Dr. Nikki – 2017 Experience – USMLE Step 1 – 244

USMLE Step 1 Experience - 244

My Step 1 Experience:

Exam Date: Feb. 2, 2017 – 272 questions

Score: 244

Total studying time: 5-6 months 8-12 hours a day, 6 days a week


10/22/16: NBME 13 217 (online)

10/30/16: UWSA 1 234 (online)

11/07/16: NBME 17 226 (online)

12/12/16: NBME 16 221 (online)

11/14/16: UWSA 2 228 (online)

01/15/17: NBME 11 241 (offline)

01/29/17: NBME 12 230 (online)

02/12/17: NBME 15 242 (online)

02/21/17: NBME 18 236 (online)


  1. UW – BEST resource like everybody said. I initially couldn’t understand what people meant by UNDERSTAND CONCEPTS. So that specifically means — understand how to apply FA and UWorld extremely well so that you can apply your knowledge in spite of changing methods of testing. TAKE NOTE OF IMPORTANT TABLES!!! You could review those one week before your exam. Create a digital notebook if you have to! It’ll be handy.
  2. FA – should be used with Uworld — the items here are so HIGH-YIELD (almost everything here) that you probably need to use Uworld with it so that you can fully grasp what the contents say. The tables here with cytokines, oncogenes, tumor suppressors etc are high yield in my opinion. Some questions are basic recall!
  1. Kaplan – I watched 2014 lectures for PHYSIOLOGY and BIOCHEMISTRY. I watched 2010 for Biochemistry first. I didn’t do any other Kaplan videos.
  1. Pathoma – GREAT resource. He explains things simply. Watched this 3x
  2. SketchyMicro – BEST RESOURCE for Micro! However, do not forget to study micro very well via Uworld and FA — not everything is in the videos but these videos are great because they help you remember!!! Watched it 3x.
  1. DIT — yes I did use this but I don’t think it was high yield. I was initially VERY LAZY in reading FA. I only finished FA for the first time in January in fact…
  2. Khan’s Cases + 100 Cases for Ethics — enjoyable and interesting! I read both because I found it easy to read. Tons of questions too!
  1. Anatomy Shelf Notes — some recommended this to me. I was only able to look at this once. It’s alright. Helpful than not reading anything else I guess. Most of the anatomy questions I had necessitated that I infer though.


I started studying in August. I initially planned to take my exam in September 2016. However, my studying has been so erratic… I wasn’t able to stay in schedule right away. I had some days of zero studying. PLUS a lot of people from my school said that studying it in 2 months more or less was feasible plus that I only needed FA, UW and Pathoma like US graduates. I totally didn’t feel that way. They said do UW then read on FA… I wasn’t fully grasping everything because I have zero structure. So I took a vacation of some sort. I didn’t study for most of September.

In October (2nd week), I started studying with a friend. Having a study buddy around definitely gave me direction. She finished Kaplan lecture videos (similar to the ones in 2010) which she purchased prior to the time we started. After our first run through of: Kaplan 2014 Physiology, Biochem plus all the Pathoma, SketchyMicro videos + some UWorld, we did our first assessment. I was honestly scared to death — I felt so inadequate because I didn’t start with Kaplan right away. I got 217 this time. I was in distress. I wanted to get a better score (240 more or less). I prayed everyday since October… even until now. I would have gone insane without grace.

I was going to take it in the third week of November… however, my NBMEs scores weren’t anywhere to a score I was comfortable with. I had a difficult time deciding — a part of me just wanted it to be over but my mom talked some sense into me and told me that I must work harder and take time to LEARN these things as I am an IMG who didn’t learn these concepts.

So I extended — it was the end of my eligibility in November. I was going to take it end of December I said — so I can celebrate New Year happily. I took NBME 16 and saw a DIP in my score to 221. It was not a good sign for me. Some members of this forum were kind enough to guide me on what to do…. they said that taking some time to learn and review could do great things for me! So I followed their kind advice and decided that YES I will do it. I will lock myself at home if I have to. I started taking NOTES (DIGITAL) for the Uworld tables, SYNDROMES etc…. basically, everything I have to differentiate from one another. From mid January-February, I was in study LOCKDOWN. I studied from 10am-2/3am. I re-did Uworld Biostats too. I took time to TAKE NOTE of my weak areas based on my NBMEs. I did 4 blocks each day to build my stamina. I had Saturday to see relatives. I take NBMEs and then go to Church on Sundays.

