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How to do well on the USMLE Step 1

84111 Views 50 Replies 41 Participants Last post by  Texila
Hello Everyone,

I wanted to tell you everything I did the moment I graduated from medical school in Pakistan. This will be helpful for all those who are interested in taking their USMLE's. First and foremost, don't forget to thank God for getting you through medical school, and then pray to God to get you through the next few crucial months of your life. Then you need to decide what match you want to go for. The Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) starts accepting applications usually the first or second of September. So if you are like me, and graduated in December from medical school, that gives you about 9 months to finish everything....and trust me it's more than enough time! I actually started studying in March due to some personal reasons, and I managed to give my Step 2 CS in May and Step 1 in August, and I applied in September with these two scores. I then took my Step 2CK in October, and am currently receiving calls for interviews.

After you graduate, take a few weeks off, and if you move back home, for example to the US, then rest during your jet-lag. During this time, go to ECFMG® | Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates. You will have to refer to this site time and time again. Sign up for the free newsletter, and sign up for an ECFMG ID Number. Go to 'Oasis-access your information', then click on 'Go to Oasis', then on the bottom, you find a link for first time users, click that, and fill out the information, it's fast and easy! Within a few days, you will get your number in an email, and keep it safe. And don't forget your password. To register for all of your will need to go to, and click 'IWA -apply online'.

Then map out your own timeline. I would recommend taking your Step 2 CS first. Take it and get it out of the way. For the CS, the result takes a long time to be issued, approx. 2-3 months! To prepare for this exam, all you have to do is read First Aid for Step 2CS. When you get to the physical exam section, watch any physical examination videos. I had got one from Pakistan, but it wasn't that be sure to practice on someone after watching it. There are cases in the back of First Aid, and if you like, you can ask someone to act as those patients. Also, watch the video that comes in the mail once you apply for the CS to better familiarize you with everything. Read First Aid cover to cover. You need about 7-10 days for this. THAT'S IT!! I finished reading First Aid in my hotel room the night before my test, but I don't recommend that! Finish it before, and try to relax before the test.

Now for the more serious part! The USMLE Step 1***

One of the most difficult things will be to gather all the sources that you will be using to study for this exam. I bought so many books, and in the end didn't end up using a lot of them. IMG's have a difficult time sorting out all of the information. We tend to read everything from every book, and in the end, this is time consuming!!!!!!!! Don't read big textbooks! Don't waste your want to study as much as you can in as short a time as possible. And as my good friend just told me :) its what we learned in economics, the concept of diminishing marginal utility, that the more you put into something the more you get out of it, but the amount you get for every increment you put in, becomes less and less slowly with time.

As you study, remember you will always feel that you are not ready for the exam, and I suppose you never will be....cause there is a lot of stuff to learn, but I'm sure that all that information is stored somewhere in your CNS. It's stuff that you have learned throughout medical school, so it will insha'Allah come back to you when you are in need of it! I tell people to take the exam when you feel comfortable, just so I don't want them to blame me for anything :), but the truth is, I was pressed for time, and I was scared cause I hadn't studied as much as my classamates and cause I was the first one giving it...but in the end, it turned out to be okay.

Alrighty, lets begin...You should first apply for your Step 1, select a 3 month block, and then know that you have to give it within those 3 months. Don't keep postponing your test, because apparently statistics show that you end up scoring lower the more you delay it....i have never read this, but this is what you hear from people.

The key to scoring high is QUESTIONS, the more u do the more u score okay!!
I did and recommend 3 revisions.

As it was told to me, First aid is your Bible okay!! Add notes to it!!
in the first revision, read physio from kaplan, then breeze thru first aid physio, add anything u remember
then do the rest for the other subjects, i didnt use kaplan anatomy. I did histo, embryo and gross from first aid!! its sufficient. I also did upper and lower limb injuries from high yield gross. I read neuro from high yield and first aid (its very imp!!). Neuroanatomy is extremely high yield for the Step 1!

I read MRS for microbio, not kaplan....and if u know all the micro in first aid, u can top micro, God Willing!

I used to start studying in the morning and would study till late at night. I took a lot of breaks in between, to pray, eat, spend time with family, watch television, etc etc so don't worry if you take a lot of breaks. You will probably end up spending about 7-10 days per subject. Most of the time, you are just highlighting and underlining, your not absorbing much. This should take you about 2 months, then start your next revision, the same way. Add notes to First Aid, I sometimes had them opened simultaneously. In this revision, you tend to absorb more information...stuff comes back to you! Spend less time on your second revision.

When i used to get tired I used to do Kaplan Qbook....but i never finished it. Trust me, there will be days where you will not want to read, don't worry, at those times, just do questions, use it like a game, do as much as you can, you may want to do a few every night, it's up to you. The thing is, you learn more from questions, cause you apply all the knowledge you attained from reading. Plus you see what is asked in these exams! There is so much stuff that you don't need to know that is written in the books, and the questions show you what is important.

Then i did Kaplan Qbank....I think it to 3 weeks.

Then my final revision was ONLY FIRST AID, let me repeat ONLY FIRST AID!!
NO more big books, only First Aid....thats it, no time for learning new things. By now, you should have written A LOT into your First Aid! Mine is filled with writing, even on the inside of the covers!

