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  #1  
Old 01-21-2016
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Default Step 1 experience: Road to 263

I am an IMG from India currently in my final year which is internship. I took 9 months off to study for Step 1.
This forum helped me a lot. It helped clear doubts in concepts, learn new things and also kept me motivated. During my prep, there were days when I did a lot of reading and there were many when I only watched TV shows all day because I just didnít feel like studying. Reading the experiences of others helped and encouraged me to keep going. Hence I decided to write about my experience and I hope it helps someone.
The 2 most important words regarding step 1 prep are motivation and repetition. It a long journey so you need the social and emotional support to keep going. And keep revising. This was harder than I expected. The first time you read something its all new and interesting. The second time you feel like you know it and tend to skip certain lines. But resist that temptation and read every single word again.
I tried to be elaborate regarding study methods because it is something which takes a while to figure out and I think is important. Because USMLE is an exam and like all exams, there are easy ways around it.
Materials used:
1. Kaplan 2010 videos and lecture notes
2. Pathoma
3. USMLEWorld and UWSA
4. First Aid 2015
5. NBME 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, 17
I started my prep in April 2015. I did it subject-wise. Took around 2 weeks for each subject. Studied for around 8-10 hours a day and took a day or 2 off every week. I needed that weekly break which I spent with friends and family to function well the rest of the week. But it depends on each person. If you think you can manage reading daily, then thatís great. For each topic I first watched the video and then read the topic. I made sure I understood the concept well. I didnít try to memorize anything because I knew I wouldnít be able to retain it for months and it would just be a waste of time so early in the prep. Besides Kaplan has a lot of unnecessary stuff and I would end up memorizing useless facts.
I did most of Kaplan except pathology and microbiology. I did do the immunology part. For pathology I did Pathoma which is more than enough. And for micro I only read FA (which was much later in my prep- in Nov) which is more than enough because there are no concepts to understand in it, more of plain memorization.
The one mistake I did during my prep was do FA and some offline UW questions for biochem and pharm after finishing Kaplan for each subject respectively. This was in May. By the time I started UW which was in Aug I had forgotten most of it and realized I wasted a whole month on nothing.
So until now I basically covered everything as fast as I could and just learnt concepts. I could hardly remember anything at the end of it but it was hidden somewhere deep within my brain. So donít worry if you canít remember much.
I was done with this on August 20th and then started Uworld. Took a 6-month subscription. I did only a block of questions (44) a day and subject-wise. So what I did was, created a test of 1 block, answered all 44 and then read the explanations for each question. I took around 15-20 minutes per question. This was because I read the whole explanation, then read the same topic in FA. For example, if the question was on a microscopic picture of papillary carcinoma of thyroid, I read the whole page on thyroid cancer in FA (not just papillary cancer). And if I had any doubts, I googled it. If there was an important point on UW which wasnít in FA, I annotated it into FA. But I made sure I kept it to a minimum. So by the time I was done with each question, I was totally clear on the concept.
Also try to figure out why the other options are incorrect and what change in the question would make that the right answer. As you finish more questions, you begin to see a pattern. This helped me a lot in questions which I wasnít sure of the answer. I could eliminate options since I knew the question wasnít right for that option to be the correct answer. I hope this makes sense.
Whenever I found another question with the same concept, I read the topic in FA again. This way I ended up reading the same thing over and over again which I should say is the most important thing in your prep.
I think this is the ideal time to start memorizing certain things like syndromes because remembering it for 2-3 months isnít that hard. It will also give you enough opportunities to go over then again and again.
I was done with my first read of UW on November 12th with an overall % of 78. Yes, I took 3 months. That was because I didnít read on weekends, did only 30 questions on some days, spent a week on visa work and just didnít feel like reading some days. But somehow I made it and made sure I didnít hurry just because I was behind schedule. Never compromise on quality.
Next I read FA for the next 20 days. This was the first time reading it from cover to cover. It went well because I had read most it with UW and also did many topics multiple times because the concepts were repeated in the questions. This was when I memorized plain facts which I didnít come across when doing UW. They say USMLE is just concepts, but honestly, there is a lot to memorize as well. You have to find your own way to memorize, like making weird associations or pneumonics. The ones suggested in FA are extremely helpful especially for psych. Legionnaireís was my favorite one in FA.
On Dec 3rd I gave my first NBME which was form 11 and scored 560 which correlates to 241.
This is when I knew I was on the right track. At various points in my prep I wasnít sure if I was following the right method for me because I read so many posts on the forum and there were people suggesting multiple qbanks, other sources like DIT, other books like BRS and what not. But early in my prep, one of my closest friends, who also got a great score told me to stick to just the basic sources and I did just that. Also, I planned to take the exam in the first week of Dec, but was advised to postpone it, which again paid off.
So yea back to Dec 3rd. After giving the NBME, I went over the answers. I made sure I learnt from these questions too, just like UW.
Next day I started doing UW the second time. This time I did it on random mode. Since the questions are all mixed it gave a feel of the real exam. By this time, I booked my exam for Dec 28th. So I had just 25 days to do UW the second time, FA and NBMEs and I had to hurry up.
I did 4 blocks of UW a day this time around and read only the main explanation and the learning objective for each question. I skipped the explanation for the wrong options. For some of the questions I only read the learning objective for lack of time.
I did UW till Dec 15th and then stopped. I finished around 60% the second round. Then read FA for the next 3 days. By this time my FA was completely annotated with everything needed for the exam. From Dec 17th onwards I gave NBMEs back to back for the next few days. Reviewed answers after each exam.
Dec 17th: NBME 13: 260
Dec 18th: NBME 17: 249
Dec 19th: NBME 15: 260
Dec 19th: NBME 16: 258
Dec 20th: UWSA 1: 256
Dec 21st: UWSA 2: 263
Dec 23rd: NBME 12: 258
My exam was in a different city. So the day after Christmas I flew there. I stayed at a comfortable place because I needed a place conducive to studies. Also it was just a 5-minute walk to the exam center.
The last few days I tried going through FA.
My advice on what to read at this point is to keep it simple. You have worked hard for months and so donít freak out if you come across something and canít remember it. Its most probably just your mind blocking it temporarily.

