores of UWSA and 3 Kaplan tests was very over predictive. I would not bet on it as a good gauge of the final score.
I started out first by gathering the material. As i did not have any knowledge beforehand as to how this exam works, I first read as many examples as i could. I started out by checking examineees who in the past had scored 270+ and tried to emulate their success by using the same resources as they did. I never imagined that I would get the same score.. But here i am writing an experience 1 year later as to how i got a 270 score myself. It took me 14 months actually to get the score i wanted to.. For reaching this score i had to sacrifice a lot, work very hard and had to give up many bad habits of time wasting to get it. I will write in detail how i made it this far and how you could too..
I started with Kaplan Lecture Notes + Kaplan Videos.. I had heard starting out with Physiology is a good idea..so that is what i did.. I started out doing Physiology but soon i found that the lecture videos are very lengthy and not very high yield. So i started using BRS Physiology along with Kaplan Lecture notes. I did entire BRS Physiology book…and the MCQs in it are very high yield. They give a lot of information on important HY concepts of CVS and Respi which i personally found very difficult to do. So after having done BRS Physiology, I did Kaplan Lecture notes of Physiology one more time to try and strengthen this subject as it would be very important to do before doing Patho. I then did UW, Kaplan Qbank offline. They helped me as it was subjectwise prep and i was reinforcing what i had studied in the previous period in Kaplan + BRS.
I then went on to do Microbiology and Immunology.. The Kaplan lecture videos of this subject are so boring. I think i fell asleep in more than half of them.. So i skipped them and i did the book of Kaplan for Immuno and Micro only. I recommend not focusing on the Kaplan book much as FA + UW is everything. I did UW offline and Kaplan Qbank offline for these too.
Then i started doing the dreaded Anatomy as it was the most asked subject in the time that i was giving my test.. I gave my test in December end of 2017. Anatomy was asked a lot especially pelvic anatomy and perineal anatomy. Fortunately my profs in MBBS was heavy on anatomy and anatomy was not a major issue for me and i was used to it. Still i did Kaplan Lec Notes + HY Gross anatomy + BRS gross anatomy.. I also did UW and Kaplan Qbank with it. It was very helpful. For Anatomy i recommend doing all the CT scans and MRIs… especially the thigh, arm ones which people neglect.. I had as everyone does..done the abdomen and the thorax and skull ones.. but we should not neglect XRay, CT, MRI, Angio, Veno, etc of limbs as that is HY in exam too.. Just do the radio given in the books, qbanks i mentioned and you will do well.
Biochemistry is a subject which is a rarity.. It is the only one which is good in Kaplan Lec Notes + Videos. I recommend to do entire Kaplan Biochem as it is just amazing and the professor had done an amazing job.
Patho + Pharmac –> I had done FA + Pathoma + Goljan (only audio + lec notes). Patho and Pharm kinda go hand in hand so i did both of them together. It was very helpful to do these from multiple sources. this phase alone took 4 months and i also did offline UW and offline Kaplan Qbank along with this.
After this all i had left was Behavioural science.. So i did UWorld + BRS Behavioural + Kaplan Qbank + Kaplan Lectures for Behavioural Science..
By this time i had felt that i was forgetting the initial subjects.. so i started doing NBMEs to make sure i am remembering everything.. I would do 1 NBME and then i would take a week to do it’s answers and explanations. This was very vital for me.. it took my score from 240s to 270s..as i did each and every NBME it helped me understand the sections that i was weak in.. It also helped me set a schedule. I would revise my week parts and then do NBME every weekend. In this way i did 11 NBMEs. In my time there were total 15 NBMEs (Not named sequentially).. So i did 11 NBMEs.. so 200 ques in each i did 2200 questiosn..then i took a small break and i did my entire course again.. I did every subject again and then on day i sat for 2 NBMEs back to back in 1 day. I did this to emulate a real exam scenario. This was very helpful in building stamina.. I scored above 250 in that so i took a date of 1.5 months away.. in that much time i again did all subjects and did remaining 2 NBMEs.. I also did Kaplan Diagnostic test and Kaplan Full Tests and 2 UWSA tests. They all overpredicted what i got.. As i got almost 100% correct in all of them..
Then finally i got a 1 month UW subscription online and got 93% in it. I had already done offline..so it was not first pass but second.
