How Long Should I Study for USMLE Step 1?

How I Studied for Step 1

Wondering about the best way to use Picmonic in your Step 1 study schedule? Picmonic is great as a  USMLE prep guide. Dehra McGuire, a student at University of Oklahoma College of Medicine and blogger at Med School Monarchess, shared the schedule she used to get a 240+!

Here’s the schedule that she planned out and posted on her blog:

This is my schedule for the next 4 weeks of Step Studying. Please note that my test is about 6 weeks out (May 31st), but how I do on the assessment at the end of this four weeks will determine what my last two weeks of studying look like.

Main Resources:

  • USMLE World
  • First Aid for the USMLE 2016
  • Pathoma

Supplementary Resources:

  • Costanzo Physiology
  • Pathoma Book
  • BRS Anatomy (Mainly for muscles and nerves)
  • Picmonic
  • Goljan Audio
  • Lippincott Microbiology Flashcards

HERE is the visual representation of what will follow in calendar form, blocked out by days and showing which subjects I will be studying on which days.

    Okay, so rough breakdown:

      7:30am: Wake up, eat breakfast, go to school to study so I’m not tempted to do nothing at my apartment all day.

        9am-1pm: grind out Uworld questions on Tutor mode and annotate First Aid (50 minutes on, 10 minutes off). I’m doing it with all of the topics checked off, so this will be an integrated studying period.

          Lunch Break

            2pm-6pm: Study First Aid. Again, 50 minutes on, 10 minutes off to avoid brain fatigue.

              This is my 2nd pass through most of the information, so I’m hoping it won’t take me too long to get through things. You can see I’ve broken a lot of the days up into page numbers or organ system blocks. If I need to, I’ll pull out my Costanzo physiology or Pathoma books to fill in some gaps during this time.

                Dinner Break

                  7pm-10pm: You’ll see that this varies between the weeks.

                    The first week, it’s a hard and heavy Biochemistry study period. That’s because I SUCK at pretty much everything in the biochem section, so I broke it up into little, less daunting chunks. After the biochem review week, you’ll see it listed as Pathoma/Free study. That basically means I’m free to study how I need to study for that period of time. Whether I want to watch Pathoma videos, go through Picmonic images, listen to Goljan, go back over First Aid… Kind of whatever I feel I need to do that day to really consolidate the material.

                      10pm-7:30am: Unwind, watch Netflix, Tumblr, shower, do my QI assignment, sleep.

                        You’ll see an odd break where I’m doing Clinical Transition tutorials and taking my last final of MS2 instead of dedicated step studying. That’s because I’m technically still in class. Our dedicated studying period doesn’t start until after April 29th. However, I only have like 3 required classes during this time, so I should be able to stick pretty closely to this schedule. When I’m not able to keep to this schedule, it’s usually just Uworld time that I’m missing out on. It shouldn’t be too bad.

                          Sundays are largely days off/errand days. I’ll probably still try to listen to Goljan audio on these days just for good measure.

                            Once I take my 2nd Uworld assessment test, I’ll plan out my last 2 weeks of studying to hit the points I’m really weak on. I’ll update you on the game plan at that time.

                              And here’s her post-Step 1 assessment of her schedule:

                                So here is where I review my original schedule and tell you what I did/didn’t do successfully. My score was between 240 and 245, so I’d say this schedule didn’t suck? 

                                  My main resources definitely remained UWorld, First Aid, and Pathoma videos. My supplementary resources consisted almost solely of Goljan and Picmonic. I didn’t use any of the other supplementary resources I mentioned.

                                    I stayed relatively true to my study schedule. I almost always started my questions at 9:00am, but I definitely didn’t wake up at 7:30 every morning. And I did most of my Uworld questions at my apartment, then would get ready and go to school to study from about 2:30-7:30. THEN I would go home and eat, and usually study from 9-11 instead of from 7-10 like my schedule had down.

                                    Things I did:

                                    • I got through first aid about as many times as I wanted to. That was good. I made one full pass through Uworld, then went through all my incorrect questions (which was about 1/3 of them). Then I reset and went through a few hundred questions more before my test date.
                                    • There was a lot less structure to my days in the last 2 week period. I took the assessment test from Uworld and went over what I was bad at in those last two weeks. I typically tried to go through a chapter-ish and identify those things and hit them really hard each day. So that was about my 3rd time through first aid during the two months before my test, and I had used it throughout the first 2 years, so it was nearly my 4th time seeing the information.
                                    • Towards the end, I watched a LOT of Pathoma because of how burnt out I was. I also made sure to go through the “high yield associations” at the back of First Aid in the days before my test.
                                    • I took the entire day before my test off. I did nothing Step 1 related that day. Tried to go to bed at a reasonable time.
                                    • Study somewhere with other people who are studying for step. You don’t necessarily have to study together, but it feels better to not be alone. And there are people who can help clarify things for you if you get confused, share memory devices, etc… and so you both learn.
                                    • CBSSA Exams- I did 2 of them in the 2 weeks before my test. If I remember correctly, I did 15 and 16. 16 was only 2 points away from my actual score. Oddly enough, I did better on my real test than I did on any practice tests. Just peaked at the right time, I guess. I took CBSSA 16 because I had heard it was easier than 15 was, and wanted a confidence boost before my test. I took it about 3 days before my test.
                                    • Used Picmonic’s new “Quiz” feature! It really tests your ability to remember the pictures by removing the other elements and quizzing you on the subject of that picmonic. It’s a great, fast way to make sure you know the material! The good news is that this is a beta feature, so it’s only going to get better with time and the more people who use it. I’m glad they debuted it before my test, even if it isn’t 100% perfected yet!

                                    Things I wish I had done:

                                    • More Goljan. Oh my gosh I wish I had gotten all the way through his lectures. Start these early, guys. Listen to them through your first two years and then listen to them on a higher speed during your dedicated study period.
                                    • Gotten through Uworld twice instead of just once.
                                    • Knew biostatistics inside and out. These are gimme questions if you make a point to master this knowledge. The questions are pretty straight forward.
                                    • Been more diligent with Picmonic. There were definitely questions I got right because of images I remembered. I wish I had kept up with this better during my first two years. I really used it for bugs and drugs (antitumor and antibiotics especially), lysosomal storage diseases, glycogen related diseases, palsies, brachial plexus stuff, and all the biochem enzyme deficiencies (seriously helped me answer so many questions right)

                                      To hear more about her Step 1 experience, head to her blog or watch the video linked above!

                                      If you’re interested in contributing your own study schedule, video, or any other tips and tricks you’ve learned along the way as a student, just reach out to us at anytime.

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