The day before the exam I went through the list of forgettables by Rasheed. Its on the forum and is quite old but not outdated. My exam was at 9am. I slept for 8 hours the previous night. I took my scheduling permit, Prometric confirmation page print and passport. Also took a sandwich, couple of bar chocolates and a redbull. Make sure you know your ideal caffeine levels. Too low and you may feel sleepy and too high and you may be jittery. I just drank a cup of tea in the morning and half of the redbull during my last break.
I took a break after every 2 blocks. 10 minutes initially after 2 blocks, then 20 minutes for lunch after 4 blocks and finally 10 minutes after block 6.
Regarding the questions, I found many of them to be direct like the NBMEs. So took less than 30 seconds on those. There were questions for which I took a long time (one was around 5 minutes) to understand what it meant. But its worth it because once I figured out the question, it was easy to pick out the answer.
On average per block, around 20 questions were straight forward, around 12 were a bit long or involved some thinking, but I was pretty sure of the answer. And the remaining 11, I made an educated guess. I marked the questions which come in that last category and there were 73/308. The first block was pretty hard. Am not sure whether it was because I was nervous or it was just that the questions were harder. But the rest of the blocks (except the 6th which was again difficult) were alright.
Also another point to be noted is that certain topics were repeated. On one particular topic (which am not supposed to mention, sorry), I had 4 questions.
My advice for the exam day would be to stay calm (I know it is hard), focused (coz u have 7 blocks!) and not over think stuff. Most of time they are asking for the simplest concepts and this is especially true for those long and complicated questions. Time management is important. I had around 7-10 minutes left in each block. People usually talk about doing it fast so that you donít run out of time. While I agree thatís important, it is equally important to give yourself enough time to read and understand the questions. A few extra seconds can make a difference between a right and wrong answer. So pace yourself just right.
Once the exam was done I canít say I was totally relieved because now came the waiting part. But thankfully I had to leave to NY the same night and had plans for the next few weeks to keep my mind off it. I got my results on Jan 20th and I was finally relieved and ecstatic! 263! I couldnít ask for anything more. It was a long and interesting journey and am glad it ended well.
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  #2  
Old 01-21-2016
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Congs datson on your score!! i'd seen some of your helpful posts on the forum awhile back, im glad all you hard work paid off!
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  #3  
Old 01-21-2016
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Hmmmmm. A long and motivating 1. Congrats doc. Can't wait to get to this stage
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  #4  
Old 01-22-2016
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congrats