I did all incorrect questions of UW and incorrect NBME questions.. I also did tough subjects like lysosomal storage diseases again.. and development milestones.
Exam was tough.. I had very little sleep the previous night and after exam was over i thought i had performed very poorly.. I did 2 blocks initially together..then small break..then third block.. then lunch and then for rest of blocks i took 7-10 min breaks in between. I recommend you do USMLE tutorial on day before exam as everyone serious in giving exam well will give the exam in a way to get 15 mins extra break time.
After 3 weeks of anxiety… finally got my score !! 270 !! No words can describe this feeling..
Dr. Pooja Patel
Preparation time: 15 months
Kaplan Lecture Notes and Videos except Pathology
First Aid USMLE Step 1
HY Gross Anatomy
HY Behavioural Science
Kaplan Medical USMLE Medical Ethics: The 100 Cases You are Most Likely to See on the Test
Fundamentals of Pathology – Pathoma
WebPath for Images
Heart sounds app on android
ECG (only topics related to USMLE)
I started out with Kaplan and also did UWorld offline with it. This lasted around 4-5 months. After this i started doing UWorld offline with Pathoma and First Aid. Then in the interim period i started doing offline NBME from NBME 1 onwards.. I soon found out that my Behavioural science was very weak.. so i did HY Behavioural and the 100 cases book. This was helpful in improving my offline NBME scores. I was doing these NBME along with understanding every question and also understanding the incorrect options along with the correct ones. I had heard that Anatomy was very tough in USMLE and hence i also did HY Gross Anatomy. This was helpful in doing the ropics which i was weak in MBBS years. Actually in india anatomy is very heavy subject of first MBBS.. so i was quite good at it..though some things weren’t so solid..those got solid after doing HY Gross Anatomy.
I also was afraid of multimedia on the test and hence i did: Goljan Images, WebPath for Images, Heart sounds app on android, ECG (only topics related to USMLE). These helped me a lot on the test as i had ECGs and Heart sounds and also abunch of questions with MRI and CT Scan and histopathology and gross pathology images.
Overall the exam is doable but i recommend you do Behavioural science well..my study partner did almost same stuff as me except the 2 behavioural science things and he scored 11 points lower than me. Actually his online NBME score used to be more than mine but his Behavioural was very very low in the exam score card. So i recommend special attention on Behavioural Science.
Best of luck !!
Finally got my score card back and it is an amazing 272 !! Could never have expected this amazing score.. it is beyond my wildest dreams and also beyond my most recent NBME test or for that matter it is higher than any NBME test i have ever given. In this article i am going to break down the exact method step by step how i reached this score and how anyone could if they have a decent baseline knowledge and are willing to work hard. The solution to most things in the following experience is related to: “Spaced repetition technology” and in particular the free software called “Anki”. It is 100% free so like i am not pitching for sales of any company and as a matter of fact i recommend that you DO NOT buy and anki cards or even use the free ones as they are not really that good and at the very least even if they are good they are not customized to your own learning style.
I basically studied from a ton of sources and put it all into ANKI by making my own decks. In the end near my exam i had around 11K cards. Why and how are so many cards useful.. let me explain it:
How to use anki for USMLE ?
Or rather i should say How is anki useful for USMLE Step 1 ?
So basically what happens is that once we read something we forget it in a few days and the way Anki works is that it re-inforces concept at the exact time that we are likely to forget it. This makes sure that the information that we have read stays in our head. So basically if you make anki cards and make sure you follow the schedule and do the cards daily then the information will be stored in your head indefinetely and you wont have to worry about it. The reason i liked this is because i was always vary if i am actually going to be able to remember everything i study. I used to read and forget in a few days..but what anki did was that as long as i am willing to put in the time and effort everyday to review the cards i would be able to remember the material indefinetely. This helped me memorize really small minutae which i would otherwise never have been able to remember. So that’s enough of why you should use Anki. Now onto my journey…
So let’s start by the resources i used and the method i used these resources.
I did the following materials:
First Aid USMLE Step 1
Kaplan Lecture Notes & Kaplan Videos
Boards and Beyond
Fundamentals of Pathology by Hussain Sattar
Rapid Review Pathology by Edward Goljan
BRS Gross Anatomy
BRS Behavioural Science
High Yield Neuroanatomy
UWSA 1 and UWSA 2
Kaplan Sims and Kaplan Diagnostic test
NBME all – offline and online
From all of these books i would take out whatever information i did not know already and put it into Anki – Important: If i knew something from my medical school days i did NOT put it into anki.. as unnecesarily overloading info into the cards is worthless.
