How I Scored 265+ on Step 2CK

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Step 1 is the arguably the most important test in a doctor’s life. However, if you want to match into a competitive specialty or need to make up for a Step 1 score that you’re not happy with, it is essential that you crush Step 2CK. I’ll show you how I secured a top score, and how you can do the same. I’ll start by saying that my approach is a little unorthodox, but it definitely delivered results. It requires consistency and diligence with your study routine and work ethic. More on that later. Using the technique in this post, I scored highly competitively on Step 2CK. I cannot guarantee a certain score for you, but by following the tips in this video, you should be in a good spot.

Scheduling Clerkships

First, I’ll dispel some common myths. Some believe you must take medicine as your last rotation during third year to make sure you have general medicine fresh in your mind to crush the exam. After all, most of Step 2CK is going to be covering internal medicine. However, I took medicine as the first rotation in my third year but I still achieved a top score. There is no official documentation breaking down the percentage by subject area. However, USMLE does tell us that 1-3% is based on general principles of foundational science, 85-95% is based on organ systems, and 1-5% is based on biostatistics, epidemiology, and interpretation of the medical literature. Remember, to achieve a top score, it’s important to be proficient with all aspects, including biostatistics! While it may be helpful to schedule your internal medicine rotation last for the sake of your Step 2CK score, it is certainly not necessary. Depending on what specialty you’re going into, you may need to schedule internal medicine earlier in the year, and that’s totally fine. I, for example, was strongly considering gastroenterology and therefore had internal medicine first. I ultimately went into plastic surgery, but that’s another story.  

When to Take the Test

If getting a high Step 2CK score is a priority for you, I recommend you take the exam at the end of your third year. Most of the material was covered in your clerkships and having this material fresh in your mind will serve you well. While its not impossible to score well by taking Step 2CK later during your fourth year, I personally do not advise that route.  

Study Schedule

There are two time periods we need to cover. First, your third year clerkships, which are creating your foundation of knowledge, and second, your “dedicated” period. I say dedicated in quotations since it’s not truly a dedicated period like you have for Step 1. However, it would behoove you to take an easy rotation, such as a research block, leading up to your test, allowing you to create your own semi-dedicated period.

Third Year Clerkship Study Schedule

This is where my own study strategy is a bit unorthodox. During this time, it’s important you not only shine on your evaluations, but also crush your shelf scores. The more familiar you are with the material and the better you perform on your shelf exams, the better off you’ll be for Step 2CK. The core of your clerkship studying should focus around UWorld. Each clerkship has its own high yield materials, such as Pestana’s notes for surgery, but the specific materials for each clerkship are beyond the scope of this blog post. A crucial factor that helped me achieve a top score was creating my own Anki deck. As I went through each rotation, studying from UWorld or other resources, I added high yield pieces of information to Anki. There was only one deck, which I called Step 2CK, and I only used a handful of tags. I tagged the rotation I was on, so I could separate surgery from internal medicine and such. Anki Step 2CK deck with clerkship tags Here’s the kicker though. I regularly practiced the whole deck. I didn’t just focus on surgery when I was on my surgery rotation. I created new surgery cards, which were obviously reviewed each day, but so were the older cards from internal medicine, neurology, and pediatrics. This was actually not as time consuming as you may think with Anki’s spaced repetition. Remember, cards that you have seen multiple times should be easier, and the intervals will be much longer. Therefore, even though I was regularly reviewing my entire deck most of my Anki cards were testing me on knowledge for the rotation I was on. Let’s say that for every hour of Anki, approximately 45 minutes were for the current rotation/block, 15 minutes were for reviewing old material. This ultimately kept knowledge from older rotations fresh in my mind. You can download my Anki deck above. Disclaimer: it is not complete as I only started this strategy midway during my third year, and my skill in creating Anki cards was not as finessed as it was during my fourth year and first year of residency. I recommend you make your own cards! That being said, it should be a great place to start.

“Dedicated” Period

I took about three and a half weeks to study for Step 2CK. I was on a research month but only did minimal research, perhaps 5-8 hours per week. As for my day-to-day schedule, I wasn’t as structured as I was during Step 1 dedicated period. If you haven’t already, be sure to download my Step 1 Schedule Excel Document. The majority of my time was spent taking UWorld practice blocks and reviewing them. I also spent an hour or so every day reviewing my Step 2CK Anki deck. I did not use any other resources in the 3 and a half weeks leading up to my test, and ultimately this strategy served me well. Best of luck with Step 2CK. It’s not quite the monster that Step 1 is, and with the right system and approach, you too can crush it! Download the Anki deck here.
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