USMLE Step 1 Experience – 268 – Dr. Sara Khan
technically I started studying by mid may 2013, got the books organized and asked around about how to go about scheduling myself. my aim was to give the exam by January or February 2014. the 1st couple of weeks I was very lazy, didn’t actually get serious till beginning of June. started off with physio because it was a weak subject for me having lived through the prof akram era. took me about two weeks to do it with lectures. then I did something easy to give myself a break. did anatomy without lectures, and finished it in about a week. don’t concentrate on histo in kaplan, all you will need is in fa. embryology is mixed out throughout kaplan which I didn’t like so I would flip through the pages and find where embryo was given and did all of it together instead of in patches. I also read though high yield embryo to keep me oriented saath saath. don’t worry, the pathologies given in hy embryo like placenta accreta etc will be discussed in patho so don’t concentrate too much on hy embryo material, just make sure you get what’s given in kaplan. then I did gross, pretty straightforward after the drilling of anatomy we got in ke. neuroanatomy is a little more complicated, I did the lectures just for the brainstem lesions and the review lecture where they discuss cts and mris etc. once anatomy was done decided to go for something more challenging, biochem… having been taught close to nothing at ke, this was going to be the worst subject for me apart from behavioral I knew. so what I did was make sure I did the lectures alongside and I also let myself take as much time as was required to really understand everything. took me about 3 weeks I guess. then I did immuno, a very dry subject but surprisingly heavily tested in my opinion. then micro. a week for each of those, without lectures, from kaplan. then I took a week for pharma, a good subject for me as I had studied this well in 3rd year. did it with the lectures. last subject was patho… the big one lol. having just given my exam yesterday, my opinion is not to concentrate on what is the “big one” in people’s opinion, but concentrate on your own weak spots, mine were behavioral, biochem and immuno. patho we have done well in ke with robbins so it’s not a prob. I should also mention that I had read goljan in the summer of my 4th year with lectures which helped a lot… so my strategy was a little strange. with just 3 weeks to do patho to meet my mark for my 1st read I knew doing all of goljan wasn’t an option, but I had just loved his lectures when I did them in 4th year. so what I did for each chap was to go through the chap listening to goljans lectures, with the main goljan book and goljan 125(the transcripts of the lectures available online) open in front of me. I underlined anything he said that was in the main book, if not there I underlined it from the transcripts. also would keep an eye on the goljan slides pdf saath saath…having finished the chap I quickly went through that chap in pathoma and anything new I found there I would underline in goljan in a different color… like lecture material was in red and pathoma material was in green in my main goljan… it sounds a little manic I know, and time consuming as well but it actually was very easy because I found pathoma follows goljan very closely and only has step one relevant material, unlike goljan. so then I had a hybrid goljan with only relevant material marked in 2 colors lol… and it only took me about 2 weeks instead of the 3 weeks I had allocated. the extra time I had I used to read fa once, just to get a feel of the book.
I had planned on it being 3 months but I fell into a bit of a depression at this time and also family obligations so I took 4 months, but I believe 3 months is easily doable. for each subject I would read the kaplan and keep my fa open for that topic. any material I felt was lacking in fa I would copy into it. there are several topics in physio, biochem, behavioral that are too long to be copied so I would mark the page no. somewhere in my fa along with the name of the topic. also I felt micro was given very haphazardly in fa so I did studied it from kaplan mostly, didn’t come to fa for that till near the end of my prep. after having done the subject, I would do the related qs in uworld offline. I would try and stick to the usmle requirements, like do a block of qs within an hour, but don’t worry about the timing problems too much at this point, and don’t use the no. of qs you get right and wrong to assess yourself… I used uworld solely as a learning tool, not for assessment. there is so much new info here you shouldn’t get down on yourself for getting things wrong on your 1st go.. read all the explanations, even for the qs you get right. try and annotate your fa with as much of this extra info as you can. for the qs you feel are totally original and whose whole explanation is important go ahead and rip that page out of the book and stick it in your fa… but it’s better to write stuff with your own hand, I only ripped out pages for about 20 or 30 qs total. do uworld well!!
so when I finished up my 2nd read of all the material I read through my packed fa once, took me 3 weeks with all the info I had written down, also referencing the topics in kaplan that weren’t in fa and who I had marked earlier. I even did micro and behavioral whole from kaplan again during this time.
then I got a 2 month subscription to uworld online. people had told me to do just 2 blocks a day with fa alongside. but I felt I had done my uworld well enough before in my 2nd read and didn’t want to waste time I didn’t have since I had just entered the month my triad began… so I had a bit of a manic episode and did the whole uworld q bank in a week. the online format helps you get familiar with the exam format which is 100 percent identical to uworld. again don’t use uworld to assess yourself, this time you will get so many qs right because you have done them before.. I had a 95 percent in fact :/
nbme assessments and taking a date
then I gave nbme 1- 4 offline, one every other day, doing fa saath saath. this is where you assess yourself…. time your blocks and don’t take too long between blocks for breaks. my nbme 1 was the worst I gave as I understandable as I was a bit nervous :P… but then my score just kept going up. I did nbme 5 and 6 back to back with like 7 or 8 min breaks between blocks… this was a stress test for myself to put myself in the worst possible state to see how well I did. no lunch even lol. so once I did this and my scores came out fine I knew I could handle anything the actual exam threw at me… did nbme 7 offline and then nbme 13 online the next day.. got 259 in the online one. this was a score I was very happy with but at this point I had only read fa a total of 3 and half time (one in each of my 1st 2 reads and then after that one and half times.) I felt uneasy with the material, didn’t feel I was doing the best I could do because I was forgetting things I should have known from fa. so I took a date for a month away. gave me time to do a couple more reads of fa easily.
then I gave nbme 11 and 12 together 3 weeks prior to the exam offline. this was my proper mock exam. I turned my phone off, put a sign up on my door for no one to disturb me, and gathered snacks and a lunch and began the exam. I timed my breaks, made sure not to exceed 45 min and took breaks of 5 to 8 min between blocks. did 7 blocks of qs like this had dinner and did the last block. thanks God my scores were fine so I knew I could handle the exam exactly like the real one.
10 days prior to the exam
I went online to give nbme 15 online only to find a new nbme, nbme 16 came out 3 days prior 😛 so I took a deep breath and did both lol… got scores that beat my wildest expectations thank God… so I finished up my 5th read of fa. did the subjects before cvs again a 6th time and then closed my books once and for all…
I had made it a point to get my sleep schedule fixed early, so for the week prior to the exam I was already waking up at 630am.. the day before the exam I got all the snacks etc I would be needing, my permit, passport and sat down to watch a couple of my fave movies.. something to relieve the tension and get me in a good mood. took a hot shower, went to bed at 930 and tried to think about anything but the exam. thank God it worked for me and I fell asleep by 10, a couple of late night wake up aside and I felt I had a good night’s sleep.. woke up around 6, half an hour before my alarm but still not bad 😛
the exam itself
for me it was just one step in the long line of exam I have already given in my life and the exams that still lay ahead. don’t make this out to be the be all and end all of exams, that’s just going to freak you out. I went in there keeping all emotion out of the test, just do it like you do your uworld sitting at home. the qs on the exam are harder than any assessment, and time management which had never been an issue for me before really started to be something I had to keep an eye on. the qs come from all over the place, something you remember a teacher saying in wards, something you read in Guyton in 1st year. that’s why I say in the last days it’s more important to keep your mind clear and healthy instead of binging on material you already read a hundred times. the hours flew by and before I knew it I was on the last q with that little arrow in the bottom right corner saying “end block”… took a deep breath, closed my eyes and pressed it 🙂
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