The Worst Mistakes Students Make With First Aid for USMLE Step 1
“First Aid for the USMLE STEP 1” is a critical study resource for students preparing for STEP 1. The book provides a concise, comprehensive review of the test material. It can be incredibly helpful for improving a student’s STEP 1 score. However, many students make these common mistakes with First Aid for STEP 1 that limit how much benefit they get from it:
Mistake 1: Passive reading.
First Aid for STEP 1 is very concise. Because of this, it had to be very densely written, and every word is important. Therefore, simply ‘skimming’, or passively reading the book will ensure that you miss important details.
It’s important to carefully examine each page of the book for the small details that you would miss if you just read quickly. It’s also helpful to make reading First Aid 2019 an active exercise by quizzing yourself or making flashcards to remember difficult details.
It might feel tedious to read such a long book with such detail, but it is definitely worth it.
Mistake 2: Highlighting everything.
On the opposite end of the spectrum of mistakes to make with First Aid USMLE preparation is highlighting everything. With so much detailed information in the First Aid STEP 1 book, it’s easy to feel like you have to highlight or underline everything in the book to mark it as important. However, if everything is important, than nothing is important. If you mark everything, then everything looks the same, and nothing is marked.
The best way to get around this is to only highlight things you didn’t already know, or that you find really tough to remember. It’s true that everything in the USMLE First Aid 2019 book is important, but remember that not everything is important for you to mark right now! Trust that if you read something and recognize it, then you are likely to remember it later. A key skill here is knowing what you already know, which will save you time not just with the First Aid Step 1 book, but with your USMLE STEP 1 preparation in general.
Mistake 3: Trying to learn new material from First Aid.
We just said that everything is important in the First Aid STEP 1 book, but that you shouldn’t feel that you have to mark everything to remember it. This brings us to our third point, which is that that you should already have a good foundation of knowledge by the time you start using the USMLE First Aid book.
It’s true that generally speaking, if it’s included in the First Aid STEP 1 book, it’s fair game for the test, and if it’s not in the book, it probably won’t be tested. But, because there is such a huge breadth of concepts tested on USMLE STEP 1, and First Aid is so concise and densely written, only the most testable facts are included in the book.
These testable facts are high-yield, but are also incredibly hard to interpret without a solid foundation in general concepts of subjects like anatomy, physiology, and pathophysiology. For example, knowing that lymphoid follicles are a hallmark of Hashimoto’s disease will be both meaningless and hard to remember unless you know that lymphoid follicles are a fairly common pathological finding in autoimmune diseases, of which Hashimoto’s is a classic example.
Therefore, it’s usually a good idea to use the First Aid STEP 1 book as a tool to consolidate and review information, rather than to learn it for the first time.
Mistake 4: Only reading it once.
There are almost 1000 pages in the USMLE First Aid 2019 book, and none of these pages are ‘easy reading’. Even with careful reading, prudent highlighting, and a strong foundation of knowledge, it’s almost impossible to retain everything from the First Aid STEP 1 book in a single pass.
Usually a good minimum recommendation is to read through First Aid 2019 alongside your organ-based STEP 1 review, highlight and/or make flashcards for any information you didn’t already know, and then review the highlighted sections / flashcards several times until you feel comfortable with the information.
Another tip: Start early!
The last piece of advice I have regarding using the First Aid STEP 1 book is to start early! I don’t consider not starting early to be a ‘mistake’, since most students don’t start studying until their dedicated study period and they do just fine. However, if you are reading this and have some time before your dedicated study period, then starting to use the First Aid STEP 1 book now can be a game changer.
Personally, I used the First Aid STEP 1 book as a way to consolidate information that I learned in our organ-based curriculum in my preclinical years. That way, I was already familiar with the layout and format of the book by the time I started my dedicated study period. This was incredibly helpful for me, and if you are reading this before your dedicated study period begins, then this might be a good strategy for you as well.
With so many study materials to use, it can be hard to decide how to prepare for STEP 1. At Elite our goal is to help you sort this out so that you can get the STEP 1 score you need to succeed! Contact us here if you need help!