5 Most Productive Study Tips for USMLE Step 1
Deciding how to study for Step 1 can be a daunting task. There are so many educational resources to choose from, and so much conflicting advice on the internet and from other students. Whether you choose to get advice from a Elite Medical Prep tutor or not, we hope these 5 high-yield techniques will help you in your USMLE Step 1 preparation.
1. Active review
It’s well-established that doing Q-banks is one of, if not the best methods of USMLE step 1 preparation. There is good evidence that the number of UWorld questions completed correlated strongly with USMLE Step 1 score. However, just doing the questions won’t yield the full benefit of these resources. One great study technique is active review.
Actively reviewing Q-bank questions gives you an opportunity to revisit other educational resources that are also high-yield. For example, let’s say you get a question wrong about beta blockers. When you review this question, you can use the opportunity to revisit the Sketchy Pharm video on beta-blockers, or the First Aid pages on anti-arrhythmatics. This can help you to build a more consolidated knowledge base for any topics you are weak in. It also mixes things up during your Q-bank reviews, and keeps things fun!
2. Simulating the test
Another great way to ensure success on the USMLE steps is to simulate the real test. Many students find that they can answer 40 questions in a row without much problem. However, the real STEP 1 exam consists of 280 questions! Therefore, it can be helpful to start building your question-taking endurance in the weeks preceding your scheduled exam.
There are few ways to do this – either by taking NBME practice tests (which have about 160 questions each), or by taking several UWorld blocks in a row (40 questions each). Incrementally increasing your question-taking endurance can lower your test-day anxiety and help you stay focused for the full duration of the 8-hour exam.
3. Starting early
When thinking about how to study for Step 1, it’s important to remember that it’s a marathon, not a race! With so many resources at your fingertips, and so much information to memorize, it can be difficult to fit everything into just a few weeks.
If you start planning your USMLE Step 1 preparation early, you can get a head start on everything you will be asked to learn for the test. If you have time to start dedicating time for a few weeks or months before your dedicated study period, this can be immensely helpful.
Laying out a strong foundation of knowledge over a period of months can be much more manageable than taking on everything in just a few weeks. For example, if you start your USMLE Step 1 preparation 6 months before your dedicated period, completing an entire round of UWorld can take just 15 questions a day. For many students, this is much more palatable than the long hours of studying required during a few-weeks dedicated period.
If you start early, then you may be less stressed when you do get to your dedicated period, as well. Personally, I had completed one round of UWorld by the time I started my dedicated study period – this really helped me to have a much more pleasant, manageable experience during my few weeks of dedicated USMLE Step 1 preparation.
4. Working together
USMLE Step 1 preparation can be hard. Luckily, if you are taking the test at the same time as other students from your school, then you don’t have to do it alone! Studying with other people can help you to stay motivated. If you study with a group, have them be your ‘accountabilibuddies’, making sure you stay off your phone and Netflix when you should be studying! And then after working hard all day, you and your friends can do something fun in the evening to destress.
Just remember – try not to compare yourself to your friends! Everyone has different goals and schedules while studying for USMLE Steps. Be each other’s support, not each other’s stress!
USMLE Step 1 preparation can be difficult. Most study schedules require students to study for about 6 weeks, for 10-12 hours a day. That’s a long time to focus on one thing! It’s important to take breaks so that you can destress and refocus when you have to get back to studying.
Try to work breaks of different sizes into your week. Throughout the day, you can take small breaks to help you stay refreshed in the 8th or 12th hour of daily studying. This doesn’t have to be fancy—you can listen to a favorite song between UWorld sets, or do some push-ups after an hour of reading First Aid.
Also don’t be afraid to give yourself a day of rest each week. 12 hours of studying, 6 days a week is a lot. You can use the 7th day each week to do something fun, see friends, or take a quick day trip. When you get back to studying the next day, you will find yourself refreshed and ready to take on the weeks’ tasks!