I just got through my United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 1 and here are the experiences and the lessons I learnt for whatever it worth to you.
1. Covered the FA from cover to cover and jotted down lots and lots of notes from it. In those subjects that I was weak in I spent more time reviewing matter from other sources.
2. In spite of the fact that my main source of study was the FA, I read and studied several other books also. If u can get it and go through it, Lippincott’s Biochemistry is worth its weight in gold. I could complete it in about 5 to 6 weeks and it was worth every second. If you really studied that book, there’s nothing that they can ask you about biochemistry that you cannot answer. Additionally, it gives you mechanisms. This makes the learning a lot more easier. At least it did for me. The heavier Robbins will do you a whole lot of good as a reference book for pathology. It is quite impractical to go through the book.
3. Physiology was one subject that I went through in depth. As I was weak in Renal and Pulmonary physiology, I started from the basics and then applied what I had learnt to the disease process. ICU books are extremely helpful in that they lay thread bare the basics of physiology in relation to disease.
4. Answered some twenty plus practice questions daily for the first three weeks of my study. During the last 2½ weeks I was doing 200+ questions daily, randomly. I also reviewed in detail each and every question, whether I had got it right or wrong. This reinforced the material that I had already studied. The source of my questions was the Kaplan QBank.
5. I did have some doubts about the Kaplan QBank. You see, the exam questions aren’t as detailed as they are in QBank. But if you study them in depth you’ll really learn the subject. I went through practically 95% of the questions and I was scoring a decent 74% overall and that too in the random timed mode; not just the review mode. Doing it in the tutor mode might have got some people some good scores, but that isn’t like the real examination.
6. Review, Review and Review again. You should reserve at least one day per week for reviewing what you had studied previously. It did it at the end of each study day, one FA section per day. This helped me go through my annotated version of the FA foe more than a couple of times before I went for the examination. When reviewing, don’t skip anything. If you really take a closer look, you’ll find that there is more than what you thought there was and some more. You learn something more and you also get a deeper understanding of the subject.
7. Did one of the NBME examinations just a day prior to the examination and then rested the rest of the day. I got my predicted score of 251. I gave a sigh of relief and I gained more confidence to go to the real examination.
8. Studied for a total of six plus weeks. Sat for the examination in the middle of February. The scores came up three weeks later. Scored 258/99. Patted myself on the back!
I’d highly recommend getting First Aid (FA) and reading it in the first and early second years. Take notes and annotate it so that when you come to the time for reviewing you have everything pat and ready for you. Makes life easier.