USMLE Step 1 - 273 - Experience

EXPERIENCE – How I went from USMLE Step 1 227 to 273 ?

I am a graduate of 2014 and I prepared for USMLE for around 3 years. I gave my test in 2017. I was an average student and hence my medical school performance has no relation to USMLE score. USMLE is a different beast and has to be targeted differently.

First read: (10 months)

+ Kaplan USMLE Step 1 Lecture Notes

+ First Aid for USMLE Step 1

+ Fundamentals of Pathology – Hussein Sattar (Pathoma)

Like all people I did Kaplan USMLE Step 1 Lecture Notes and Lecture videos. Boring and tiring. After it was over I finished FA once and revised both. After this I gave my first NBME exam. I scored not so well. I got 162 correct offline out of 200. I use the 1.4 formula and I got 227 (226.8).

I was not too happy but atleast u know I passed and didn’t flunk the test. 230 is mean and was close. I found Kaplan to be not so good in many aspects like: Anatomy, Physiology, Behavioural science. I also did pathoma here. Daugherty does good job in teaching Behaviural but the way to go is MCQ based training. That was lacking in Kaplan Behav. Anyway I took a small break of 5 days and re-started with second read.

Second read: (6 months) First read material + 3 subject BRS + UW + few things here and there and lot of help from Larry Page, Sergey Brin and Chad Hurley, Steve Chen, Jawed Karim and Jimmy Wales ( em)

I did few extra things now and focused primarily on FA. I tried picmonic and Sketchy for some stuff. Didn’t work well. Those things help u memorize but not understand..use them if u want but I don’t recommend. I did BRS Gross Anatomy, BRS Physiology and BRS Behavioural Science. These 3 helped a lot as they have 500 or so MCQs each. +/- few 100s

BRS stands for Board Review Series. These 3 books are very VERY helpful for their respective subjects. Check out BRS Gross Anatomy, BRS Physiology, BRS Behavioural Science.

I then did UW with FA end to end with understanding. What I did was anything I don’t understand in these resources I would google or see youtube videos or wiki. This is very helpful as multiple sources to understand a concept is always better than 1. In the end memorize only 1 resource but use many for understanding stuff

I gave NBME 16 after this as I was fairly confident and also it was most predictive. I gave it online and got 250+ and was really happy.

Third read: (4 months) TOTAL MEMORIZATION + NBMEs

I did everything once more and this time I went for full fledged memorization and I also used to give 1 NBME per like 2 weeks or so.. my scores were variable but overall in high 240s to low 260s range. In this way I finished all NBMEs except 15 and 17 and 19. This is was very valuable as searching NBME explanation was tough in online forums and answer keys are unbelievably wrong many times. See early NBMEs one of them has a tubular adenoma question. It is wrongly marked in older NBMEs.. in NBME 17 same question is there and that one I got wrong because I had memorized the older answer. What I mean is..i memorized older NBME and then I did newer NBMEs and the older one gave me an answer by student created answer key which I just memorized but when same exact question was in newer NBME and I ticked that option and found that was wrong. Later I found it is tubular adenoma. Don’t expect to do all NBME on one day or even just 1 week and get benefit. It is stupidity to think so. You are giving months for UW a privately created QBank but NBME which is like 2500 questions or so all the tests together u give only 1 day/1week even though made by USMLE organization itself.. Don’t be fooled. This is very important. I put lot of questions on USMLE forum and got answers. It is very helpful..just post questions there.. and see after a day or so.. many people would have answered and commented. Also see other websites to find sdn and usmleforum etc etc

After this I gave NBME 15 which I mentioned I had left. I got high 260s

I decided to do it all one last time and prepared one last month and took NBME 17 & 19

Got 270s. Was  VERY pleased. Took exam in 9 days after it.

Last week: I did First Aid USMLE Step 1 and UW only explanations part. Didn’t care how much m retaining or not. Just memorized it. Finally 2 days out I did the formulae of biostat and pharmacy. I did lyso disease,few drugs and other memorization topics.

Closed books and just relaxed last day. This is important as u have to be well relaxed into the test. Cant be fatigued and all. You have to be on top of your game. Day before test I had few midnight awaking but slept around 8 hours so was enough.

Test: I had taken my food stuffs with me. I took breaks like following:

2 blocks: 10 min break

1 block: 5 min break

1 block 15 min break

1 block 5 min break

1 block 5 min break

I had extra break time. Its not an issue. Test was preps were good. I was hoping to break above 280.. and I wish I had..but I couldn’t.. its ok.. u know still step 2 ck is left so I will try then. :p

As far as the test is concerned:

Anatomy was heavy. Biochem was light. Immuno and Molecular biology were complex. Pathology was all over the place. That’s all I can say as I don’t want issues with NBME about disclosing info. But basically do First Aid for USMLE Step 1+ NBME + UW and it covers most.. BRS are also good.. Kaplan also okish

Brief ending note on when to give exam: I changed my exam date many times and gave it only when I was confident. There is no shame in changing date. If you feel shame in changing date.. and thinking how will it look.. just imagine how it will look if you DO actually give exam and score badly. It’s a one shot exam..prepare well and give only if ready. I know many people who scored in 220s and 230s and now are kinda stuck midway and don’t know what to do or where to apply.. Better to take few months more and get 15-20 points more. PD will be ok with 4 months later giving exam but will think 5 times before giving 230s guy admission as compared to 250s.

This highlights the importance of NBMEs in USMLE prep. I recommend you check out our article on the differences between NBME and USMLE. Also have a look at our article outlining how to use the NBME forms effectively to score well on your USMLE Step 1 exam.

Just make sure you give your 100% that’s what matters.

Do well and god bless.

Resources Used:

+ Kaplan USMLE Step 1 Lecture Notes

+ First Aid for USMLE Step 1

+ Fundamentals of Pathology – Hussein Sattar (Pathoma)

+ BRS Gross Anatomy

+ BRS Physiology

+ BRS Behavioural Science

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

USMLE Step 1 Experience – AMS2

USMLE Step 1 Experience – 247 – US Medical Student 2

US MS2 – USMLE Step 1 Experience – 257

September 30, 2017
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