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USMLE Step 1 - It is not that hard but not very easy too!

Author: usmle1doc, Posted on Monday, November 20 @ 17:49:10 IST by RxPG  

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USMLE Step 1

It feels great to come back to this forum. It’s really strange that no one has added their exam experiences till date in spite of getting good scores. And I also apologize for the delay in writing my USMLE Step 1 Exam Experience too. I will keep it very short. If there are specific queries I’ll be happy to answer them. I’m afraid I’ll write a long epic due to my habit of writing too much.

I’ve written all my preparation details in USMLE Step 1 Preparation log/diary thread. Preparation time was almost 1.5 months on and off and intensive for 1 month. In my last month of prep (after I stopped writing on prep log thread) I did my usmlerx qbank and score 72% mean score with range of 52% initially to 80% in last days. I also went through few blocks of Kaplan Qbank but did not like that much. I concentrated more on my First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 with lot of additions in it.

Reached Prometric a bit late but that made no difference as the staff and procedure was smooth and people were co operative. I was very anxious till the day of exam (sometimes felt very inadequate in prep) but as soon as I saw the first question, I got relaxed (although I did not know the answer). I skipped the tutorial as it’s the same as in the CD by ECFMG. It fetched me extra 15 minutes break time.

All the blocks were of moderate difficulty and most were step 2 –3 answers (e.g. a question described achondroplasia in stem and asked for reason for this disorder - FGF3 was answer given). Surprisingly I did not get many long questions. Most of them were 4-5 lines long. Lots of pictures and slides and CT/MRI were there. But there should not be anything to worry as I could identify most of the disorders from the stem itself.

Neuro-anatomy was tested heavily in context with pathology/physiology or lesions and I would recommend chapter 1, 2 and 3 from High Yield Neuroanatomy for these questions. There were repetition of concepts in the questions and in many questions they asked the same questions but asked the different ask of the topic. Renal and Endocrines were hot favourite for my exam as I had expected from the experiences of students on other forums. Overall Pathology, Physiology and Pharmacology constituted bulk of my exam. Almost all of the Behavioural science questions were based on ethics chapter and physician patient relationship chapter of Kaplan (First Aid is inadequate for these). High Yield Cell Molecular Biology would be a good investment of time to understand the concepts rapidly in a day or so as it was tested too (mostly lab techniques).

For rest all I found First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 adequate to answer most of the questions. There were questions which I thought were from other universe but they were hardly 5-6 in each block and I marked anything I wanted considering them to be the dummy questions but there is no way to find if they were real questions.

I had to take a break after every block and I was patting my back for skipping the tutorial and adding 15 minutes for some large break for meals. Unfortunately, every break consumed 8-9 min (yes no matter even if you don’t do anything special during that time). It really takes time to check out, sign the paper, visit washroom, drink water, eat a chocolate very fast, come back, sign paper again, and go to the seat, ENTER THE LOOONG PASSWORD ON THE ORANGE CARD. In 6 breaks all my break time was utilized and I never got time to have a lavish 15 min break. So know this very well while planning your breaks.

Suggestions I would firmly make (although I haven’t got my score)

Guys you need only 3 books to do really well on this exam
1. First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 (recent 2006 edition) - bible for step1 prep
2. BRS Pathology
3. BRS Physiology

Also skim through first 3 chapters of High Yield Neuroanatomy, tables of ethics and physician patient relationships from Kaplan, High Yield Cell Molecular Biology.

I could answer most of the questions from first aid and almost ALL GRAPHS were from First Aid.

Know well renal system physiology and endocrines.

Do questions, questions and questions. Although I did not practice questions much I’d have done it if given some more time. I didn't find usmlerx / Kaplan similar to the real exam but they were good to get some orientation. Especially Kaplan is hopeless in questions but good in few explanations (I dint do much of it though). I did not do NBME forms but heard that these are very close to the real exam. I have no experience with UW for step1.

Take break after every block. If you take break during block its irregular behaviour (even if you only visit washroom). Take some quick food with you, preferably energy drink and chocolates for high carbohydrate diet. Be calm and don’t mark too many questions as you hardly get time to review them. If you don’t know the answer to few questions, its fine, mark something and go ahead.

This is it for now… it is not that hard but not very easy too. It all depends on your performance on the big day and presence of mind. They never test very eccentric fundas so always try to focus on answers that are commonly tested.

I hope this will help at least few of you for planning your study and exam. I will post again if I remember anything significant which I did not mention in this post.

All the best!

Note: Originally posted by usmle1doc at http://www.rxpgonline.com/threads28408.html . If you found this exam experience helpful, then please keep the RxPG community spirit alive by contributing your exam experience in USMLE Step 1 forum as well.

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