Every time I had doubts about myself during the process of studying for this exam, what lifted me up and got me through were three things 1) My family’s and friends’ support and encouragement. 2) My faith in God. 3) Reading the experiences of others on Facebook and Reddit. So I would like to give back a little of that to help those of you who will be writing soon get through such times.
I’m a Canadian IMG, Medical school in India.
June 28th: Step 1 score – 253
I started prep in August 2018. Wrote my exam end of June 2019. So total prep time was about 11 months with about 2 months in the middle during which I didn’t study at all where I had other things I had to deal with (Health, Family, Travel). So basically I studied sincerely for about 9 months.
I know 9 months seems like a long time compared to the 8 weeks that US MDs get to study for this exam, however let me point out that I studied at a private medical college in India that TAUGHT US PRACTICALLY NOTHING compared to what US MDs are required to learn in their colleges, which I realized only after studying for this exam. So for me, it was like starting everything from scratch.
I was among the top 15% in my class.
My aim was 260.
This was my schedule:
Auguest: Started with FA but nothing made sense so I decided to go with Kaplan 2018 lecture notes first. I watched the Kaplan videos for biochem and physiology but I realized I was wasting time and therefore stuck to reading the notes alone which was much better for me.
Didn’t touch my books most of September
October: First Aid along with First Aid Q and A after every section. I also remember using another question bank which was free at that time for about a month, retrospectively it wasn’t a great learning tool but helped with practicing questions and kept me from getting bored with just reading.
Didn’t study most of November
December -February: First pass of uworld with 73% – Started with doing 20 questions a day and slowly built up to be able to do two blocks a day. I only did uworld at this time. Did not read along with fa, but I don’t think this mattered for me because I was doing UW random, timed, tutor mode so I couldn’t correlate with fa anyways. BIGGEST MISTAKE: Did not make notes from uworld at this point.
Nbme 19 – 225
Last week of Feb didn’t study
March: Messed up my schedule, got confused about what to do next. Started off with Pathoma videos and lecture notes. Did a few offline NBMEs (11-15) got about 24-27 questions were wrong. Thought I would repeat Kaplan Lecture notes again but after ten days felt like I was leaving Uworld and first aid untouched for too long so quit Kaplan and started FA, but then I felt guilty for not doing Uworld after having paid so much for it. Mental breakdown at this point lol rest of March totally unproductive.
April-May: Decided I needed to do something different because what I was doing wasn’t working. Found two amazing study partners in this group! We somehow fit together and kept each other motivated. Started the second pass of uworld. This time I read each chapter of FA and then did the corresponding questions on UW timed, tutor, leaving about 20-40 questions in each topic to be done random timed at the end. Made notes from uworld at this point. Finished UW second pass at 90%
Did Pathoma and read my UW notes in four days. (May 27-30)
May 31: NBME 20 – 223
I was so upset. I had my exam booked at the end of June so I had a month left. I thought maybe 225 is the best I can get. I was preparing myself for taking up family medicine or psychiatry.
This was the schedule for my last month before the exam:
June 1-7: FA
June 8: Nbme 21 – 248 (Confidence restored)
June 9: Worked on my weaknesses from 20 and 21
June 10-13: SO SICK! Did not study much but did shelf notes during this time.
June 14: UW biostats review and Fischer Questions and explanations only
June 15: UWSA 1 – 264
June 16: Nbme 22 – 244
June 17: Nbme 23 – 240
June 18: Nbme 24 – 248
June 19-23: First Aid speed read, spent more time on stuff I kept forgetting or confusing and stickied them too
June 24: UWSA 2 – 266
June 25: Nbme 18 – 250
June 26: Free 120 – 89%, My UW notes, Shelf notes, Fischer the text(not the Q’s/A’s)
June 27: Reviewed all my stickied stuff from FA and first four chapters of Pathoma, Tried sleeping at 8 but was still awake at 10 so took clonazepam 0.25 mg (Big risk!) Fell asleep at 11ish…woke up once in the middle at around 3
June 28: Exam day
Woke up at 5:30, ate a breakfast of bread and omelette. Packed bread and omelette, 3 protein bars (20g of protein) and a bunch of bananas along with a small flask of black coffee without sugar.
Got to the center 20 minutes early, drank two mouthfuls of coffee as I got out of the car. Walked up 14 flights of stairs instead of taking the elevator. Check in was super easy and fast.
Started my exam at 7:30 am. Took every break, walked to my locker had two cups of water, half a protein bar and a banana the first two breaks. Skipped out on bananas after that cause I realized they were making me sleepy, probably all the serotonin. PEED EVERY BREAK WHETHER I HAD TO OR NOT. The fourth break had bread omelette and half a protein bar. No more food after that but two cups of water every break. The Fifth break one mouthful of coffee. Sixth break just water. Exam got over at 3:30 pm.
The exam felt relatively easy to me. I felt like I was writing a longer version of UWSA 1. Two questions were difficult for me. I marked about 5 questions each block. But during the review, I would change the answer only if I was 500% sure I was choosing a better answer (this only happened twice or thrice). I walked out just glad I was done the exam and very hopeful of a good score.
This hopefulness decreased as the days went by when people said an easier exam means a harsher curve and a lower score. The hopefulness exponentially decreased when July 10 came and all those who said the exam was easy scored in the 230’s after scoring 250s in their practice exams.
July 17: USMLE Step 1: 253 (By the Good Grace of God)
1-Not making notes during the first pass of uworld,
2-leaving all my NBMEs to clump up at the end (got so tired doing four NBMEs in a row),
3-Not setting my sleep schedule to 9 pm to 5 am from at least a month before the exam.
The only thing I’d like to say in the end is – Work as hard as you possibly can, have faith and leave the rest to God.