Don’t Make the Top 4 Mistakes I Made Studying for Step 1


Although I am perfectly happy with how I performed on USMLE Step 1, I did make several key mistakes when I was studying that led to wasted time and money. There are so many decisions to make and resources to navigate on your own, but the good news is many students have already navigated this road before.

In this article, I’ll share the top four mistakes I made while studying for Step 1. I hope you can learn from my experience to better optimize your study time and resources.


1 | Don’t Buy Every Study Resource You Come Across

At the beginning of MS2, I was bombarded by deals for Step 1 study resources. I fell victim to these marketing ploys and gladly paid hundreds of dollars for the higher success promised by these resources.

I ended up only using UWorld, First Aid, Pathoma, and Sketchy—UFAPS. I barely touched the other resources I bought. My advice is to stick to the core UFAPS resources. These foundational resources are well worth the money and package the required knowledge in optimized delivery methods.

It is better to go through these resources multiple times (especially UWorld) than to spend your time going through multiple other question banks or review guides.


2 | Don’t Leave UWorld Until the End—Start With It

When I started studying, I reasoned that I had to first learn the knowledge before doing practice questions. Thus, I focused my attention on plowing through First Aid, Pathoma, and Sketchy while balancing the lectures from my MS2 organ blocks.

I did a few untimed questions from UWorld every week that were in the same category as my block (i.e., I did cardio questions during my Cardio block) and was dismayed at the difficulty of the qu­­estions and my abysmal scores. I thus procrastinated on doing UWorld questions and focused on getting through First Aid and Pathoma.

A better strategy is to start answering the UWorld question blocks that simulate exam day conditions (i.e., timed, random 40 question blocks not on Tutor mode). While this baptism by fire will likely cause most students consternation, ignore your low averages and focus instead on reviewing the question block’s explanations and condensing the information into Anki flashcards or handwritten notes.

How to Create Good Anki Flashcards — 13 Best Practices

Starting UWorld early will enable you to do at least two complete passes through UWorld. First, learn the knowledge by reviewing UWorld explanations, then reinforce the knowledge by reviewing First Aid and Pathoma.


3 | Don’t Neglect to Schedule a Step 1 Simulation at a Prometric Center Early

I had no idea that you can take a simulated Step 1 at a Prometric center until I started my dedicated study period. Consequently, I scheduled the simulation only a few weeks before my actual exam date.

A better strategy is to schedule this simulated exam and your actual exam months in advance. I recommend taking the simulation test at the beginning of your dedicated study period. This way, you can scope out the actual Prometric center where you will take the exam and place yourself under conditions that are analogous to those you will experience on test day.


4 | Don’t Search for Explanations to NBME Practice Exams

I was annoyed that NBME practice exams provided no explanations for questions that I got wrong, which was in stark contrast to the beautiful explanations and figures throughout UWorld that taught me so much.

I wasted hours trawling the internet looking for explanations to NBME practice exams. In hindsight, a better strategy is to make note of your weak areas from the NBME assessment summary page and do targeted study sessions to strengthen those areas.

For instance, if you did poorly in Biostatistics, review that section in First Aid and redo all the UWorld questions in that area.


Take your Step 1 Studying to the Next Level

I hope you are able to learn from my mistakes to better optimize your Step 1 studying. With focused attention and the right resources, you will succeed at your exam without burning yourself out in the process.

If you want to take your Step 1 Score to the next level, Med School Insiders offers Step 1 Tutoring and Test Prep tailored to your strengths, weaknesses, and study habits. You’ll receive one-on-one mentorship and relationship building with your tutor for a study strategy designed for you.


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