Out of above resources i did mainly questions ONLY from the BRS books. As far as First Aid USMLE is concerned i made sure i knew it inside out word for word. I would make sure that i knew everything in it…and for that i had to google a lot and see wikipedia also. Same is the case with UWorld.. For these 2 things i did above and beyond the basic books.. For the rest of the books i would not go beyond the books as the books themselves were exhaustive themselves. I took all the information and put it into Anki and the thing is you have to just trust the process.. Just trust the software and it will make sure you remember.. but of course you HAVE to do the questions daily..meaning whatever flash cards are to be done today you cannot under any circumstances delay it or procrastinate it. You have to do today’s work today. If you do that you will memorize everything perfectly.
I gave NBME 16-19 online. I dont have the scores of those but they were all in the mid 260s.. so i dont remember which one was which. I gave the tests within last 2 months before the test. So those scores were from the similar preparation level. There wasn’t much improvement as i believei gave it in last 2 months within a span of i think 2-3 weeks only. All of them were mid 260s and hence i was sure i will score well.
As far as the exam is concerned i can’t divulge questions so dont ask.. what i can say is that if you do above method and do it exactly as i say then you can expect a similar score.
Hello all. This is Anastasia. My experience is divided into 4 parts:
1. PREPARATION BOOKS:
First Aid USMLE Step 1
Kaplan Lecture Notes (even Pathology.. i did it all from Kaplan. Barone Rocks !! 😀 )
BRS Behavioural Science
BRS Gross Anatomy
High Yield Embryology
High Yield Neuro-Anatomy
Conrad Fischer’s Kaplan Medical Ethics – 100 most likely questions
Fundamentals of Pathology – Pathoma
I started with Kaplan Lecture Notes with some of the videos. I did the Pathology lectures contrary to popular opinion it is quite good. Behavioural science is the achilles heal of all IMGs and hence i did BRS Behavioural science and also Kaplan Medical ethics 100 most likely questions. I was week in NeuroAnatomy so i did HY Neuroanatomy and it was helpful. I also did Pathoma and while it was helpful.. Barone rocks !! 😀 First aid and Uworld are the 2 most high yield resources in USMLE.. its even higher yield than high yield books despite the name.
NBME 18: 269
NBME 19: 267
I dont recall the other NBMEs scores as it has become a long time since i gave them but i gave all NBMEs online which were available online and the rest i just did the questions and answers with explanations offline. It was very helpful as i found a similar pattern between this and the real exam.
4. EXAM EXPERIENCE:
Do the following before the exam:
Sleep well before the day of the exam. I got 7 hours of good sleep before the exam and i think it helped me a lot.
Do the tutorial from FRED before the exam as it is very helpful as it save the time which would otherwise have been used in it. That time can be effectively used in breaks.
Do the images on the last day before the exam and dont study too much on the day before the exam as it is not helpful and rather you will be hyper and may have difficulty sleeping.
Make sure to have food, drinks etc for the exam breaktime packed before the exam. Dont pack at last moment as you will just be anxious then.
The exam was tough and it was also lengthy. Questions were weirdly worded and even corner questions from corners of First Aid were asked. I recommend you to concentrate on First Aid and UWorld the most. Best of luck… on to step 2 Ck now..
I was a regular MS2 in a large well know university and scored average on my tests in med school. I was never really a class topper but i worked my ass off for this test and it paid off.
Books and question resources i used:
First Aid USMLE Step 1
Fundamentals of Pathology by Hussain Sattar
Rapid Review Pathology by Goljan
BRS Gross Anatomy
BRS Behavioural Science
Kaplan Biochemistry Lecture Notes
Doctors in Training
Self made Anki deck
First Aid Q&A
NBME 15,16,17,18,19 online
NBME 1-14 offline..it’s actually just 10 tests offline(some numbers NBME haven’t been released by them so it’s not 14 tests offline but rather 10 offline..go figure !!).. Do all the NBMEs if you want a score over 260 !! Don’t skip them !!
