You’ve probably already heard: Step 1 is not an exam you can cram for. But you might also be wondering how early is too early to start studying. Some would say it’s never too early. So our Cram Fighter team has collected some of the best tips for starting early on your Step 1 study plan so you can start just a little earlier, and boost your score without overburdening yourself at the outset.

Supplement your classes with Step 1 resources

Choose a Step 1 resource and read the relevant chapters when you study the material from class lectures. According to Med School Insight, Kaplan’s med school blog, supplementing your classes works best with pathology and anatomy. Once you finish general pathology, you may even want to read the pathology sections for each organ system in your chosen Step 1 resource.

During dedicated Step 1 study period, med students often go through First Aid twice, and sometimes even three times.

It’s smart to start studying First Aid as early as possible. Med School Tutors says that not starting First Aid early enough is one of the three biggest mistakes students make with this resource. First Aid is 500+ pages and covers each organ system. The beginning of M1 will cover basic sciences and organ systems, making First Aid a natural choice for a supplemental resource.

During dedicated Step 1 study period, med students often go through First Aid twice, and sometimes even three times. For examples of this approach, see our sample study schedules. Building familiarity early on will help you when you hit the books later this year, plus it will help you learn the material for class. You may even boost your score on class exams, like this student did. Use First Aid’s sections on pathology while in class, and if you can, study up on biochemistry and behavioral sciences over breaks (which Kaplan’s blog recommends).

Take detailed notes with Step 1 resources

Try not to study by passively reading. As you study from a Step 1 resource, such as First Aid, take notes in the margins and highlight key concepts. You might even choose to build your own study guide by splicing in your class notes, as one Cram Fighter user did. This will help you retain the material, and your future self will thank you for the leg up during your dedicated study period.

One Cram Fighter user, who scored a 250 on Step 1, started his study plan by scheduling just 10 questions a day about six months in advance

Get acquainted with Step 1 questions. Use a qbank.

Step 1 is going to be a test unlike any other you have taken. Getting used to the presentation of the questions (in vignettes) will put you in a good position to succeed and help quell test anxiety as you get started. You don’t have to overwhelm yourself by trying to tackle whole UWorld blocks early. But even a few daily or weekly questions can help. One Cram Fighter user, who scored a 250 on Step 1, started his study plan by scheduling just 10 questions a day about six months in advance.

Sign up for Cram Fighter and plan out your Step 1 prep. You can even add your M2 course schedule to Cram Fighter. To see your course on Cram Fighter, send us your syllabus at contact@cramfighter.com.