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MS2s: Prepping for Step 1? Read advice from MS4s.


Student in class

Students preparing for Step 1, keep and eye out for information about prep sessions and resources. If you need help planning your dedicated study time, reach out to your lead advisor or learning specialist.

Want some advice right now? Here’s some tips and strategies from other students who have already taken Step 1.

Student #1

Wake up and make a list of things you want to accomplish for the day! Write them down to hold yourself accountable to completing those tasks. I recommend that you get into a habit of doing things in the same order (i.e. UWorld questions when you first wake up, going over them, studying things you missed, a section of Pathoma, and a then video). Follow a pattern and make sure to take at least 1-2 hours out of your day to exercise and relax.

Student #2
Daniel Robinson
MS4, IUSM Class of 2018

1. Determine high-yield topics for review
This is absolutely vital. Some Qbanks show the subject areas where you are weakest. Review those systems the most. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER skip a question and explanation because you got it right. It’s much more high-yield to do 10 questions and read all the explanations/take notes thoroughly than get a 100 percent on a 40-question test and call it a day without reading explanations. If you don’t know the “why” for every “what,” then review it.

2. Believe in your classwork!
Do not ignore your classes. The second year pharm, neuro, path, and ICM are all very high yield for Step. Prepare for the finals (e.g. reread all of Pathoma or whatever your preferred text is). If you ace the finals, it shows you know the material. Your professors’ jobs are to prepare you for each topic. Keep up with your classwork and it will pay off! I worked just as hard up until finals in my classes and still made it happen. You can too.

3. Decide if a written study plan is helpful for you
I personally didn’t do a written study plan. I’m a meticulous studier and would inevitably fall behind schedule; that would just stress me out. I would spend X amount of hours in the morning doing UWorld Q’s then switch in the late afternoon to read Pathoma, etc.

4. Set daily/weekly goals
This is important, too. I would just follow the same routine every day, eat well, exercise a little, and get a good night’s sleep. Having a routine is important, and it will help you keep up the pace in this marathon.

5. Timing suggestions for practice exams
Remember my schedule was slightly different. I started studying Jan. 6 in 2016 and took Step I on June 6 of 2016. So adjust my dates to your beginning and end dates.

  • I took my first practice through the school and was pretty far off from my goal (like 50 points – this isn’t weird, you can do it!).
  • I took my first individual practice 3/16/16 and was 20 points off of my goal
  • Next was 4/11/16, scored the same as 3/16 and was 20 points off my goal
  • Next was 5/11/16, was 10 off of my goal
  • Last practice was 5/28/16 and nailed my goal; I actually moved my test up a week after this.
  • So the takeaway is to have a regular score check-in. The NBME’s that I remember being most predictive were NBME 13, 15, 16, and 18. I took them in this order.

6. Have an accountability partner
This is probably the most important part of my advice. Find a classmate, friend, significant other or family member. It doesn’t even have to be someone in medical school. Check in with them frequently, ask how they’re doing and vice versa and confide any problems you’re having. It’s a stressful time and you need to vent. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Take care of yourself and it’ll help your score.

The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.

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