Helllllloooooooo… I know it’s been a while. I checked in after Step 1 and very quickly checked out haha. There was much sleep needed and my body gave me no choice in the matter. Then all of a sudden it was time to move and prepare for orientation, and before you know I’m a week into my first clinical roation (psych).
Well, guess what?: I did it! I passed Step One!!!! I wanted to wait and see before I gave any study "advice" lol cause of... well, the obvious reasons. But I did it, by the grace of God! Third year is happening!
So, why don’t I do us all a favor & back things up a bit.
Let’s talk about preparing for Step. My do’s and don’ts and what worked versus what flopped (again for me).
I’ll start from the very beginning… Something I planned to do but didn’t quite do was have a solid plan going into second year. I had plans I was mulling over and telling myself like what I would go over on Christmas break, etc etc… BUT the more detailed and solid your plan going into the fall semester the more likely it is to happen, the more confident you’ll be in your study progression, and the less stressed you’ll be about the small stuff.
Now, that being said… whenever you start dedicating significant time to Step preparation have a plan and start when you said you were going to. Follow through is crucial. No time should be wasted. Put it on your phone, your ipad, listen to videos in the car, whatever means you have… use them. Scheduling is obviously at the heart of any study plan.. All I can say is know yourself, and be HONEST with yourself. If you have the discipline to write out your own schedule and plan on a calendar and follow it, DO IT! If you don’t then use the apps or sites people recommend (Cramfighter? ect). Personally, the mandated schedules of the sites make me feel too monitored and should I miss something or not finish a day’s assigned tasks then I’m left feeling stressed/behind. I made my schedule, every day, detailed with desired content and practice in an order that made sense to me.
What I used: For content, I used my class notes for certain topics ( the more extensive subjects usually and my drawings for anatomic review). Sketchy was used heavily… HEAVILY! Now I started out only using it for pharmacology and micro review, but later in dedicated used some of the pathology videos to solidify the concepts I was having more trouble with. Pathoma… maaaaan, PATH-O-MA was a LIT’RAL bae. Use it during the year, using it overbreak, use it for Step, just USE IT. USE IT UP! Pathoma was not only a great resource for content review for me, but it also served as an exhibit of my study progression. It shows every pass of the material I made leading up to my exam date. Physeo was a great tool as well. I purchased it in the fall semester for anatomic review mostly, but it ended up being the perfect source for biochemistry and genetics review during dedicated study. I highly recommend it for Step prep and also for first year and second year courses. I know what you’re thinking… “where is First Aid?” Well, I will now mention the minor resources used for content review… yes minor. I did not as many students live by First Aid. It was not my bae or my bible. I just never really cared for it as a main source. So I used it as a closing in source. It was lightly used during the year but I read through the chapters of topics that I consistently missed questions on after I was well into my studies. And not just over what I missed, I read the entire chapter of whatever topic that question belonged to. That is how First Aid served me best.
For practice questions, I used UWorld first and foremost obvi, supplemented with firecracker rotation/step questions, and practice exams from AAMC, UWorld, Firecracker, and those provided by my institution. So a lot of questions… And you could be doing questions from textbooks like PreTest or something too I suppose, but my plate was beyond full with those and I felt good about that.
One source you could be using throughout the year, before and during dedicated study are forums. I was sleeping on this because I’m not tech savvy and never know of these things. I have no shame. But omg find Step forums and look through them for nuggets of wisdom and advice and general help understanding questions/content.
Dedicated: Once the semester/second year was officially over, my study plan was in full effect. So my days looked very different. Now make no mistake when I mentioned having solid plan heading into the school year that was not just regarding dedicated. Have a plan for how you want to accomplish step studying alongside your curriculum or if you want to do that at all. Not everyone does. Again, KNOW YOURSELF! Plenty of people focus on the curriculum and really learn the material in class so that there is less pressure on review of that material during dedicated. At the same time, many students carve time out during school to go back over content from first year steadily throughout the school year. It is up to you. Do what you feel comfortable doing (and can actually do), and don’t be swayed by the buzz and big talk of your peers. (Cause there will be buzz, and it won’t be dull honey).
I did some Step specific and intensive study at various points during the school year, but I based it on what course I was in. By that I mean, if I was in a block that I felt confident in that material, I used more time to g over other content for Step. If I was struggling or uncertain with the block material, then I did “Step studying” on the same material and did Uworld/firecracker etc for that course.
Anywho, back to dedicated. So clearly different as this was an all day everyday Step Prep schedule. So first things first, I outlined my problem areas which practice tests will put you on to. Started there, and gave each topic the number of days I felt correlated to the difficult for me. But I was covering at LEAST 2 topics a day and at LEAST 3 a week. In a day, I was doing content review in the mornings and practice questions in the afternoon. Practice question sets were done for whatever content was covered that morning, and the day before for reinforcement. As far as hours, I had intensive days and then workdays. [Intensive= 12 hrs+; workdays=8 hrs]. I used intensive days for the first several weeks when going over more problem areas, and subjects that required more repetition on my part. I threw in workdays when covering easier topics but added them later in dedicated a couple at a time until I was a 2-3 weeks out. Practice tests were taken weekly for the most part. A couple weeks between some at the beginning.
Last week I kept regular “work” study hours, took a practice exam three days out from the exam, reviewed that two days out, studied very lightly the day before in the morning and spent the rest of that day doing relaxing me things, and went to bed early. Funny enough I had a sleep plan for the night before I made back when I made my study plan. It’s always hard to go to sleep before big exams, so I looked for a sleep lotion/spray set I got at a hotel once and used that before bed to help lull me so I didn’t just lay there for two hours lol. I wanted all my sleep haha.
Then it happened, and seven or more hours later it was over.
So that is a rough run through of my Step experience. I do want to mention really quickly also… That time required the most discipline of me to date... I can only speak for me, but when I am expected to practice discipline in one aspect of life, it’s best or easiest (for me) if I just do it across the board. So Step prep was a strict life diet… no boys, no booze, no bingy food… all books (and cooked meals, family/friend time, pet time, gym time, and moving). So maybe consider doing something like that unless that’s already your life then cool cool cool.
But again, do YOU! That is probably the most important thing anyone can tell you, not their schedule or their advice or preferred sources… Again KNOW YOU, DO YOU. One more time fort he people in the back: KNOW! YOU-! DO! YOU!
Hoping this helps or at least sheds some light on the experience. Feel free to reach out with any specific questions or thoughts on details not mentioned! In the meantime, stay tuned for moments and stories from clinicals! Third year is underway!
The Third Voice