Susan’s USMLE Step 1 Experience – 274

USMLE Step 1 274

USMLE Step 1 274


Susan’s USMLE Step 1 Experience – 274

I am a MS2 from a mid tier school. Scored above average in class but prepared for USMLE from the get go. I did however, try to understand everything taught in class and it was very helpful for my exam. The exam can’t be aced exclusively using test prep resources and class notes are also very helpful in getting questions right on the exam.

I prepared quite a bit before my dedicated USMLE study period of 6 weeks. That obviously helped my score immensely as even before my dedicated study period I was already scoring 240s on my NBME

Pre-dedicated study:

I used First Aid USMLE Step 1 with class notes throughout medical school. It was immensely helpful as I had a grip over most of the USMLE topics even before my dedicated period of 6 weeks started.

I also used the following resources:

  • BRS Gross Anatomy
  • BRS Embryology
  • BRS Behavioural Scieence
  • BRS Physiology
  • Pathoma
  • Doctors in Training USMLE Step 1
  • USMLE Rx Qbank
  • Memorang (I didn’t use Anki as i felt that creating cards myself was a tedious and time consuming task.. So i opted for using a pre-made flash card source and i found Memorang decent for getting the hard to nail facts of FA)

The only important resource i did not use was UWorld as I wanted to keep it for dedicated study period.

I also did all the retired NBME forms. The NBME forms were an amazing practice and i had a lot of repetitions on my real exam from them. I recommend everyone to get these done well as it is very very useful for the test. The questions in my opinion are an accurate representation of what would be asked on the real exam. The topics in the real test are in the same line as those asked in the NBME. The only difference I found between NBME and the real USMLE were:

  • The curve of the real USMLE is much more lenient as compared to the NBME forms. What does this mean ? It means that getting 7 questions wrong on the NBME could make a difference between mid 260s and below 250. Meaning that just 7-8 wrong questions and you will be in below 240 zone instead of over 260 zone. A huge difference IMO. That is not the case on the real deal and the scoring curve is much more lenient.
  • Another difference between the NBME and the real USMLE is the fact that the USMLE questions were much more lengthier. There was often a lot of redundant information thrown in the midst. What this means is that even though a bunch of plasma values were worthless in the actual answering of the question…they would still be put in there.. Why these were in there is anyone’s guess but my hunch says that they were there perhaps to waste our time and perhaps to confuse us.

In any case, the NBME questions are a better representation of the real deal than UWorld primarily because UWorld often made me overthink stuff..Like I would find a weird logic to justify a wrong answer on the real deal had i answered in the same format as i answered UWorld. The reason being that it felt almost as though every other Uworld question was a trick or a trap made to trip us..and we had to overthink a lot on the UWorld Qbank. This was not the case in the real deal and many a times (pretty much always).. the obvious answer was the right answer. This might seem like a small thing but i urge you to think well as to how you approach questions.. The right approach to answering questions is just as important…if not more important than the actual info needed to get it right. Many a times in my practicr tests i got questions wrong because i picked the over-thought answer. Go for the obvious one. It works. For this reason DOING ALL THE NBMEs WITH THE EXPLANATION FOR THE RIGHT AND THE WRONG ANSWER IS A MUST.

I found patho-histology tough and for that i think Fundamentals of Pathology (by Hussain Sattar) is a great book and a must read. The videos are also amazing as he explains the histological findings along with the reasoning behind why the histological appearance is the way it is.


Dedicated Study Period:
As i mentioned I had already done all  of the important resources except UWorld in my pre-dedicated study period. So i went into my dedicated period with a 2 month subscription of Uworld. It was very helpful to do UWorld in timed and random mode as it emulated the real deal. However, I would advise you to use this approach only if you have done questions previously. I had done USMLE Rx in my pre-dedicated period and I had also done the retired NBMEs in my pre-dedicated period. This helped me a lot and hence i was able to do Uworld timed and random in just 4 weeks. I got 84% in Uworld timed, random mode.

For the rest of the dedicated period I did topics that were weak in the above mentioned books. I also did my incorrect questions from UWorld again. And i also finished my NBMEs (I had the online ones left..).

– Exam day:

I did my first 2 blocks back to back.. Then 10 mins break before third block.. Then light lunch and snacks between 3rd and 4th block. For the remainder blocks i just did like couple mins break between blocks.

– Waiting for results:

This felt like an eternity. The 3 weeks to get the results were the most terrifying ones in my life. I felt like I was having PTSD. Many nights i would wake up in the middle of the night feeling that i left 20 questions on my test in the last block because i did not have enough time. I had never had such an issue in my life.. But i don’t know what happened.. I found myself crying in a corner somedays.. Wondering what i did in my test. The exam was the toughest in my exam and the protracted wait didn’t make things better.


Subject-wise guidance and tips to score high:

Anatomy: Focus on Images. Everything is about Images when it comes to Anatomy. MRIs, CT Scans, Angiographies, Venographies. Obscure radiology is also used..Like a weird angle of a radiograph of a not-so commonly scanned part of the body. Its all about IMAGES.

Physiology: It’s all about Up/Down arrow type questions. BRS Physiology does a good job at making sure we have these nailed down.

Biochemistry: Not very heavily tested at least for me. Do the diseases better. It’s more likely you would be tested on an abnormality of a pathway than the pathway itself.

Microbiology: This subject is all about memorization. I tried Sketchy and it was good. I advise you to memorize it well.

Pharmacology: Covered well in FA + UW. Memorize it well as i had trouble with having these nail these down.

Pathology: Pathoma + UW + FA was great.. I didn’t bother with Goljan. Though my Pathology was solid from med if your’s isn’t then maybe you should use it.

Behavioural Science: Forgot to mention that in addition to the books i mentioned I also did Conrad Fischer’s Kaplan Medical Ethics 100 questions. Its very useful.

September 15, 2018
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