A lot of people email me and ask, “How do I prepare and do well on step 1?” “What is the best way to study?” The typical answer I give is that there is no one particular thing that you can do to prepare for step 1. But, here are 4 strategies that I used to do well on test day.
1. Work and study hard during the year.
Believe it or not, the classes that you take during 1st and 2nd year (Pathology, Physiology, etc) are preparing you for the boards so when you are studying for class, you essentially are studying for the boards. It’s the foundation that you will use to prepare for the boards and most importantly for your clinical years. If you struggle during the year on exams, chances are you may struggle on the exam. Start early and ask for help, find a study group or tutor and learn those concepts that may seem difficult because trust me, they will come back up again and again.
2. Set a plan and stick with it
Not having a plan is like going into a battle without a weapon. This is critical. Your plan should be created weeks to months in advance and should be written down. Google has calendars that you can type in each day’s tasks and either print out or share with others. Your plan should include what topics you will review that day, (I.e Cardiology days 1 and 2) and what questions that need to be done (U-world questions 10-21). Your plan should be very specific and detailed and you should hold yourself accountable for any deviation from this.
3. Do lots of questions
The reality is that the more questions you do, the higher your score. If the person sitting next to you does 500 questions and you do 1000, you will most likely score higher on test day. The problem arises when most people run out of time to do questions. The way I circumvented this is starting my step 1 preparation during Christmas break/early January of my 2nd year. By the time my dedicated six weeks of step 1 preparation came around, I had already completed a Kaplan review course and completed almost 1000 questions (generally doing about 5-10 questions a night from Jan-May). This allowed me to spend my entire six weeks of “step preparation” doing questions instead of spending time reviewing a course.
Remember, the more questions you do=the higher your score!
Six weeks of your life. That’s all it takes. That means informing your friends, families, colleagues that you will be preparing for one of the most important exams of your career and that you may not be able to hang out, pick up the phone, go to dinner, etc during this time. If you inform them months to weeks ahead of time, they will more than likely understand and be supportive of you during this process.
Remember, performing well on step one is not an absolute prerequisite for matching at some of the top residency spots but it does help open up many doors. So study hard, set a plan, do LOTS of questions, sacrifice and go beast that exam!