did the pathoma cover most of path or not ?
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  #5  
Old 01-22-2016
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PearlM View Post
Congs datson on your score!! i'd seen some of your helpful posts on the forum awhile back, im glad all you hard work paid off!
Thank u. I wasn't on the forum the past 3 weeks because like I mentioned, I was trying to not think of the exam. But now I will try to be more active and help you guys out.
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  #6  
Old 01-22-2016
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Quote:
Originally Posted by maral View Post
congrats

did the pathoma cover most of path or not ?
Yes it did. If its not in there, then its either in UW or FA.
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  #7  
Old 01-22-2016
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Congrats!!great score..even i got done with my step1 in Dec..scored decent enough..i wish to know..when do you plan to take CS..i am looking for a CS SP..i plan to take the exam in May in Chicago..please do tell if you wish to take CS..thanks..congrats again.
I am from India
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Old 01-22-2016
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I have studied a lot, but my nbme 11: 173(240) which means FAIL !
it is about a month to exam !
yet i have not done UW at all and I have studied less than half of my FA !

I dont know whether I should repeat what i had previously studied or start cramming FA and UW or maybe postponing the exam
any recommendations?
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  #9  
Old 01-23-2016
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Quote:
Originally Posted by achandra_23 View Post
Congrats!!great score..even i got done with my step1 in Dec..scored decent enough..i wish to know..when do you plan to take CS..i am looking for a CS SP..i plan to take the exam in May in Chicago..please do tell if you wish to take CS..thanks..congrats again.
I am from India
I'll be giving it in the 2nd week of April
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  #10  
Old 01-23-2016
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Quote:
Originally Posted by maral View Post
I have studied a lot, but my nbme 11: 173(240) which means FAIL !
it is about a month to exam !
yet i have not done UW at all and I have studied less than half of my FA !

I dont know whether I should repeat what i had previously studied or start cramming FA and UW or maybe postponing the exam
any recommendations?
Let me tell you what one of my seniors told me. Kaplan with get you to 30-40%. UW after that will take you to >80%.
Hence anybody would get a low score without doing UW. U need at least 3 months of prep from the time you start UW. Even if it delays your application by another year, its fine.
Only do UW and FA for 3 months and you should do fine.
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  #11  
Old 01-23-2016
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Quote:
Originally Posted by datson View Post
Let me tell you what one of my seniors told me. Kaplan with get you to 30-40%. UW after that will take you to >80%.
Hence anybody would get a low score without doing UW. U need at least 3 months of prep from the time you start UW. Even if it delays your application by another year, its fine.
Only do UW and FA for 3 months and you should do fine.

so true !!! i have studied kaplan twice (vid and books) and I have summarized most of them yet my results....FAILS
thank u so much ! i will do FA and UW
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  #12  
Old 01-23-2016
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Such a motivation... Thank you.
I started with uworld micro in mid Jan n planning to do subject wise along with annotation in FA. I feel like I have forgotten a lot of anatomy, physio n biochem done from kaplan
. N am scared if that will affect my score.
If you could tell me
1. how much percentage in uworld should I be expecting to score atleast 240 n above. (It's a 3 months subscription)
2.when should I be giving uwsa with nmbes.
Thanku in advance
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  #13  
Old 01-24-2016
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DKAG View Post
Such a motivation... Thank you.
I started with uworld micro in mid Jan n planning to do subject wise along with annotation in FA. I feel like I have forgotten a lot of anatomy, physio n biochem done from kaplan
. N am scared if that will affect my score.
If you could tell me
1. how much percentage in uworld should I be expecting to score atleast 240 n above. (It's a 3 months subscription)
2.when should I be giving uwsa with nmbes.
Thanku in advance
I felt the same too when I started UW. You will learn a lot when doing UW. Kaplan is just to make you familiar with the subject. UW is where you will learn most of what you need for the exam. Learn it thoroughly.
1. There is no accurate co-relation. But I guess subject-wise >65% is decent.
2. Only after you finish UW and another read of FA. Else you will get a low score and be disappointed for no reason.
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  #14  
Old 01-24-2016
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Thank you so much for your advice just 1 more thing...

Should I book the three months period before taking self assessment or is it OK if I do that after taking them...
Just in case I don't get the expected score in those.
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  #15  
Old 01-27-2016
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DKAG View Post
Thank you so much for your advice just 1 more thing...

