How to Study for USMLE Step 1 During MS2

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How to Study for USMLE Step 1 During 2nd Year of Classes

The foundation for success on USMLE Step 1 begins long before the dedicated study period. Ideally, you want to enter your dedicated study period feeling very familiar with the resources you will be using and also already feel somewhat confident about how to study for USMLE Step 1.

For example, before dedicated study period you should already be somewhat familiar with high-yield resources. As an example, we can take First Aid. Since First Aid is a very detailed and knowledge-packed book, it is extremely helpful to start going through it before dedicated study period. With content intense resources, you want to begin using them during your MS2 year, or, if you are able to, right from the start of medical school. This way you will have plenty of time to pick up as much knowledge as possible and will be able to have a less intense study schedule come your dedicated study period. Other resources that are content heavy and helpful to familiarize yourself with during MS2 include Pathoma and Sketchy Medical.

The good thing is that this should not feel like SO much extra work because luckily, there is a lot of overlap between the required coursework in medical school (especially during MS2) and the topics that are tested on in USMLE Step 1. As such, a good place to start for how to study for USMLE Step 1 is working on integrating your Step 1 studying and your studying for your med school exams.

Ideally, you should supplement whatever topic is being taught in class with the resources you will eventually use during your dedicated study period.

For instance, if you are on the cardiology sequence learning about aortic stenosis, vasculitides, and myocardial infarction, make sure you thoroughly watch all the cardiovascular related Pathoma videos (ex: chapter 7-Vascular Pathology, Chapter 8, Cardiac Pathology). You could also read the “Cardiology” chapter in First Aid and additionally you could watch the cardiology related videos in Sketchy Pharm. 

By learning about cardiology from these “outside” resources during your med school cardiology sequence, you will supplement your medical school curriculum with outstanding resources. This will be advantageous for 2 reasons. The first reason is that you will gain a deeper understanding of cardiac physiology and pathology (which will help you to perform better on the cardiac quiz/exam at the end of the sequence). But perhaps more importantly is that you will become familiar with the content that will be tested on USMLE Step 1. This means that when you go back and revisit these sections in First Aid/Pathoma/Sketchy/etc during your dedicated study period, you will effectively already know how to study for USMLE Step 1 as the content will be familiar.

In general, it would be ideal to go through these resources once during the sequence, annotating them and taking notes as necessary. 

However, you must keep in mind that although there is a great deal of overlap between the topics tested on USMLE Step 1 and your med school exams, the medical school curriculum may have some topics that are not going to be tested on the USMLE Step 1.

This means you cannot only focus on studying for Step 1. Rather, you must make an effort to go through your med school lectures and make sure that you are covering all the topics in the curriculum so that you pass the exams administered by your medical school. Finding a balance between how much time you spend studying for the medical school curriculum vs studying for USMLE Step 1 can be a challenge at first. However, it is definitely a challenge worth undertaking.

To conclude, remember that everyone is different and that the study approach or schedule that worked for one person may not necessarily work for you. It is important to find the right balance early on, so that you can integrate USMLE Step 1 studying as early as you can during MS1/MS2 so that you can set yourself up for success on the Step 1.