A week from today I’ll start my official study period for USMLE Step One.
Check out this post if you’re unfamiliar with medical education. USMLE stands for United States Medical Licensing Exam and has three parts, the first of which is usually taken after the second year of medical school.
Most medical schools give students some time off to prepare for the test, and SLU is very generous in giving us 8 weeks. Some people use all of it, some people take it mid-way through and use the rest for vacation. I’ll be using about 6.5 weeks and then spending the last week with my family in Hilton Head. When the 8 weeks is up we have clerkship orientation and then we start our third year rotations.
The major studying will be in these coming 6.5 weeks, though I’ve been doing prep work and review for the past few months. I have a fairly detailed schedule planned out, but know that things will change a little as I fall into a rhythm and see how long things really take me. I can share more specific details of what I did once I’m finished (Oh, how good that will feel!) For now I’ll just share an overview.
Step One Study Resources
I have the standard resources that nearly every medical student uses:
- UWorld question bank. I’ve been using mostly a Kaplan question bank until this point, but will get through all of UWorld during my designated study period and pay very close attention to the answer explanations.
- First Aid – I’ve been using this all along to supplement my class studying.
- Pathoma – These videos have been so helpful with my classes as well, but will likely rewatch all the videos a few times as I restudy each topic.
- Sketchy Medical – I love these videos to study micro and pharm, but I especially love reviewing them with an Anki flashcard deck. I have some micro and pharm flashcards as well that I’ll likely flip through at night or during breaks.
I’m also using Doctor’s in Training. I’ve heard so many mixed reviews on this resource, but I think it just comes down to everyone studying differently. I like having things explained to me vs. just reading First Aid, plus I like having a laid out structure. So my main work each day will be UWorld blocks and DIT videos, supplemented with Pathoma, First Aid, and Sketchy.
I plan to take at least four practice tests in the 6.5 weeks. Most of them will just be four hours, but I’m considering doing two back to back to simulate a full eight hour exam.
Productivity & Focus Resources
Being able to concentrate for 8 hours straight will certainly be one of the biggest challenges for me. I’ve become so guilty of losing focus quickly and turning to my phone or websites – I blame 6.5 years of blogging for that. I am considering just turning my phone off during the day completely, but if not I will likely use the Forest App to keep me off of it.
I’ve tried out the Self Control App on my computer too, which lets me block certain websites for periods of time. I’ll definitely be using that.
As for music, I really like the FOCUS section of Spotify. I can’t listen to music I know while I study – too distracting!
Right now my plan is studying Monday through Saturday, and taking Sunday off for relaxation / errands / cooking / any catch up that’s needed. I have a few breaks scheduled into the day and a workout, but other than that the days are mostly studying. I’ll see if that works out, or if I’d rather have less breaks and finish up earlier each day. I plan to do most of my studying in the library at school, although studying at home might actually be possible with the dogs gone (they are going to their grandparents’ so their moms can focus on studying, and I will miss them so much!)
SLU really emphasizes that stress management is a big part of success on Step One. They encourage us to take breaks, give ourselves a day off, fit in exercise, and find time to socialize. I love that!!
As I’ve mentioned, I’ve already planned in a day off, daily exercise, and breaks. I’m planning on doing daily meditations (sadly the new meditation room at school won’t be finished until after I take the test!), doing a little yoga during study breaks, and have started a morning gratitude journal. I also have some new books that I’m hoping to read at night to give myself a break from screen time.
As for as socializing, there is a group of us that have planned some Saturday night non-drinking activities like Escape The Room. I actually have a fair amount of friend/family events going on that I’ve had to decide on, which is hard! I’m skipping a bachelorette party in New Orleans, but am going to a few bridal showers and a wedding. I haven’t decided what I’m going to do about all the St. Patrick’s Day activities yet (that’s a huge weekend for my family!) – I will have to see how studying is going and how much time I think I can afford to take off.
So that’s the plan! I’d love to hear any tips you all have — wish me luck!