Passed Step 1 with a 205/85, Not the best score, but thank GOD I passed!
Study Time - 3.5 months (14 weeks), Every day 8-10 hrs reading time (Sundays off), 2 hours dedicated to UWORLD/Kaplan Qbank questions every night, total every day 10-12 hours with normal lunch and dinner break.
Exam Taken - 1st Week of Feb 2011
Score Report - March 2011, 205/85 PASS (1st Attempt)
Study Materials Used:
1)First AID for Step 1 2010 - Read Front to Back 3 times
2)BRS Pathology - Read Front to Back 2 times
3)BRS Physiology - Read Front to Back 1 time
4)Kaplan Lecture Notes - All Books 1 time through
5)UWORLD Qbank - 75% completed, 61% average
6)Kaplan Qbank - app. 50% completed, 55% average (didn't use it as much as UWORLD, so not as many questions completed)
7)All NBMES completed, forms 1-7
8)Both UWORLD Self Assessment Exams Completed, Forms 1 and 2
My experience with the Step 1 Exam, if anyone really cares
So as I'm waiting for my clinical rotations to start, I have a lot of friends of mine who are still in the process of studying for the Step1 exam and are always telling me how they would love to be in my shoes and how lucky I am that I passed the exam. It is a great relief to have moved on from the Step 1 exam and during my preparation I would every once in a while browse valuemd and read through someone's Step 1 experience and read about how they had passed and i would tell myself the same thing: "GOD please let me pass, I wanna be where they are now.." This exam and preparation for it is unlike anything you will have studied for before, however I am here to tell you that the exam is not impossible by any means, if you dedicate your time and hide away from the rest of the world for just a few months, you too will emerge on the other side with a great sense of triumph and relief, and this is my 2 cents about what you should know about the exam and how to prepare...
First of all, I tend to see disappoint and despair in many people when their Step scores come back and the score is less than a 99. I have many friends, 6 I can think of on the top of my head, who indeed scored 99 on the Step 1 exam. Do I feel ashamed that I was not able to achieve what my friends did? Absolutely not. I have much admiration and respect to everyone who passes the exam, whether you get a 75 or a 99 it doesn't matter to me, being able to pass the exam in itself is an amazing achievement so for those of you reading this and thinking you bombed the step 1 with a 76, 81, 84, 88, or whatever, please don't think like that. Be proud of your score and just think of ways you can improve yourself as a student and make sure you don't make the same mistakes as you did on Step 1 when you sit for the Step 2. Ok Ok, enough of the blahhh talk lol, good luck to all studying currently for the Step 1, and congratulations to those who have already passed regardless of your score, remember there are many students who struggle with the Step 1 exam, so just remember to be thankful to have accomplished such a major milestone in your medical education.
The actual step 1 exam is around the same difficulty as the NBME's, and almost 2-3x easier than the UWORLD qbank. If you are having a difficult time with UWORLD, do not worry these questions are designed to be 2-3 step questions and they are made for you to think through, not simply memorize something from a textbook and spit out an answer. When you are doing UWORLD, please please read the explanations to the questions, whether you're in tutor mode or quiz mode you must read the explanations, even to the questions you get right. There is alot of helpful information even on the ones you get correct, and believe me UWORLD does an excellent job giving explanations so make sure to read those as any extra information on top of what you may already know will help you immensely in the exam. Now people ask me about the Kaplan Qbank and whether it was helpful, in my opinion, and this is my own opinion, the Kaplan Qbank asks questions on overly specific details, and is not as concept based as UWORLD. I didn't find Kaplan qbank as useful UWORLD, however that doesn't mean it won't work for you. When you study, whatever you study, and how you study, make sure you find a system that works for you, and do not deviate from it. The biggest piece of advice I can give someone is do not try to read every review book, every textbook, every qbank, every book known to man because you are scared you won't know everything, it is literally impossible to know everything about everything. Do not jump from book to book, because one of the ways you study efficiently is to use a limited number of books and qbanks, but make the most out of them. First AID, UWORLD, Kaplan Lecture Notes, and the NBME's to gauge your understanding of topics is all you need to succesfully pass the exam. Now I also read the BRS Path and BRS Physio before going into the First AID, and even before I read those books I had already gone trough the Kaplan Lecture notes 1 time through before moving on. The point being everyone is different, whereas I read the BRS Path and Kaplan Path book, someone else will tell you forget BRS Path and stick to Goljan RR, in the end use whatever books you feel most helpful for you, but once you find a specific format, stick to it and do not deviate from it because everyone will tell you their way of studying, but make sure you are comfortable studying the way only you know how, and believe me you will also be smiling when your scores come back.
p.s. - Also remember that in order to study effectively, you cannot be constantly on Facebook, your IPHONE, Twitter, etc etc. during the day, they are too much of a distraction. Deactivate your FB, stay away from your IPHONEs, stop twittering, and please stay focused. Believe me you will survive without these things while you study, and you can easily do these things after you have completed your studies for the day.
