"How do I prepare for the USMLE Step 1 exam?" -The most requested post ever!
The essentials - Kaplan videos & notes (for basics) + Goljan book & audio + uWorld + First Aid is the general way to go for most IMG students.
Kaplan videos and notes: They are a good start. If you are time restricted, you may want to skip stuff, fast forward through it.
Pathology: Do Goljan and Pathoma. Know them cold. I had studied Goljan really well. I wish I had the time to complete Pathoma as well. The videos and concepts are awesome.
uWorld: Do it really well the first time. You are gonna get bored doing it the second time so get the concepts in the first go. Take your time if you have to.
While doing it the first time, the 2 blocks per day and 20 days scheme didn’t work for me. I got frustrated with the time constraints I had put on myself. The best I could do was 1 block per day. So give yourself 45 days, just in case you are slow with uWorld like me.
I did it in random just because I assumed studying subject-wise would get too monotonous. Subject-wise goes faster. I did it timed. You may do it untimed, tutorial, subject-wise. It doesn’t matter. Do what you are comfortable with.
First Aid: It’s your quick review book. Write uWorld notes all over it. Make it messy, draw diagrams on it. It’s the only book that’s gonna stick with you till the end of time.
NBMEs: Give as many as you can. But do them only for feedback, not for learning.
Other stuff you can do -
BRS behavioural science: I highly recommend it. You can easily do important chapters like stuff on defense mechanisms even 20 days before the exam. There are good quality, minimal in number, doable questions at the end of every chapter.
Be flexible: If you find yourself weak in any random subject, quickly Google for good sources and review the doable ones. People advice not to look into new resources a few days prior to the exam but that’s bull. Your old sources are obviously did not help you and that’s the reason you are weak in the subject… Look for new ones! I did BRS behavioural science 20 days before my step and it is one of the best decisions that I made. I tried ANKI flashcards for brain stem sections a week before. As long as you keep a balance, new resources won’t hurt you.
Flashcards: Download or make your own flashcards. It helps you revise frequently.
Other Qbanks: Yes, I had done bits of Kaplan Qbank and USMLE Rx. I had time when I started them, they helped me get what the questions are like and I did make a few notes. They did freak me out (since I got most of the questions wrong) and hence, helped me study more early in my preps. But they are not essential if you are out of time.
Doctors In Training: It’s very boring. But the worksheets do help you memorize and revise. I don’t recommend it, but I did review some of it once upon a time.
Random advice -
Be attentive during rounds: Because the USMLE will have questions on clinical stuff. If you have done your core rotations, it’s not an issue. But if you are in your basic sciences years, the only way you can get these right is by being attentive in rounds. There are very simple common clinical questions like urge incontinence on Step 1 which are not covered in First Aid. You can easily get them right. Read x-rays, especially the fracture ones.
Don’t forget to revise Kaplan and Goljan: Read a little bit of Kaplan and lots of Goljan even in your busy 2 block per day + First Aid schedule. The bain of knowledge is to forget.
Revise as much as you can before the exam: I remember antidepressants and antipsychotics being a bit foggy in my head during the step. I should have revised properly and in a more organized way before the exam.
Solving questions: The questions are scary. I made a lot of silly mistakes during the preps. I agree that the margin for error is small. You miss one word and the question goes wrong. The exam seems hard before you take it and easy after you’re done with it. Keep going. All you can do is give your best :)
Don’t delay dates too much: I delayed my exam for a month. I gave an NBME on the previous exam date. The NBME score and the test score came out to be the same. Life! xD
Social isolation: It’s normal. Friends will demand to see you, even after you’ve explained how important and hard this exam is. You will feel bad for not meeting them and have mood swings, it is okay. Don’t let it consume you. Focus. You may completely ignore the existence of any other species on the planet, it’s allowed. The good ones will stick with you anyway.
Feel free to ask any questions.