USMLE Step 1 – Preparation and My Experience
Hello, everyone! I have taken my USMLE Step-1 and I had a very good experience in the preparation stage, which I am sure is going to help you for achieving a better score in your exams. I haven’t received the result of my scores yet, but I’m sure it would be a nice idea to share my experience with all of you who have their exams coming up shortly. For your convenience, I’m giving a step-by-step explanation of the entire process.
Ideal Time For Preparation
It took me almost 6 months in preparation, which completely depends on your initial reading and also on the number of MCQs you are willing to solve later. Majority of students complete their preparation in 4 to 8 months. But of course, if you have exceptional reading skills and a sharp memory, you can do it in less than 8 months.
Books and Resources That Will Help You
In my opinion, Kaplan is the best source for carrying out your preparation in an efficient manner. There are several other books including ‘High Yields’, but Kaplan has answers to all those question that one encounters in exams. It also has answers to subjects like behavioral science, for which majority goes for BRS.
However, you can also revise pathology with the help of Goljan or BRS.
I used following resources for myself:
Kaplan for all subjects
Goljan 500 pages for pathology
Kap videos for micro/immunology, Anatomy /physio / behavioral science/Biochemistry
how to prepare for usmle step 1
What Actually is USMLE Exam?
USMLE is not an easy test at all. It requires you to be present for continuously 8 hours in an ongoing exam with a minimum break of 45 minutes. It goes smooth in the beginning; but in the end, you are extremely tired and stressed out that you feel like ticking whatever sounds like a best possible answer, without giving it a second thought – all you have in your mind is getting it done as quickly as possible. So, it requires a lot of patience and stability to efficiently perform this test.
Besides examination, there are several points which make it quite difficult for most of the people. Everything is totally uncertain at all the steps of USMLE, which as an American medical residency involves several other problems that can be stressful. One has to think about expenses and exceptional performance in all the steps that are parts of this long procedure. In addition, you also have the risk of not getting a residency after clearing all of the required steps. It can turn out to be a total loss any minute. So, you have to make your way to the top along with fighting with severe uncertainty that anything could happen either in step 1, step 2 Ck / CS, in Step 3 or your interview, which also plays a very important role.
But it does not mean that only exceptionally smart students are eligible for USMLE; even if you are an average student, you should still go for it and give at least 6 months to it with your heart and soul. After first 6 months, you would know that whether it is for you or not.
How to Prepare for USMLE Exam?
Preparation for usmle step 1 can be mastered if you have a perfect plan in your mind regarding the availability of your time and doing your Qbook as well as Qbank. Moreover, you also need to decide in first place that when would you be able to take Step1 Exams because you need to apply in Sep – Oct period. It is better to start with the subject you were most comfortable with in your graduation period. It makes it easier to initiate your process and you are able to complete that particular subject easily without wasting a lot of time in thinking how to best start your preparation.
In my case, it was Physiology, and I think it is best for everyone to start with because it is entirely theoretical and you do not need to hunt for facts, which ultimately saves your time and helps you in making a solid start. However, you can select any subject that best suits you. What matters is your own comfort and understanding of the subject.
It is better to complete your first reading as quickly as possible. Spending a lot of time on first reading is not really going to do any favors; you won’t be able to save a lot in your memory even if you pay all your attention and time to your first reading.
Consider a fixed number of books and sources for your preparation, as they promise to provide you with all the required concepts. Mostly, only vital concepts are tested in USMLE, which you can find in a few defined books.
Besides, preparation requires a lot of patience. If one day does not go well enough, you still need to keep your spirits high and continue with your preparation. Next day might be the best one to help you for several upcoming days. Your self-belief is your only power here and you need to empower it as much as you can. And it is not always possible that only those students excel in USMLE test who have spent all of their time studying and preparing for the test. Common sense and calmness brings better result here than one’s brain.
Additionally, you also need to have a good sleep the night before because it will keep you calm and steady, helping you complete your blocks easily. Otherwise, you will get tired in a very short time and instead of thinking about succeeding at the test, you would be thinking about leaving the test.
I was done with the first reading, in which I never used the Qbook, in 3 months. Then, I did my second reading with the Qbook in 1 month. MCQs and final reading of theory, however, took just 15 days each.
Q book…..75 % (Two months before exams)
Q bank……75% (I only completed half of the blocks and random mixed questions one month before the exams)
350 question…..73% (It was five days before USMLE exams)
USMLE FRED practice exam……40/50,46/50,37/50 (2 days before USMLE exam)
The Exam Day Experience
If there is someone else who is going with you, you should first confirm the routes which lead to your centre so you would be able to reach on time with ease. You won’t have any problems once you have reached your exam’s center because the staff at parametric center is very professional. They will immediately tell you about the DOs and DON’Ts.
The exam is really tough and takes a lot of time before it is finally over. It is divided into different blocks of which some are really tough, and some consists of average questions. Moreover, there would also be some blocks being the easiest ones.
However, unlike other practice tests, you will be short of time, which requires you to make quick final decisions so you could be able solve each block before it’s time is over. Doing so, you will succeed in saving a little time to give a second glance to all of the doubtful questions.
Besides, you also need to use your breaks efficiently. Ideally, you should relax for five minutes after each block to get your breath back as well as to gather all of your ideas and thoughts. Doing so will also give you a 15 minute break after you doing block 4 along with a ten minute break which can be taken later.
Another thing that possesses a vital importance is your passport and orange card. Make sure that you have both of these. Otherwise, everything will go in vain.
I took a lot of time for doing my first reading, which can easily be done in 1.5 to 2 months.
I couldn’t meet up with my weekly / subject- wise goals and wasted a lot of time.
I also failed to finish reading first aid in the last two days of exams along with Goljan 500 in the initial 2-3 days. I could only complete reading half of first aid and even less than half of Goljan.
I focused more on doing Qback and missed numerous MCQs.
Most of my time in the last month I spent on the internet and TV, and it was extremely disadvantageous for me.
What I Did Right
I did not delay my exam more than 5-7 days. Because spending more time won’t bring any better results. You will still be having almost the same amount of preparation, and you might feel that you do not know anything at all when your exams start to near.
I never gave up. I always kept myself motivated and strengthened my beliefs with optimism.
I stopped wasting my time on the internet and TV, and gave my full attention to preparation in the last week.
I know this experience and knowledge that I shared is very scarce as compared to the amount of information and guidance required, but I hope my little contribution would bring better results for your test and help you in several possible ways