On my last week prior to the exam, I went back to my notes. I re-read IMPORTANT FA pages (especially those with tables!).


I brought RED BULL and a sandwich. I wore COMFORTABLE clothes — a jogger + a shirt. Have MINIMAL POCKETS to have a faster security check.

I only used the tutorial to check my headphones. I wrote all the equations I thought were important – I honestly used only a few of them. The extra time that I didn’t consume from my blocks were added to my break time.

The questions are relatively as long as Uworld… I would agree with some that say UWSA is closer than NBMEs — the NBMEs will guide you though! The interface was EXTREMELY close to Uworld. If you’ve done Uworld long enough, you will be comfortable I believe!

I did NOT overthink the breaks. I did try to take a break in between blocks — you do not want to feel like going to the bathroom in the middle of the block — that’ll interfere with your thinking. I had Red Bull in between blocks (when I take breaks) to stay alert during the exam. I prayed before I started each block. Stay focused!

I felt the exam was fair — most of the concepts were taught in UW. Inevitably, there will be NEW concepts. I think it’s important to realize that this is unavoidable in a board exam. Just be comfortable with that idea — there will be new questions. Focus on the ones you know.


  1. I would have started with Kaplan Biochemistry then Physiology FIRST! Basically get these videos out of the way. Having a better understanding of what you’re about to get into would help you grasp concepts better.
  2. Then do PATHOMA + FA relevant chapters. In the end, I only had time for FA. I didn’t get to read the Pathoma book again. I think it would have been best if I integrated those two.
  1. Watch SketchyMicro with FA. These videos are awesome for learning Micro!
  2. DO NOT FORGET TO MARK THOSE FA Tables! Use some page markers like the ones sold by Post-It. It’s difficult to read the entire book again unless you have tons of time.
  1. Study Uworld by system first. Take note of difficult concepts. Watch videos on YouTube or Khan Academy for the difficult ones! Do not move on from a question without deep understanding. Learn now than review later for me.
  1. After doing those up there in one round (I didn’t finish EVERYTHING before my first three NBMEs), I would have taken my first assessment. Always take notes of your weak subjects and work on that. Then have 1-2 week gaps in between NBMEs and let those guide your course.
  2. Do UWorld RANDOM once again. Now 3-4 blocks a day. It’s time to build endurance, go back to concepts you might have forgotten.


Step 1 is honestly one of the most excruciatingly challenging exams I’ve had to prepare for in my life. It has been a humbling experience that has made me hold on tighter to my faith and to seek strength from everything I have overcome in the past.

It is difficult and can be frustrating. You are not alone if you feel depressed. Remember to be gentle with yourself too… and remind yourself that YOU CAN improve. Be patient with yourself and your journey… in the end, you will be a better doctor I believe — as you can integrate knowledge across subjects and you have gained character that you can only earn through arduous times.

After everything, PRAISE GOD! BE THANKFUL that you had the courage to tackle this giant! I have had good and kind people who have selflessly offered their TIME and ADVICE. I am thankful for those who cared enough to guide a stranger and I invite you to do the same. BE THANKFUL for everyone you have met and who have helped you in this journey… and remember to PAY IT FORWARD!

I want to express my deepest gratitude to the Lord, Jesus, who gave me strength, perseverance and patience in this endeavor. Mother Mary and the Holy Spirit for the Grace, St. Joseph of Cupertino for guidance in this exam and St. Jude who interceded for me.

To God be all the glory and honor and praise!

If this experience helped you, we recommend you check out the following experiences:

USMLE Step 1 Experience of an IMG – Hard Work

USMLE Step 1 Experience – 243 – American Student

USMLE Step 1 Experience – 260

December 3, 2017
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