Topics to be done well divided by subjects:
Anatomy: Perineum and Pelvic anatomy; the nerve, lymph drainage, vascular supply,etc everything of that part is important. CT Scan and MRI of the upper and lower limbs, head and neck. Coronary angiography. BRS Gross anatomy has a TON of questions. Do that and the questions from the question banks and NBMEs and you will be gold. You will do very well in USMLE if you know the imaging and have done tons of questions. I was afraid of anatomy before the exam and i got a very high percentile in it (based on the score report page with the bars i was on the extremely accurate end)
Embryology: BRS Embryology questions were very good. In addition to this Qbanks and FA are good enough to nail this. While you will get probably only 4-5 questions on this, don’t ignore it..do things like pharyngeal arches and developmental anomalies very well. You will get all the questions right
Physiology: Endocrine is very important as i had a ton of up down arrow questions from it. This subject is dealt with well in Costanzo’s BRS Physiology. I did not do the big Costanzo book but this book was enough. Do CVS well too.. there are questions about responses to hemorrhage and shock types in almost every qbank and also on the NBME
Biochemistry: This was the only subject in which i did Kaplan Lecture notes for biochemistry as this s the only one which has to be done well. The doctor.. i forgot his name Dr. Wilson or something in Kaplan Biochemistry is very good and he does a great job of teaching Biochem. I recommend you to do biochem from kaplan as it is tough well with a good integration between normal biochem and the abnormal disease.
Microbiology & Immunology: This is one subject which i wish i had done less as FA + UW is actually enough. If you know those 2 very well then you will ace this test, You dont need to go overkill this subject as it is pretty much direct memory based. I used Sketchy from my room partner’s subscription.
For Immunology you need to do Hypersensitivity and autoimmune diseases very well. You also need to know things like normal lymph drainage of the entrie body. But that is very obvious..cant expect to get a good score if you dont know FA and this is covered well in FA> The Qbank questions and NBME questions were very helpful as seening the clinical vignettes helps understand how these autoimmune diseases are presented in the test. Like we may memorize SLE however we need to integrate things like the clinical presentation of pericardial rub explained in word (they wont say pericardial rub they will describe it).. integrating the clinical vignette knowledge into the way in which the disease presents in important.
Pharmacology: This is rote memorization
Behavioural science: BRS Behavioural science + Qbank questions + NBME questions. If you want to do overkill you could do the AMA code of ethics handbook. I actually bought that book and used it along with my prep as it was referenced throughout the Uworld qbank. You dont need to but i did.
Pathology: Obviously the big dog of the hood. Lolz. This subject is to be done from as many resources as you can do. As a matter of fact Firecracker was pretty helpful in this as the topics in there are an aggregate of the pool of knowledge from Pathoma and Goljan and also some data is in there from the Qbanks too.
USMLE Step 1 Experience – 270 – Dr. Hussain – IMG
I started preparing after my final year was over during my internship year. I had to go to work and also study simultaneously and hence it was very hectic. I took 18 months to give this test. I recommend you to make sure that at least when you have the USMLE test, 2 months prior to that you don’t have to do any job or are not at work anywhere and are doing dedicated study only.
First Aid USMLE Step 1
Kaplan Lecture Notes for USMLE Step 1 with Kaplan Lecture Videos
BRS Gross Anatomy
BRS Behavioural Science
High Yield Gross Anatomy
Boards and Beyond
Goljan’s Fundamentals of Pathology
Fundamentals of Pathology by Hussain Sattar (Pathoma)
High Yield Embryology
Conrad Fischer Pharmacology Flash cards
Conrad Fischer’s 100 most likely ethics questions – Kaplan Medical Ethics
Lippincott Illustrated Reviews Flash Cards: Biochemistry
UWorld USMLE Step 1
All 3000 questions of NBME (All NBME test offline and online)
First Round(6 months):
I did Kaplan Lecture Notes with Kaplan videos. I also did FA with DIT in this round. I also did Pathoma completely and some amount of Goljan in this round. I could never do something like Goljan completely as it’s just not possible. I also did Kaplan Qbank and UWorld Offline in this round. The offline tests were very helpful and helped me actually grasp the material as merely rote memorization of theory is not enough
Second Round (4 months):
In this round i shored up my weaknesses as felt from doing the questions & any POTENTIAL weaknesses which may come in the exam. Like: Gross Anatomy is being tested a lot. I knew that if i dont do it well i will face trouble in the actual exam and hence i did BRS Gross Anatomy and High Yield Gross Anatomy. Also, I was weak in up/down arrow type questions and in order to get those down cold i did BRS Physiology. Additionally the subjects of Biochem and Pharmac are memorization type and for those i bought the Flash Cards that i have mentioned. They were helpful to me as i didn’t want to do anything like Anki. So i did those physical flash cards instead. Additionally my Ethics and Behavioural science was weak and for that i did BRS behavioural science and the 100 cases book mentioned in list above. I also did Picmonic and B&B with this as and when i faced issues. Though i did not do these 2 or the other books like those for embryology..i didnt do them religiously. I did them as and when needed but not from cover to cover.