NBME Mock Exams
One question I also get is how are the NBME's and how do they stack up against the actual exam. I can tell you from my own experience the NBME's are very good indicators of how well you will do on the actual exam. In my case, Forms 5,6,7 were within 1-2 points of my actual exam score. That is why I chose to take the exam when I did, in those last 3 forms my scores were almost identical (87,86,86) and I told myself there is a good chance I could score in the 90's if I focus on exam day, so I went ahead and took the exam. Of course instead of my score improving it actually went down a 1-2 points but hey, after sitting in your room for 3-4 months at some point you have to be honest with yourself and attempt the exam. Could I have studied more and waited till I was getting in the upper 90's in the NBME's, of course. But I was not going to committ suicide if I didn't get a 99, and I felt pretty comfortable where my level of knowledge was at, and I went and attempted it, finishing with a decent passing score. In the end, when you do the NBME's, take them as if you are really taking the exam. Do not cheat yourself, take it in a timed mode and complete each exam within the given 4 hour time period. You should take your first NBME when you first begin to study, see where you are at in terms of preparation. Do not worry about what score you get, just use it as a diagnostic tool for you to set up your study plan. Every other NBME should be taken after your first read, your second read, your third read, and then every week before the actual exam date. My last NBME form 7 was taken 2 days before the actual exam, and at that point I knew that I was going to take the exam. So in the end, the NBME's are a very good indicator of how you will do on the actual exam, so study hard and take them seriously as you study, and once you are at a comfortable level of passing the NBME's, I would suggest picking a test date and going for it
Exam Day - 1st Week of Feb, 2011
After preparing for almost 14 weeks, I felt confident I was ready to take the exam. The night before I went to the local grocery store to pick up a few items for the next day since you get a locker to store small snacks, drinks, etc. I bought alot of chocolate, alot of Red Bull to keep me up, sum chips and a ready made sandwhich that I had bought from the deli section. I was scheduled to be at the testing center at 7:30am, so the night before I shut the tv off at 11pm and tried to get a good night rest; this did not happen at all. I was tossing and turning all night, I didn't feel as if I was nervous but is was more of a feeling of excitement, I know it sounds strange but everything I had been working for was about to be right in front of me, and I couldn't stop thinkin about it. I literally fell asleep around 3am, and the alarm for me to wake up sounded at 6:30 am. I took a quick shower, got ready, packed up my little snacks, and left for the testing center.
The actual Step 1 exam is identical to the UWORLD qbank (not in terms of difficulty as the actual exam is much easier), the interface is identical. When you begin the actual exam, it will feel as if you're doing more UWORLD questions, so that familiarity to doing UWORLD will be very helpful in just feeling comfortable sitting there in front of the computer screen. As everyone knows, there are 7 blocks, 46 questions each, and you are given 1 hour for each block. You have 45 mins. of break time allocated to you once you start, and if you wish to add more break time you can completely skip the 15 min tutorial however, just to be safe I went through the tutorial and then started the exam. Once I started the exam, I didn't feel nervous at all however I began to feel drowsy as I only had about 3 hours of sleep the night before. After a few mins though I was wide awake understanding where I was and what exactly was happening; HERE I AM TAKING THE STEP 1 EXAM! Maybe it was an adrenaline rush, but I was ready to go from that point on.
I took a small break after every block, and I recommend everyone doing so. The computer screen can start hurting your eyes, and after sitting there your eyes start to play tricks on you believe me, especially looking at CT scans and MRI's and such so being able to get yourself away from the computer, even if its to splash water on your face please do so, it will really help you stay focused. I took small 5 minute breaks after blocks 1, 2, and 3. After block 4 I went and took my lunch break, only for 20 mins. I came back for the remaining blocks 5, 6, and 7, and took small breaks after those blocks as well (I actually went over my break time before block 7, so when I came back the clock was actually ticking into my block 7 time lol, I only had 55 mins to finish my last block, but I did with some time remaining so it wasn't a problem). I took the full 8 hours to complete the exam.
The biggest question I receive from friends and others in general is "So what was on the exam?" And I always say the same thing: "EVERYTHING!" Although I am exagerating when I say that, the truth is every form of the USMLE is different. Whereas someone might tell you their exam contained alot of Neuroscience, my exam contained alot of Micro n Immuno, I felt as if they overemphasized those particular subjects on every block, but again every exam is different so be sure to know as much as you can about everything, you don't want to skip topics because of what someone told you about their exam, only to find out its all over ur test. So be smart, don't skip anything, everything that you have learned in class or in the review books is fair game.
In the end, I scored a 205/85. Could I have done more to study and prepare, looking back I could have. But I am not ashamed of my score and I am here to tell everyone the exam is very doable, there are some very easy questions, and there are some very long questions with long lists of data and symptoms. If you prepare yourself well, anyone can pass the exam. You have to forget about the outside world and be selfish for a few months and forget about everything else except for the books in front of you. This is a life changing experience, and I can guarantee you that if you do your part, GOD will do his and help you pass the exam as he did me. If anyone has any specific questions, feel free to pm me or reply back in this thread. Good luck to everyone studying for the exam, and congratulations to everyone who has passed the exam. I hope that my story and experience may help those who are in need of a little guidance and reassurance
Last edited by sasmd22; 06-04-2011 at 01:06 PM.
BSc Biology/Psychology - 2007
MD Basic Sciences [X], Step 1 [X], Step 2 , Step 3 
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