How I Studied for My Step I

This is one of my most frequently asked questions via email & DMs. I thought it would be helpful to have a dedicated blog post on the topic so that people can refer to it whenever if needed! So here is an overview of how I studied for Step 1. I hope it’s helpful! (If you want general information on how I studied during first two years of medical school, it's here)

First, let's start with the overall schedule. I basically worked with my school's board exam prep office to come up with a list of all the topics for Step 1 & assigned the number of days I thought I needed for each topic. I have a video with all the resources I was using for Step I + an overview of my 6-week study schedule here. Here's an example schedule (46 days total):

Cardio- 4 days
Pulm- 2 days
Renal- 3 days
Neuro/psych- 3 days
Biochem- 2 days
Immuno- 2 days
Heme/onc- 2 days
Endo/Repro- 2 days
GI- 3 days
MSK- 2 daysPathology- 1 day
Pharmacology (principles)- 1 day
Micro- 3 days spread throughout 6 weeks

*Each system based topic was broken down into embryology, physiology, pathology, pharmacology + extra materials as needed 

NBME (practice exams)- forgot how many are available but one day dedicated to doing each NBME + going over the wrong questions. Helpful to do this with a friend so you can talk out difficult questions

Question days- At least 4-5 days dedicated to just doing UWorld Questions the week before exam day

Rest days- I took 1 full day off during 6 weeks & 1/2 day off per week to relax, go to church on Sundays, etc. Half day off often ended up becoming 3/4 towards the end of the study period and you should try to account for feeling burnt out.  

Special note about pharmacology & microbiology:
Pharm: I covered relevant pharmacology within each topic (e.g. cardio drugs during cardiology, etc) but I did take one day to cover the principles of pharmacology (pharmacokinetics, etc). I really liked Sketchy Pharm videos especially for psych drugs & antibiotics
Micro: I did a little bit of sketchy micro everyday but still had some dedicated days for micro. I made an excel spreadsheet of all the sketchy videos and checked off every time I watched a video to make sure I was covering all the videos- I tried to watch every video at least 3 times but I didn’t get to/didn’t feel the need for certain videos

How I split up my days
First half: I started each day with one 40-question block. Afterwards I went over each wrong question & made Anki cards out of wrong questions and any other questions I wasn’t 100% sure about. I found this to be extremely helpful because it guaranteed that I will at some point memorize the content that I got wrong & commit it to memory.  
Mid-day break: gym + lunch + usually a 30 min TV show (I watched Gilmore Girls because it somehow motivated me to study)
Afternoons: I did content review (should be review, not covering new stuff because you simply don’t have the time) using DIT videos, First Aid, and any of the other resources I listed below
Rest of the day: Dinner break at some point with some type of 1 hr TV show, Anki, Q bank other than UWorld, sketchy videos, etc

Here are my exact day-to-day google calendar screenshot:

How I split up UWorld Questions:
For first 3-4 weeks, I did 1 block of UWorld per day (40 questions), up to you whether you wanna do the topic you’re covering (e.g. cardiology only) or mixed questions
Week 4-5: 2 UWorld blocks per day
Last week: did nothing but 4 UWorld blocks/day + Anki cards

I stuck to resources I have used during the school year & have liked. Including but not limited to: BRS physiology, Pathoma, Sketchy Medical, DIT video lectures, Goljan Pathology Rapid Review (thick book- only used to look up specific stuff), Goljan Audio lectures + notes (both floating around for free online), Kaplan Q bank, UWorld, First Aid (should memorize pretty much everything in this book)

Towards the end of my study period, I dedicated at least 2 hours every day to going through my Anki card deck. Probably covered over 1000 cards/day. Step 1 is a memorization heavy exam so you just have to commit everything to memory. I found Anki to be the best tool for me. You can also use the Image Occlusion add-on for Anki to make flashcards out of tables, diagrams, etc I have a short tutorial on this in one of my videos here if you’re interested.

 There are also pre-made Step 1 Anki cards made by Brosencephalon that a lot of people like. I did few decks by him but eventually wanted to tailor my learning to my weaknesses so I mostly stuck to my own cards.

Additional tips & tricks (general tips on taking BIG exams here)

  • I kept a pretty regular sleep schedule throughout my study period & was mindful of my caffeine consumption (very Type A) so that I can get restful sleep at night. 
  • I spiral bound my First Aid book (makes it easy to flip through & take notes). Some of my classmates did the same for Pathoma for the same reason. It can be done at any Staples or other office supply stores. 
  • I also got my Sketchy video screenshots printed in color & spiral bound. Very useful investment- I found myself looking through these even as I studied for Step 2 CK. If you want you can type up notes for each video “picture” & print it out as well. This comes in super handy when you want to stay away from computers (to prevent procrastinating) but you want to quickly look something up from Sketchy
  • I uploaded all the Goljan audio into an old iPod & had that be the only thing connected to my car. I did a lot of long distance driving esp on weekends bc my church was 1hr away so every time I stepped into my car, the lecture came on. I basically listened to the whole thing on repeat throughout the entire study period.
  • Anki. Can’t stress this enough. I had the Anki app on my phone, iPad, and computer. I like the iPad version bc it is the least distracting of all modalities. I know  a lot of people also use Quizlet to make their own flashcards. Pick one that works for you & stick to it
  • If you feel burnt out and tired, take couple hours off. It’s better to go outside and take a walk than to sit in front of your books feeling miserable 
  • Simulate your NBMEs as closely to your actual exam in terms of time, environment, etc. If your exam is scheduled for the morning then take your practice exams in the mornings, wear comfy clothes, only use the restroom during designated breaks, just as you would for the actual exam

Exam day:

  • Bring lots of snacks. I took a break every 2 blocks but you can decide this based on personal preference & stamina 
  • Wear layers as it might be cold/warm in the exam room
  • Read about what you can/cannot bring into the exam room. I brought soft ear plugs which were pretty helpful

Lastly, plan something relaxing and fun to do after the exam! You deserve it!