Step 1 is a monster. There’s nothing like it. It could easily be said that no test requires more study, has more influence, demands more hours of preparation or creates more anxiety. That being the case, there is great deal of information dedicated to helping medical students learn what they need to in order to do well on it.
With all the information that’s out there and available, however, it can be difficult to determine what’s valuable, and how to apply it to yourself and your own studies in order to be effective. Bearing that in mind, we thought that it would be a good idea to talk to students who have done exceptionally well on Step 1 and simply ask them how they did it. What better source of information could there be on Step 1 and how to succeed than those who have actually done it? Seems legit, right? We think so. This series in our blog, Crush Step 1 With:, highlights students from all over who have achieved higher than a 245 on Step 1, and helps break down how they were able to do it. Straight from the horse’s mouth, as they say. The reality is that there is no magic bullet for Step 1, but through this series we hope to help you find something that works for you. Enjoy!
What school did you go to?
I just finished fouth-year at the University of Utah.
What residency are you planning on going into?
I matched into ophthalmology, so I’m pretty excited about that!
When did you start to get serious about Step 1 preparation?
On my first day of medical school, I met a fourth-year student who really knocked Step 1 out of the park, so I spent a lot of time talking with him and getting his advice and I essentially followed his path exactly and it worked out perfectly for me. I started studying for Step 1 after my first semester, but at that point, it wasn’t anything intense. I had simply started to look at how I wanted to study, what materials I wanted to look at and doing a little bit of studying in First Aid. It got to a point that I was studying for each unit as if I was going to be taking that portion of Step 1 at the end of it, which really helped me to get a grasp on the concepts as I went along. Before my first year was even over, I knew a significant portion of First Aid and had done a fair amount of the Rx questions associated with each unit. I felt like getting started early on allowed me to develop a solid grasp on what I needed to know by the time I actually took Step 1. It also allowed me to really retain and learn the information, which ultimately helped me a lot on my Shelf exams later on.
How did you juggle coursework with Step 1 studying?
It was hard, and at times I honestly had to sacrifice my coursework a little bit for Step 1. There were times when my Step 1 studying coincided with what we were going over in class and that was really nice and it made things a little bit easier, but I normally gave priority to Step 1. Ultimately, I feel like the way I did things was worth it.
How did you do in your coursework?
During my first two years, I never did exceptionally well in my coursework. Because I was prioritizing Step 1, I hovered between the top 40-25% of my class, but preparing for Step 1 the way that I did and ultimately getting the score that I did, helped me a great deal in my clerkships and in getting the residency that I wanted. Not to mention, I ended up where I wanted to be in my school ranking by the end of third year and I was able to get the residency that I wanted.
What resources did you use for your Step 1 prep?
I focused heavily on UWorld, Pathoma and First Aid. As I was approaching Step 1, I noticed that I was having a hard time memorizing the drugs for pharmacology, so during my dedicated study period I purchased Picmonic to help fill in those gaps. I personally never used a flashcard system, but I know that they can be extremely effective and lots of my classmates did use flashcards for different things.
What advice would you personally give to a student starting medical school about preparing for Step 1?
In a nutshell, start studying early on. This played a big role in my success and it removed a lot of the pain and anxiety from my Step 1 studying.
Enjoy your summer, but pick one section from First Aid, along with the coinciding Rx questions and commit to knowing that section extremely well by the end of it. I personally picked GI, which was completely random, but I knew it stone cold by the time second year started.
I would recommend doing the same thing as you are going through your organ systems during second year, but start replacing Rx wth UWorld around October. Rx questions help to create a solid foundation and they’re a great stepping stone to UWorld, but UWorld is far more representative of what you are going to see on Ste1, so that transition will be important.
Balancing coursework with Step 1 studying is tough, but it’s worth it.
Find resources that work for you and stick with them. Take careful notes while you use those resources so that you don’t need to go back and watch/read them a dozen times. Start them early!
At the end of the day, you need to take whatever time is necessary to determine what is going to work for you, and then stick to it no matter what. I knew before I started my for Step 1 prep that what I was doing was going to work for me. If you take the time to determine what works for you and then apply it, you are going to be successful. That being said, there is ultimately no substitute for time and review.
What are you watching on Netflix?
A lot of things! Mostly Blacklist. I was trapped in an airport on a layover for sixteen hours after an interview, so I blazed through a pretty good chunk of it there! Person of interest is also a current favorite.
What is your favorite restaurant?
Cheesecake Factory. Hands down, Cheesecake Factory.
If you hadn’t gone into medicine, what would you have done?
I would probably have been an artist or done something with art. My dad was an artist and I love it. Even now, I spend a significant amount of my free time drawing. My undergrad was in Chemical Engineering, which I really enjoyed studying, but I don’t think that I would have liked to actually be a chemical engineer.
Thanks for taking the time to share this information with us, Tyler! Good luck moving forward!