I spent 2 days per subject, and then I did NMS questions just before my exam...for about 4-5 days, that is a really good book. It's called NMS Review for Step 1. It prepares you well, because you don't always see those nice qbank style clinical vignettes, you get a lot of basic science questions!! So be warned!!
and also, i had gone over some of the qbank questions that i got wrong (especially those difficult biostat and behav sci ones), there were like 20 of them, so i reviewed them the day before my test.

Also, the day before my test, I went through the pictures in First Aid. And I went through CT's and MRI images from High Yield. Also, there is a Rapid Review section at the end of your First Aid, go through that too!

Now, there are tests available online, at NBME. You pay $45 for a test, and it is supposed to be a good predictor of your actual score. There are 4 tests to choose from, I took test number 3. I later found out that it is the hardest of them all, so I don't know, I have heard that most med students take test number 2, it apparently is a real accurate predictor. People usually take it a month before their exam, because it will tell you your weak spots...but it won't tell you your wrong answers. It will give you a score report similar to the one you get after taking the real exam. But let me warn you, don't rely on this as a 100% accurate score predictor. I took it a week before my exam, and ended up doing a lot better on the real test. A friend of mine scored lower on the real exam. But the good thing is, that you will know if you pass or not...and this is comforting to know during the test, that hey at least I can pass. And then pay attention to each question, and try to select the right answer. Know that the answer is in right in front of you, it's just a matter of selecting the right one.

Once you are done with your will feel as if you did really bad! But please don't freak out, on the real exam, there are a lot of sample questions, so those won't hurt your score! Insha'Allah #grin

I hope this helps you. Please feel free to email me if you have any questions. Please take advice from the people who have graduated before you. I emailed a lot of my seniors and asked them how what they did, and I guess I took a little bit from each person and made my own schedule. So use this and add your own stuff to it. I wish you all good luck and May God make it easy for all of you! Take care!!
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Great advice ZUKhan! Thanks so much for sharing with us! #grin

ZUKhan got a 95 on his USMLE Step 1 exam following the method he's outlined above -- so definitely some good advice!

Thanks again.
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Where'd the other 4 points go? OOOOHHHHHHH pwned. Just kidding, ZUKhan. That's something my dad would ask, except pwnage is implied in his case, not stated.
being the slacker that i am, i studied for almost 50 days .. did patho from BRS and everything else from first aid ... watched the superbowl, the knock out stages of the UEFA champions league, finished all the folk tales they had at the library that i went to, followed the EPL and the italian serie a and in the end got a 80/198 for all the hard work that i put in ... i think ZUKHAN's method works better :)
Wow! I just had to revive this thread. It was truly a GREAT one! I hope we get more helpful hints from other users?! Thanks again to Zukhan for this thread!#yes
really excellent thread . too much helpful. welldone Zu khan .
well one of our class fellow is also appearing for MLE. as we are still in third year i told him its a big gamble . if he scores less than 95% i dont think so it might b helpful. #angry
wow. good job n thnks for the detailed thread. im just gettn into the medskool in pak so wen my time comes ill b sure to reread that thread. so how long did it take in total to finish up ur testing stuff n actually get workn as a dr?
would u plz tell us in details what to do in step 2 ck ...i wouls like to benefit from your exeperience in this issue & thanks alot for your time & effort...good luck in your residency inshaa Allah
Hi! My name ia Carolina, e Im from Brazil!
Im trying to buy Kaplan's books, following the instructions from our friends, but Im having some difficult on finding it?
Does anybody can help me?

Sorry...but what do you guys means when you say you have studied reading the high yields books? Sorry again...Im new on it!

Nice thread... I am studying for my USMLE step 1...I didn't know you can take step 2! I took 2 years off after graduating medical school.. I think I need more time than normal to get my studies done well. I find High Yeld Histology hard. Good luck everyone!
I am 2nd year med student at a local medical college and after reading your very helpful post, I have some questions.I plan to take my Step 1 exam after completion of my 3rd year.Is the time right?Because I want to finish off with it as soon as possible.I have Kaplan's set of "Lecture Notes".But it does not have ample practice questions.So what books should I get for practice questions?And what about Pretest?Are the questions there upto the standard of the MLE?And could you please explain what books these "high-yield" , "first aid" and "MRS" are?So that I can get them from a local store.And which other MCQ books would you recommend?
Saneela Altaf.
Hi Assalam

I'm IMG and I took my first test the last september, when i was studing for the test and after read the lecture notes, i bought the Kaplan's usmle step 1 Q bank on internet, is really helpful but you need to do the question with time for an accurate estimation of your score and simultaniously read the first aid when you have a doubt. After finish the Qbank try to do any simulate test like NBME, it's very accurate, specially the last one.
What about the score for the rest?
The other tests are least accurate than last two, that is because the test 5 and 6 have questions very similar to the real step, and all the people that i know, when take this test, got a similar score in the real one, +/- 3 points of error.

Remember that the new step has 48 question per block and has questions with videos. The last one has all of those and in my particular case i got the same score that in my step.
Thanks for ur advice

Great advice ZUKhan! Thanks so much for sharing with us! #grin

ZUKhan got a 95 on his USMLE Step 1 exam following the method he's outlined above -- so definitely some good advice!

Thanks again.

wow,,its nice score,,
i'm already have ID for USMLE from

now i'm prepared for USMLE step 1.
do u have any advice for me?
i'm second year now..

How long should it take to prepare for step 1?
the preparation for the step 1 depends how fast you can study, you could be prepare in 3 months or in 6 months, but that depend in the score of simulate exams
Thank you I am taking the kaplan deluxe prep hope to do well!
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