Should I book the three months period before taking self assessment or is it OK if I do that after taking them...
Just in case I don't get the expected score in those.
U can do it after too. The whole application process will take a month. So its better to do it when you are half way through UW.
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  #16  
Old 01-28-2016
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Cool thanks again..
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  #17  
Old 01-29-2016
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Congo datson
That was an amazing score?

Is Robins and cotran a prerequisite For learning pathology clearly??
I don't have proper basics in pathology.

I'm just preparing Goljan Rapid Review and First aid for pathology is it sufficient to ace step 1 pathology questions.

Plzz do reply
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  #18  
Old 01-31-2016
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tarun2 View Post
Congo datson
That was an amazing score?

Is Robins and cotran a prerequisite For learning pathology clearly??
I don't have proper basics in pathology.

I'm just preparing Goljan Rapid Review and First aid for pathology is it sufficient to ace step 1 pathology questions.

Plzz do reply
I read only Pathoma. I think its better than Goljan because it has videos and explains the basics well.
I don't think just reading Goljan will make a lot of sense.
Instead of Robbins, I would suggest Pathoma.
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  #19  
Old 02-07-2016
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Hello datson
congratz on ur success with step 1, thats a great score. i want to know if u enroll in any usmle coaching like kaplan or becker, or if u did the prep all by urself???

Last edited by srinivasan; 02-08-2016 at 06:29 AM.
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  #20  
Old 02-09-2016
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Thanks.
Like I wrote in my experience, I prepared by myself.
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  #21  
Old 02-09-2016
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Hello Datson. Congratulations on your success! And thanks for sharing your experience. It's very helpful. I just wanted to ask you how many times did you read Pathoma during your preparation? And how many times did you watch its video lectures?
Good luck for the other exams.
Thanks!
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  #22  
Old 02-09-2016
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Hi datson... Many congrats for your success.. Could you plz tell me...
For histology and embryo, am I supposed to use Kaplan lecture notes and videos or will just FA be sufficient?
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  #23  
Old 02-10-2016
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Hi Dr. Datson!
Congratulations on your amazing scores!
Thanks a lot for sharing the details.

May I please ask, did you do offline NBMEs or did you pay for all of them?
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  #24  
Old 02-10-2016
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Quote:
Originally Posted by selex View Post
Hello Datson. Congratulations on your success! And thanks for sharing your experience. It's very helpful. I just wanted to ask you how many times did you read Pathoma during your preparation? And how many times did you watch its video lectures?
Good luck for the other exams.
Thanks!
Both only once
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  #25  
Old 02-10-2016
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Quote:
Originally Posted by h3l7m3 View Post
Hi datson... Many congrats for your success.. Could you plz tell me...
For histology and embryo, am I supposed to use Kaplan lecture notes and videos or will just FA be sufficient?
Yea use them all, but UW and FA is all you need
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  #26  
Old 02-10-2016
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Quote:
Originally Posted by canary90 View Post
Hi Dr. Datson!
Congratulations on your amazing scores!
Thanks a lot for sharing the details.

May I please ask, did you do offline NBMEs or did you pay for all of them?
I paid for all of them. Its a small investment which is of great benefit.
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  #27  
Old 02-12-2016
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hi
if i want to apply for next year match , is it possible to give step 1 n ck , before september 16.
thank you
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  #28  
Old 02-13-2016
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Quote:
Originally Posted by AbSa View Post
hi
if i want to apply for next year match , is it possible to give step 1 n ck , before september 16.
thank you
On average it takes around 8-10 months to study for Step 1, 4-5 months for Step 2 CK and 1 month for Step 2 CS, then you need a few months of US clinical experience too.
This year is unlikely but you can try for next year if you start preparing right away.
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  #29  
Old 02-18-2016
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Congrats for your excellent score and thanks for sharing your expirience.I have question about pathology and neuroantomy images,what do u suggest for them?any special website?
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  #30  
Old 02-20-2016
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Congratulations datson.
Can you please tell
1.whether images in firstaid are necessary to remember.
2.have you learnt radiology images seperately...if so from where.
Thankyou.
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  #31  
Old 02-21-2016
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Good job datson! Congratulations! I wanted to know which would be more productive for study during the first read:

Kaplan (notes + vids) + FA
Or
Kaplan (notes + bids) + FA + UWorld side by side

A lot of my seniors have told me to do as many questions as possible for usmle...so shouldn't I rather do uworld along with each subject from the first read itself? Or would it be counterproductive as I'd forget everything in the second read?
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