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Step 1 Studying Tips

Step 1 Studying Tips

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Published by: Donny Dietz on Apr 11, 2012
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Here’s some advice ‐ and the (in)famous Penn Method (!

) ‐ to help guide you as you prepare for Step 1. The following is NOT a strict plan; some of the suggestions may or may not jive with your study habits, so don’t feel as though you need to stick to everything that we advise. It is really about figuring out what works for you. First, decide when you want to take the boards ‐ and then make a study schedule leading up to that point. It’s best to write down exactly what you plan to accomplish each day to keep you on task. People generally study for anywhere from 4.5‐6 weeks (though some take the test in as little as 3.5 weeks; others in > 8 weeks). You’ll start to get antsy around weeks 4‐5, so in our experience it’s probably best not to prolong the inevitable. Many people found it helpful to schedule 5 (or 6 days, max) per week for studying, utilizing the remainder of the week for catch‐up, review, questions, or for fun. Yes, fun! A lot of people, at least for the first couple of weeks, worked from sun‐up to sun‐down, and then used the remainder of the night to go out, let loose, relax. Overall, there are two main ways to structure your study time each day. Some decide the number of hours they plan to study each day and then stop when the clock strikes whenever. Others decide how many pages of a particular subject they want to cover that day and stop after reaching their goal. If you get behind (which will inevitably happen), you can make up the pages another day. So fret not. The following cannot be stressed enough: give yourself time to enjoy your life. Brief, short breaks throughout the day (lunch, working‐out, etc.) and some “chill time” each evening can make your study time much more pleasant and productive. You should also schedule in break days. Yes, days devoted to NOTHING. Complete vegetation. Also remember that there will be times when you will feel overwhelmed and frustrated – this is NORMAL. Give yourself the freedom to have “bad days” and to take a break during the tough moments. (But, honestly, it ain’t all bad.)

Without any further ado, we present The Method: • Suggested Books: • A caveat: Remember, these are just suggestions. You may find it helpful to look at the recommendations in the back of First Aid for the Boards, find the highest rated books for each particular subject area, and flip through the books in a bookstore to see which best fit for your learning style. Book sources: We suggest getting used copies of most of the below b/c costs accumulate quickly; online book depots usually have great, cheap finds, as do your upper classmen. Dolby’s, of course, has everything...for a price. If you are going to buy your books from a retail store, it might be worth your while to check out Jefferson’s Bookstore as medical students get a 10% discount on books purchased there.

First-Aid for the Boards - USMLE part 1: the bible for most. If you memorize (or really know) this book, you will do VERY well on the Boards. This cannot be stressed enough. At the end of the day, the other books are SUPPLEMENTAL – this book is MANDATORY. Most people use this as their primary book and annotate it with information from the supplemental books and question

but questions are an obvious must‐have and integral to your studying experience. It keeps your eye on the big • represents the USMLE's scope and breadth very well. While you get a lot of questions. and are supposed to give you a good representation of how you would score on the actual test day.  Lippincott’s Biochemistry* or BRS Biochemistry or High Yield Biochemistry  Lippincott’s Pharmacology* or Lange: Pharmacology**  Microbiology Made Ridiculously Simple  High Yield Immunology or Microbiology and Immunology (by Lange ‐ orange and dark grey book. you will not have time to read every word.nbme. look at their websites. you will have to skim some sections. and picture. question sources can be the most expensive part of the process. It's best to google the options below. etc. • NBME examinations: There are 4‐5 examinations that can be purchased for 45$ each at https://apps. USMLE World. Some people share resources. As the test date draws nearer. of these.sources as they study. • Question Sources: Unfortunately. as these books are very long. if you know the minutia. all with online memberships: • Kaplan Q-Bank: For many years was the database of choice. Immunology Section only)  BRS Pathology  BRS Physiology  High Yield Anatomy  High Yield Embryology or BRS Embryology  High Yield Neuroanatomy or Clinical Neuroanatomy Made Ridiculously Simple  High Yield Behavioral Sciences  High Yield Histology or High Yield Histopathology * If you choose to read Lippincott’s Biochemistry or Pharmacology. They mimic the actual online format of the examination. but focus on the big picture! If you are the type of person who has to read every word. sometimes people felt they were too minutia‐driven and not actually representative of the actual examination. Primary Question Sources. or at least most. it's not uncommon to sign up for another question source (for additional practice or peace of mind). Still. . what services they include ‐ figure out how much you're willing to spend ‐ and go for one question database at a time. but people say that they contain all the info needed for Pharm on the Boards. but they usually make you feel pretty good about yourself after you see how (comparatively) easy the question types are compared to Kaplan. but again. these examinations don't come with answer keys.org/nsasweb/servlet/mesa_main. They give you more detail than First‐Aid and most are thin enough that they can be read in a day or two. the basic concepts will be a breeze. Don’t worry about not reading every sentence carefully. These are less detailed. ** Some people choose to study only using Pharm Cards. The clinical correlations in these books are excellent. Unfortunately. except for the actual Step 1 examination. then you might want to choose a different book. Supplemental Books: Most people choose to purchase all.

