USMLE Step 1 Experiences – 259 – Sunder Chalam
My Step 1 score: 259
I started by gathering resources and advise from various sources. I bought Kaplan books got the videos and started by preparation as most of us do. I didn’t give much importance to Kaplan and tried to give a quick but good reading. Then there came the everlasting controversy of what to read for pathology (Golijan vs pathoma). Most of my friends and seniors advised me pathoma as it was short and has all the high yield points, but I always preferred the longer version of any subject because I was more comfortable reading it. Golijan 1st reading took about a month for me without the audio lectures. At the end of all this I felt that I didn’t remember anything but I just read to have an idea.
FA 2016 1st reading I did in 15days , I just read it like a novel without memorizing anything just to have an idea of what all in mentioned and which topics are high yield.
I subscribed U world on 1st march and started doing on block per day random timed. I wrote notes on separate papers for what I felt was difficult and new, I did not refer FA while I was writing because it was time consuming. I decided to just write notes till I finish UW without looking into any book for the most part. I finished half of UW in 30days. I felt I need to increase my pace, so I tired solving 7blocks of UW one day (similar to the exam conditions) and then write notes for those blocks for the next 3-4 days. This method increased my pace and the ability to concentrate for 7 to 8 hrs at a stretch which was difficult for me. UW average was 60 %( I feel this doesn’t matter because it’s learning tool and should not be used for assessment). Even after doing these resources I felt that I went too fast and didn’t remember anything, but I believed in my methods.
I had given the entire study materials one reading, it was time for review, the biggest hurdle. I estimated one month for reading FA , UW notes and Golijan (with audio lectures) once again , this time system wise ( Ex: CVS from Golijan then FA then UW) . I did this for all the systems and this took me a little over a month (45days). Most of us write nbmes and this stage of preparation but I was not confident enough to attempt a nbme, so I decided to do one more review in 20days. (Same things what I had read before in 45days)
My first assessment I took was UWSA 1 (last week of June) I got 249. I knew that it overestimates by 10 – 15 marks. The very next day I took nbme 13 online- 239. At this point I realised that I needed to increase 10 to 15 marks and I’ll be good to go.
I did my review again (FA UW notes Golijan – 15days). This time I gave nbme 15 online – 241 and nbme 11 offline – 20 mistakes on the same day to simulate exam day conditions. 15days preparation with only 3marks improvement!! I was a bit disappointed but didn’t lose hope. Repeated my review (FA UW notes Golijan). Nbme 16 online – 247 and nbme 12 online – 251 on the same day. I felt happy that I touched 250 at last and my preparation is working. I had one month to go for STEP 1.
I decided to take one nbme every week from now on, but one week was not enough to do my review. 3 weeks before my exam nbme 17 – 237!!! And offline nbme 7 – 25 mistakes, all my hopes were shattered; I started doubting my preparation, many thoughts running through my head. Should I postpone my exam? Should I look at any other resources? I was running out of time and ideas. I lowered my hopes of getting a 250+ score and decided to settle for a 240s score. But the last few weeks I decided to give my best and leave nothing to fate. 2 weeks before exam UWSA 2 – 254 and some offline nbme 20 mistakes. I felt I was stuck at this point with no hope of getting 250+ with my potential. I thought I’ll give my best and not bother about the result. 10days of final review I started, during this I wrote down points which I still found difficult to remember even after all these reviews (not necessarily high yield).
1 week before the exam nbme 18 – 258!!!!!! I was shocked. I felt most of the tough questions i guessed and got them right. I was happy and relieved of all the anxiety I had till then. My 10days final review was over I wrote 15 pages of notes.
The day before the exam I read only those 15pages of notes. I did not look at FA UW notes or Golijan (except few images and brain stem sections in Kaplan).
I had an 8hr sleep with no disturbance the day before exam.
On the day of the exam (29th August) surprisingly I was not very anxious or tensed and felt that this was my best preparation and even if I had more time I couldn’t do better. This gave me confidence. I did not read anything on the day of the exam.
Arrived half an hour early and i was told to start my exam right away. First block was difficult and I had lot of flagged questions at the end. I took a break after this just to see how much time they will take for the security check. Fortunately it was quick (1min). I took a break after each block this helped me go for each block with a fresh mind and open approach. I didn’t want to have lunch all at once so I split my lunch. I had half of it after 2nd block and half after the 4th block by doing this I avoided the post lunch drowsiness. I was half way through the exam and it felt good. Last 3 blocks went on well. I had 5 to 10 mins left after each block which added to my break time. I finished my exam with 30mins of break time left.
My daily routine during my preparation was 6-8hrs (8-10hrs during last few months) with 1hr – 45mins of workout. I used to work out in the evening before dinner (I used to feel lazy and study pace was low) this helped me to study 2-3hrs after dinner.
- Use limited resources and perfect them. I used FA UW and Golijan giving equal importance to all 3. I did UW only once but revised my notes several times. Golijan is underrated; it’s an excellent book with good audio lectures.
- Take advice from others but study and plan in your own way.
- Discipline and craving to learn everyday will always keep you going in the toughest of times.
- It doesn’t matter how many times you revise, just keep reading until u feel u have control over the topic and all the concepts.
- Try to do 2nbmes on the same day (1 online and 1 offline to simulate the fatigue u might experience in the exam).
- Don’t read with the intention to remember the facts and concepts for the exam, read it to remember for the next 50years of your life.
Big thanks to all my friends and family for supporting me through this journey.
ALL THE BEST for all the people who are preparing and hope my experience has helped you.
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