USMLE Step 1 Experience – 273 – Dr. Zahra el-Ammar

USMLE StEp 1 (2)

USMLE StEp 1 (2)


USMLE Step 1 Experience – 273 – Dr. Zahra el-Ammar

I gave my USMLE Step 1 test in mid 2017. I gave my USMLE Step 2 CK test recently. Hence i felt that i should give back to the community and so i have written this experience. In medical college i used to be an above average student (sorry for the humble brag). So my basics were pretty solid. I prepared and gave my tests in only 8 months. In part this was due to solid fundamentals. In case you had weak fundamentals then concentrate on those. They are very important. Dont hurry through the prep and take your time to prep for this beast.

– I starting studying in late 2016 for the test. I collected all the books and video lectures. I was already good with the basics so all i needed to do was refresh things which were either supposed to be known in greater depth in USMLE than my medical school OR subjects which never existed in my medical school. I started out with Kaplan Lecture Notes & Kaplan Video. I did the following first:

  • Biochemistry – As it is asked in greater depth in USMLE than in my college
  • Behavioural Science – As i never had the subject as i am an IMG and it’s not in our course as an independent subject
  • Immunology – It is asked in much greater depth in USMLE Step 1 than in my medical college.

Having done these.. I rapidly went through Anatomy, Physiology, Microbiology, Pharmacology from Kaplan Lecture Notes and Kaplan Videos. I did not do every word of these. I did those things that i was not exactly confident in. My plan was not to memorize these books as it is impossible to memorize them word for word. But rather i wanted to shore up my weaknesses from medical college and get to the meat of the USMLE prep(so to speak). i.e. Get to Uworld and First Aid USMLE Step 1.

First Aid USMLE is a very indpeth book. It may seem like it is just a few hundred pages. But actually it is much more than that. The book..each and every word in it is High Yield. It is very important to know everything in the book with understanding. Google or look up on wikipedia whatever you are not sure of it’s meaning and don’t know it inside out. I had to know everything in that book..not even a footnote in the book would i miss under any circumstances. I would know what everything means inside out. The book is meant as an index. Once you know the index..then it is upto you to know everything about even rarely asked stuff like monoclonal antibodies of rare diseases.

Uworld is actually not just a qbank.. it is more like a large 2000 page book. It’s questions are to be done with answers and explanations. It is important to know even the explanations of the incorrect options. It is vital to know the question bank perfectly because many a times the main question may not be asked but rather the incorrect option’s explanation is framed into a question in the real exam.

I also did 100 most likely ethics case by conrad fischer’s kaplan medical ethics. It was helpful to a significant extent in the exam. Also, i did his Pharmacology Flash Cards by Conrad Fischer. It was also helpful to a certain extent

I gave the following tests online:

NBME 17: 265

NBME 18: 263

NBME 16 was most predictive for me. I got the real score near this score. I got 269 on NBME 16

NBME 19 : 261

UWSA > 260+

NBMEs are more predictive than UWSA. NBME are to be done not just online but also to be done with answers and explanations. It is very important to know the exact understanding behind a NBME question as these questions are made by USMLE organization themselves. It is vital to do NBME offline all the forms which you have not done online.

Before exam i did the FRED practice test which has a few blocks in the exact style as the real deal. Doing these before the exam will help you in doing the exam without having to see the tutorial and you will save 15 minutes in the test and that will get added to your break time.

– My exam day experience:

All questions can be divided into the following sections:

60% based on UW FA Pathoma and NBME

20% based  on Kaplan and other ancillary books and googling and knowing the topic indepth

10% which required tertiary order thinking and which also integrated topics in a weird way not seen before the exam

10% WTF ?!!

I also had 2 ECG and 2 Heart sounds so please make sure you do these well. Both things you should practice well as FA and UW dont cover these well.

I took wafers, redbulls and snack bars to my test. I suggest light food and not insanely heavy stuff as that will just make you feel sleepy and you will not be able to concentrate in the block you do after the heavy lunch. Also before exam i slept 5 hrs (thankfully).. so didnt have an issue with lack of concentration in the test.

Best of luck !!!

September 26, 2018
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