This means that during the “background reading” portion of your studying. however. while others start with their “worst” subjects in order to get them over with and have more time to process the material. Study Schedule: Most schedule the below within 26‐34 days. some students start with their “favorite” subjects in order to start with a positive attitude. taking notes in the margins of First‐Aid. Most questions relate to a clinical scenario. are emphasized on the Boards. Many students use this question source now. • Subject Study Schedule (suggested):  3‐4 days: First‐Aid for the Boards  4‐5 days: Biochemistry + 50 biochem questions per night • Note: BASIC concepts. but it should NOT be a review of your 3-month anatomy course. etc. & scenarios in First-Aid. Don't get caught up with trying to memorize every detail. But. which is helpful. If you were a biochem major and know it well. so they skip this initial read.  USMLE World: Has grown in popularity in the last few years. A lot of Penn students recommend it either instead of. These days should be approximately 8‐10 hours of studying/day. including 2 full‐length examinations). These days are meant to get your familiar with the material – for you to see all the material once and to distill out the most testable points for further study (see "Review" section below). these are just suggestions. including Appleton & Lange's USMLE Step 1 (1200 questions + answers. don't get bogged down by books. This note‐taking is important ‐ it helps to remind you of concepts. People then tackle the individual subject areas. connects the dots in First‐Aid and keeps you actively engaged in the studying process. or in addition to. depending on how many days you spend on each subject. Again. you will likely read First‐Aid twice. and write to the test. Most feel the level of difficulty and actual format is the best representation of the actual USMLE examination. Of note.• USMLE Rx: A newer question database.  1 day: Neuroanatomy + 50 neuroanatomy questions  3 days: Physiology + 50 physiology questions/night  4‐6 days: Pharmacology + 50 pharmacology questions/night  3‐4 days: Pathology + 50 pathology questions/night  1 day: Histology + 50 histology questions  1 day: Behavioral Sciences + 50 behavioral sciences questions o • 0  • Breaking down the overall schedule: Typically. It's up to you. you might only want to spend 2 days studying that subject. 3‐4 days: Microbiology (Micro Made Ridic Simple) + 50 microbio questions/night  1‐2 days: Immunology (Lange's book) + 50 imuno questions  1 day: Embryology + 50 embryology questions  1-2 days: Anatomy + 50 anatomy questions  This topic can seem somewhat overwhelming. Questions are written by medical students (including Penn Med students) who have been through the USMLE. Pathology/Pathophys is basically what you’ve been doing during your year of clinics – so most people leave these subjects until the end . For the individual subject areas. Kaplan. Backup Question Sources: There are tons of perfectly legitimate book options. students start with a cursory read of “First‐Aid for the Boards” (which usually takes 3‐4 days). find First‐Aid to be vague and difficult to read without background material/details. Some people. this service has grown in popularity in the last couple of years. and you can study the subjects in any order you see fit. most people enjoy the freedom of the online question banks b/c you can google something you don't understand.