Third Round(3 months):
In this round i did all the books and all the material again but now i did it with the NBME test offline. These tests were very helpful in pin pointing my problems. Like if i had an issue with a particular topic in NBME test.. then that question’s topic i would go back to my books and do that topic very well. So doing books + NBME offline was very helpful.
Online NBME Round (4):
I did 4 NBMEs online: NBME 19,18,17,16 – I got scores in high 250s to low 270s. I also did the entire text books again along with this as my method was to do NBME and understand every single question from it. I would try to understand each and every right and wrong option as these questions are very important.
Final Round before test(2):
I was pretty sure that i will do well on the test and all that was remaining was to make sure that i do the minutae well. And that was exactly what i did. I did the small topics which are forgotten easily in this round.
Test Day Experience:
Exam was brutal. I recommend sleeping well before the test, Make sure not to read anything on the day before the test. This will improve your cognition during the test. Don’t be scared much.. a test cant change you as a doctor. Go in with confidence. Take care and god bless.
USMLE Step 1 Experience – 273 – Dr. Zahra el-Ammar
I gave my USMLE Step 1 test in mid 2017. I gave my USMLE Step 2 CK test recently. Hence i felt that i should give back to the community and so i have written this experience. In medical college i used to be an above average student (sorry for the humble brag). So my basics were pretty solid. I prepared and gave my tests in only 8 months. In part this was due to solid fundamentals. In case you had weak fundamentals then concentrate on those. They are very important. Dont hurry through the prep and take your time to prep for this beast.
– I starting studying in late 2016 for the test. I collected all the books and video lectures. I was already good with the basics so all i needed to do was refresh things which were either supposed to be known in greater depth in USMLE than my medical school OR subjects which never existed in my medical school. I started out with Kaplan Lecture Notes & Kaplan Video. I did the following first:
Having done these.. I rapidly went through Anatomy, Physiology, Microbiology, Pharmacology from Kaplan Lecture Notes and Kaplan Videos. I did not do every word of these. I did those things that i was not exactly confident in. My plan was not to memorize these books as it is impossible to memorize them word for word. But rather i wanted to shore up my weaknesses from medical college and get to the meat of the USMLE prep(so to speak). i.e. Get to Uworld and First Aid USMLE Step 1.
First Aid USMLE is a very indpeth book. It may seem like it is just a few hundred pages. But actually it is much more than that. The book..each and every word in it is High Yield. It is very important to know everything in the book with understanding. Google or look up on wikipedia whatever you are not sure of it’s meaning and don’t know it inside out. I had to know everything in that book..not even a footnote in the book would i miss under any circumstances. I would know what everything means inside out. The book is meant as an index. Once you know the index..then it is upto you to know everything about even rarely asked stuff like monoclonal antibodies of rare diseases.
Uworld is actually not just a qbank.. it is more like a large 2000 page book. It’s questions are to be done with answers and explanations. It is important to know even the explanations of the incorrect options. It is vital to know the question bank perfectly because many a times the main question may not be asked but rather the incorrect option’s explanation is framed into a question in the real exam.
I also did 100 most likely ethics case by conrad fischer’s kaplan medical ethics. It was helpful to a significant extent in the exam. Also, i did his Pharmacology Flash Cards by Conrad Fischer. It was also helpful to a certain extent
I gave the following tests online:
NBME 17: 265
NBME 18: 263
NBME 16 was most predictive for me. I got the real score near this score. I got 269 on NBME 16
NBME 19 : 261
UWSA > 260+
NBMEs are more predictive than UWSA. NBME are to be done not just online but also to be done with answers and explanations. It is very important to know the exact understanding behind a NBME question as these questions are made by USMLE organization themselves. It is vital to do NBME offline all the forms which you have not done online.
