Finding Success on Step 1 With: Rafael P.

We have always believed that the best way to be successful, is to follow the example of successful people. So, without further ado, here are some words of wisdom from Rafael P. to help you slay the beast that is Step 1:

What is your name?

Rafael P.

Where are you from?

Born in Cuba and grew up in Las Vegas, Nevada

What school do you go to?

University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine 

What residency are you planning on going into?

Radiology, ENT, Plastics

What score did you get on Step 1?


When did you start to get serious about Step 1 preparation?

I started getting serious about my Step 1 preparation around April of my second year of medical school.

How did you juggle coursework with Step 1 studying?

I tried to come up with an organized schedule, but I was aware that I needed to be flexible in order to accommodate my schoolwork and give myself enough time to rest and relaxation so I didn’t burn out.

What challenges did you experience during your Step 1 preparation?

Generally, I struggled with physiology as a topic, but I also struggled combining physiology with pathology and understanding how they related to each other. Finally, it took me a long time to figure out a study schedule that worked for me to incorporate all of the topics that I needed to cover.

What study resources did you use throughout your coursework?

I used Physeo, Sketchy, UWorld, and Pathoma.

What study resources did you use throughout your dedicated study period?

I used Physeo, Sketchy, UWorld, and Pathoma, along with First Aid and a private tutor.

How did you utilize each resource during your dedicated study period?

I used my private tutor to help me make a schedule and I gave myself anywhere from a week to a week and a half to cover one organ system. After a week, I would go back and review what I had covered the previous week to ensure I remembered the information that I was studying. I used Sketchy most when covering Pharm and Micro. 

Which resources were most helpful?

The private tutor, First Aid, UWorld, and Physeo, because Physeo addressed my weakest topic.

Which resources did you spend the most time using?

First Aid and UWorld.

How did Physeo contribute to your study routine and/or success?

Physeo really helped fill in the gaps that were left by my First Aid review and UWorld questions. It helped me tie in the relationship between pathology and physiology. 

How long was your dedicated study period?

My dedicated study period was 8 weeks long. 

What was your routine like during your dedicated study period?

I would start by doing Pharm flash cards in the morning, then I would review randomized UWorld questions, and finish by using the study resources I listed above to go over any material where I had knowledge gaps.

What time did you wake up during your dedicated study period?

I woke up between 6 and 7am. 

What time did you go to sleep during your dedicated study period?

I usually went to sleep between 10 and 11pm.

How many hours per day did you study during your dedicated study period?

I studied around 8-10 hours a day. 

How many days per week did you study during your dedicated study period?

 I studied 6, sometimes 7, days a week.

Did you take breaks during the day for your study period? If so, what did these look like?

Most of the time my breaks would occur when I felt my mind wandering. Once I got to a point where I felt I was no longer effectively studying, I would give myself a break in order to recharge and refocus. My breaks typically consisted of watching an episode or two of Netflix or going for a walk.

If you could go back, what would you do differently?

I would definitely have a schedule where I knew exactly when I would be done covering the material and not incorporate too many resources.

What advice would you give a new med student about preparing for Step 1?

I would tell him or her that while in school, focus on truly understanding the concepts in order to solidify the information in his or her memory. This helps with long term learning and it will likely make the Step 1 reviewing go much quicker.


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