the day before the Boards is a time to (briefly) review all of the marked 'high‐yield' or 'unfamiliar' pages in First Aid. except for the day before the boards (this should be a much lighter day). You can also catch up on any reviewing that you did not get to. and exercise during this time. This is a very viable option. it is generally advised that you do NOT study for 12‐14 hours the day before the Boards.  Don’t worry about getting all of the Q‐bank questions right. try and relax for AT LEAST 1‐2 hours per night (i.  Schedule your test early so you get your preferred location. make sure you sleep. many others utilize Kaplan materials instead of the Penn Method or in conjunction with the Penn Method. try to DO at least 50 PRACTICE QUESTIONS on the topic (i. leave the library).b/c they’re mostly review. you know what works for you. DO AS MANY QUESTIONS AS YOU CAN (50‐150 if possible) pertaining to the topics you reviewed. generally comfortable and a pretty low‐stress experience.  The Day before: We have all taken a billion standardized exams. THERE IS NO RIGHT/WRONG WAY TO DO THIS! Most importantly. keeping in mind that it's best to leave some questions for the Review Period. If you are interested. Some students choose to take notes on the questions that they get wrong in order to process/remember this material. Given the amount of questions in your purchased "bank" you might want to do more or less. marking pages that were particularly unfamiliar or particularly high yield and reviewing only their marked pages a second time. Some people recommend not doing any questions the day before so that you do not “psyche yourself out” but others found it helpful to do some questions the day before the exam.e hang with significant other. Alternatives / Complements to the Penn Method: While many people find “The Penn Method” to be a helpful guide. Some people found it helpful to review First‐Aid and their notes twice during this time. • Breaking down the daily schedule: After you finish your reading for the day. You should still take a bit of time each day to relax. it is important to maintain your composure and constantly remind yourself that you are doing the best you can (and to also remind yourself that Penn students rock this exam). The goal is to go over the bulk of the material you have studied by REVIEWING YOUR NOW‐ANNOTATED COPY OF FIRST‐AID. At the end of each day. here is some advice that members of the Class of 2007 had to pass along: • Using Kaplan Materials INSTEAD OF the Penn Method: . For most. The USMLE is tests information. 1 • 2 General tips:  It’s really important to do questions everyday so that you don’t wind up having to do 300+ questions per day in the week leading up to the exam.e Biochemistry) that you read about that day and read ALL the explanations for each question on the Kaplan Website or at the back of the Book. Most importantly. watch movies. Philadelphia's test site is on Walnut Street. while others found it helpful to review the entire book and their notes once. Your brain needs time to chill and process the massive amount of info that you are putting in there! • The Review (Last 5-10 days): The last 5-10 days are the most important study days. eat. you will probably get an excellent score on Step 1. If you’re getting 65‐ 75% correct BY THE END of YOUR STUDY TIME. These days are approximately 12 hours of studying/day. but it also tests stamina ‐ it's long ‐ so just make sure you get a good night's sleep and are ready to rumble. Regardless.

Then.Class of 2009 . You are Penn. 5‐6 weeks tended to be the recommended amount of time to get through the material. so don’t constantly compare yourself to your classmates (and don’t let them stress you out). they reviewed their notes and did more questions. Just remember. for the last 5‐10 days. We are Medicine. We hope these options help you as you prepare for Step 1. No particular set of materials will guarantee you a certain score. They also did questions on a daily basis (Q bank was the question source of choice) 5. but compared the Kaplan materials to the Penn Method materials for individual sections and chose one or the other for each section (and some used the left‐over resource for additional reference if needed). You will do great! (Honestly!) Best of luck! .1. The note‐taking / question answering / reviewing recommendations listed above were also followed. Some students followed the timeline of the Method. Most people decided on their number of study days and divided the series into sections based on number of pages or on the number of study days recommended by the Penn Method for that particular topic 3. 2. YOU HAVE TO FIND A SCHEDULE AND RESOURCES THAT WORK FOR YOU. THERE IS NO “CORRECT WAY” TO PREPARE. 4. As people read. 2. they took notes either in the Kaplan books or in First‐Aid. • Using Kaplan Materials IN CONJUNCTION WITH the Penn Method: 1.

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