Step 1 prep: Some tools to use

Many thanks to Shyla Carr, an MS3, who has some thoughtful information about the tools that she used in her Step 1 preparation.

Step 1 prep can be incredibly overwhelming. There are endless resources, and we’ve all seen the Reddit threads with various strategies to studying. At the end of the day, though, what’s most important is finding what works for you as an individual. The best advice (that is probably the hardest to follow) is to not compare yourself to your peers. Stay focused on how you’re doing and how you feel. Test when you are ready, not when you feel pressured to. Don’t hang your self worth on your UWorld scores. This journey is difficult, but an experience we all just have to go through! Stay positive and remember your “why.” It’s easy to lose sight of that sometimes.

Here are some resources you may or may not already be aware of, with some features and associated tech tips.

Many consider UWorld to be the gold standard. This is a great question bank with thorough answer choice explanations. At least one pass through the Qbank is a good idea if you can.

It’s probably a bit more beneficial to start by doing blocks of questions on Tutor Mode related to a particular system/subject. That way, it’s testing your knowledge while directly aiding in studying. Then work your way up to doing timed, random blocks on test mode, which will simulate the real thing and give you more of a feel for that.

UWorld flashcards are also great and really easy to make. You can either free type them, or highlight the text and click New flashcard and then highlight another piece of information and click Add to flashcard. This was extremely helpful when reviewing incorrects. The flashcard system is spaced repetition, just like Anki.

On Pathoma, Dr. Husain A. Satar does an amazing job of breaking down concepts into digestible components. He includes a lot of the high-yield pathology that shows up again and again in the Qbanks and Step 1. This comes with a book or PDF of text that he goes over. This can be uploaded into Notability or another note-taking app, making portability and annotation a lot easier! There are over 30 hours of content (but that’s at 1x speed).

If you have other video-based resources you prefer but have access to Pathoma, at least consider the first 2–3 chapters. Those concepts come up again and again.

Hy Guru is not a well known resource. Dr. Rahul Damania (a Pediatric Critical Care doc) teaches pathophys by going through USMLE-type questions. He talks about how to approach questions and tricks you might encounter. There’s a lot on YouTube, but he also made a course website that’s free and gives access to a majority of his content.

YouTube is a highly underrated resource. The best part is that it’s free. There are a TON of great channels out there, but some of the best (subjectively) are: Dirty Medicine, Ninja Nerd, LY Med, HY Guru, and Dr. Randy Neil. Most of these channels have short, digestible videos (aside from Ninja Nerd. His videos are quite long but often it’s incredibly helpful to have someone “explain it to me like I’m 5” to solidify more difficult concepts.).

These are available on Spotify in the form of podcasts or on YouTube. Dr. Ed Goljan does a really good job of connecting multiple systems and concepts, though some of this may be more helpful after you’ve done an initial review.

Also in the world of podcasts: Divine Intervention. There is a LOT of content here, and not all of it is on streaming services, but most of it is on his website.

We’re all familiar with Amboss, but you may not know that there are Step 1 question blocks under their Study Plan section. They also have a month-long Step 1 high-yield review. Essentially, you’re given an article and 5 questions every day for a month. These are generally considered high-yield topics for Step 1.

This post is not exhaustive of the resources out there. Again, figure out what works best for you and your schedule. That being said, actually make yourself a schedule where you plan out what topics you are going to review and when. This is much easier to stick to than getting up every day and doing arbitrary things.

Sticking to a schedule will also allow you to see how much you are actually doing and not feel guilty when you take a much-needed break. Work in breaks, make sure you have time off during the day, and absolutely even do full days off. Do something every day that you enjoy. Remember your “why,” and know that you’ve got this!

A quick note on the Pomodoro Method

The Pomodoro Method was created in the 80s by a university student. He used a kitchen timer that looked like a tomato (pomodoro in Italian) to keep himself on track. Pick a task, set a timer for 25 minutes, and set your mind to that task for the duration of the timer. When the timer goes off, set another for 5 minutes and do whatever the heck you want. Repeat this 3 more times, and then take a longer break.

You can set the time intervals to whatever you like; this is just the most common. There are even YouTube background/ambiance videos with the timers on them that are coffee shop–, Harry Potter–, Lord of the Rings–, and Studio Ghibli–themed, among others.

Other posts to help you prepare for the Step 1 exam

Step 2 Prep: Resources and tips

You got through Step 1: the most daunting exam you have ever had to study and sit for. You are elated . . . until you realize that Step 2 is right around the corner—and panic begins to set in. Fear not!


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