Before exam i did the FRED practice test which has a few blocks in the exact style as the real deal. Doing these before the exam will help you in doing the exam without having to see the tutorial and you will save 15 minutes in the test and that will get added to your break time.
– My exam day experience:
All questions can be divided into the following sections:
60% based on UW FA Pathoma and NBME
20% based on Kaplan and other ancillary books and googling and knowing the topic indepth
10% which required tertiary order thinking and which also integrated topics in a weird way not seen before the exam
10% WTF ?!!
I also had 2 ECG and 2 Heart sounds so please make sure you do these well. Both things you should practice well as FA and UW dont cover these well.
I took wafers, redbulls and snack bars to my test. I suggest light food and not insanely heavy stuff as that will just make you feel sleepy and you will not be able to concentrate in the block you do after the heavy lunch. Also before exam i slept 5 hrs (thankfully).. so didnt have an issue with lack of concentration in the test.
Best of luck !!!
My experience is to the point without any fluff.. Many people talk about the struggles they faced..the problems they had. How they were frustrated. Now while all of these are very valid points..they don’t really mean anything to a person reading an experience. Sure someone was tired and frustrated with USMLE prep..but then who isn’t ? Its not useful information and hence I will skip it in the experience of my USMLE Step 1 prep and exam.
Exam: mid november 2017
Primary study resources: UFAP + NBME + Questions from BRS series
UFAP = UW + First Aid USMLE Step 1 + Pathoma (Fundamentals of Pathology by Hussain Sattar)
BRS = Board Review Series
Anatomy: FA + UW + BRS Anatomy (only questions)
Physiology: FA + UW + BRS Physiology (only questions)
Biochemistry: FA + UW
Microbiology: FA + UW + Sketchy
Immunology: FA + UW + Kaplan Immunology Lecture Notes
Pathology: FA + UW + Fundamentals of Pathology (Pathoma)
Behavioural Science: FA + UW + Kaplan Medical Ethics by Conrad Fischer – 100 cases
Pharmacology: FA + UW + Picmonic
UWSA1 & UWSA2: 260s
NBME 15: 252
NBME 16: 265
NBME 17: 257
NBME 18: 267
NBME 19: 255
My UWSA scores were long time ago and i dont remember but i would like to highlight that it is a known fact that UWSA is not very predictive in nature and hence should be taken only as practice..not as assessment. Also along with the NBMEs i also did their explanations.. now again this is a tedious and time consuming process to do all 3000 questions with answers and explanations but it is a good preparation.. I suggest you to do NBME as it is made by USMLE exam conducting body and the questions are very good practice.
My exam was in winter and was it insane inside the exam hall or what. I don’t know how these USMLE and Prometric test conducting people are able to take 1K USD per test and still provide terrible service ? I mean isn’t it their job to make sure that the room isn’t so cold that if you touch the meta of the table you don’t get frost bite ?? (Ok well frost bite is an exaggeration but it was really cold in there.. i dont know how they could keep it so cold..they should have central heating for the amont the charge us). Anyways the exam was tough. They asked a lot of weird MRIs. I recommend you do MRI and CT scans well. Also make sure to do Perineal and Pelvic Anatomy. For Biochemistry do knock in and knock out mouse well along with other esoteric molecular biology topics. Behavioural Science was always tough for me and in exam also it was confusing as i was able to narrow to 2 options..and then just picked my gut instinct. There weren’t many patho-histology.
All in all, do UFAP + NBME and make sure you google and search wikipedia for getting the topic understood well. Whenever in trouble..like if you have an issue with understanding Ruxolitinib..then just google “Ruxolitinib USMLE”.. Follow the query by the word USMLE and it works wonders as only USMLE relevant info is given..and not general info.. Like if you search just “Ruxolitinib” you will get many searches from pharmacy type sites talking about how the drug is physically manufactured..that is worthless info. So put USMLE in the google search after the phrase that you want to search. Make sure you have UFAP + NBME done cold.. If you know it with understanding..then exam is not necessarily the big monster it is made out to be. And always aim for the stars and be optimistic. It is vital to do so and have a good temprament. 🙂