Avtandil Kochiashvili – USMLE Step 1
First of all, we have to talk about the foundation of basic subjects in medical school. I did basic sciences for the first 2.5 years in my med school and I passed an exam similar to step 1 in the end. So I had to review my basic sciences a couple of times. In addition, I knew I would eventually have to pass USMLEs when I entered medical school so, in addition to the big books (like Robbins and Guyton) that we studied there, I would also supplement some Pathoma, Kaplan or Goljan to build more USMLE-specific knowledge. Therefore, my foundation was good because I had done some of the USMLE review books here and there besides my big textbooks and overall I was a pretty good student.
Because of that, I never did relatively large review books for my actual Step 1 prep (like Kaplan and Goljan, which include a lot of low-yield information), except for some small subjects.
One thing that was a little bit of a challenge for me was lack of extra time besides my med school so I didn’t really have much chance of working solely on step 1 until 5th year which for me started in September 2018. Even then, I had to do step 1 with clinical rotations. At the end of 5th year, I had to pass an exam similar to Step 2 CK in my med school so I had to drop all my Step 1 prep and study for that. I also had to participate in a lot of extracurricular activities. So I had a huge gap from May 2019 to October 2019.
At the end of October, I had to do some med school stuff too but it was a lot lighter than before. So that’s when I did some real studying. I started my dedicated period in December and wrote the exam on March 12th, 2020.
Now I will break down the study process. Before I get into it, I want to say that for me, learning medicine always had two parts – understanding and memorization. There is no point in memorization until you have understood the concept.
Sources used for USMLE step 1:
- BnB (everything except for what I did in Kaplan)
- Kaplan (Biochemistry, Molecular, Genetics, Immunology)
- Sketchy (Micro)
- Anatomy Shelf Notes
- FirstAid USMLE Step 1
Anki Decks used for Step 1:
- Zanki (Biochem, Immunology, Basic Pathology, Reproductive)
- Lolnotacop (Follows sketchy micro and uworld micro)
- Lightyear (everything else – follows Boards and Beyond and FA)
- Dorian’s Anatomy Deck
I am separating Anki altogether because if I had to separate one source that helped me get this score, it would be Anki. Those of you who don’t know about it, it’s a flashcard platform that automatically organizes patterns of spaced repetition (frequency by which you see each learned card after you have studied it). It can be used on PC, Mac, Android, iOS. You can search it on YouTube, there are tons of tutorials on how to use it. The best thing is, you don’t even have to make your own cards, there are pre-made Step 1 decks available on MedSchoolAnki and Reddit. I have listed the decks that I used above.
Studying process for USMLE Step 1:
I didn’t really have any fixed schedule because of other things I had to do along with step 1. I would watch as many videos as possible in the time I had each day and I would review them via PDFs the next morning. In the case of Kaplan, I just read through the PDFs, those videos are too slow for me. I love BnB videos though. They are quick, thorough and always get right to the point. When I was done with the subject/system in BnB/Kaplan/Pathoma, I would review it with FA. All this time, I also did Anki (New cards in the evening, after studying and reviews in the morning). Always do Anki. Seeing those concepts multiple times throughout your prep time is what locks them in your brain.
In my dedicated 3 months, I did Uworld and Anki along with Self-Assessments. I would get up at 8 am, take an hour for the morning routine and then a whole day of studying until 10 pm. After 10 pm I would watch some Netflix and go to sleep at 12.
Now I know a lot of people start using Uworld right away along with other study materials to primarily study from it and they don’t really care about the scores they get on it. I have nothing against that, it’s a proven method and it works. I personally didn’t touch Uworld until I covered everything before my dedicated period. For me, it was kind of an assessment tool besides a learning tool. That made me look forward to each block I wrote. I would write one block (random, timed – makes it feel like the real thing) in the evening and review the questions the next day (both correct and incorrect, there is so much that I learnt from the questions I answered correctly). I made my own Anki cards from the information that I wasn’t familiar with in those explanations. I also did my Anki reviews (like I said, always do Anki. Make sure you don’t forget anything).
So, my dedicated was 3 months of UW, Anki, Self-assessments. Many people use FA with UW but I ended up reading FA just once in my whole prep. Anki replaced it for me.
Self-assessments for Step 1:
- NBME 18 – 257 (2.5 months out, UW 30% done)
- UWSA1 – 277 (1.5 months out, UW 60% done)
- NBME 23 – 252 (1 month out, UW 80% done. Tough one.)
- AMBOSS Self-Assessment – 266 (2 weeks out, UW almost done)
- UWSA2 – 277 (1 week out, UW done)
- Free 120 – 90% (3 days out)
- NBME 24 – 269 (2 days out)
- Uworld First (and only) Pass: 92,3%
I was pretty nervous before the exam but it all went away once I started writing the test. It wasn’t tiring at all during the process but I felt how exhausted I was after the exam ended. I marked 10-15 questions per block but I tend to mark many questions. If I’m not 100% sure about the answer, I mark it.
The test itself was harder than UW and NBMEs. The stems were long and the answers – vague. They didn’t really give you buzzwords like they do in Uworld tests. Definitely do at least one of the new NBMEs. The real thing was abundant in ethics and weird anatomy questions, just like new NBMEs.
The 3 week waiting period was the worst, especially because of the COVID-19 lockdown. I didn’t think I did well compared to my self-assessments because there were a lot of questions that I wasn’t 100% sure about. I thought I was in the high 250s or low 260s but I didn’t really imagine 270s. I thought it was almost impossible on the real thing. Therefore, you can imagine my reaction when I found out.
Thank you if I didn’t bore you and you made it this far 🙂
Good luck on your exam!