To help our customers apply successful study strategies to studying for the USMLE Step 1, we interviewed some Cram Fightercustomers who already took their board exams and got their scores back. Last month, we published an interview with Anthony W. from NYITCOM. He achieved a 242 on Step 1. Next, we spoke with Cooper S., a med student from the class of 2020 at Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University. Below are some of his study strategies for the USMLE Step 1.

What resources did you use for Step 1 and Level 1 and how effective were they?

My Step 1 resources consisted of UWorld, First Aid, Pathoma and Sketchy (Micro + Pharm). I loved each of these, and looking back, I would not change them.

While it may at times seem it, the test is NOT impossible—thousands of students successfully conquer it every year, and you can too!

What went well during your preparation and what would you have done differently?

I would say I had a largely positive Step 1 dedicated study period. I took seven weeks. I broke the seven weeks into three phases:

  1. I began dedicated by taking a practice NBME for diagnostic purposes. Phase I (three weeks) included of a first-pass of UWorld (timed, random) along with annotating all of Pathoma and SketchyMicro into First Aid (FA). I found this was most easily accomplished by starting each day with three sets of 40-question UWorld blocks, followed by reading through the complete explanation for every question after completing the third block. In the afternoons and evenings I would work on annotating Pathoma and SketchyMicro into FA.
  2. Phase II (three weeks) included a second-pass of UWorld incorrects only (timed, organized by organ system) along with annotating SketchyPharm into FA. Again, I started the day with UWorld blocks, followed by reading the explanations, and worked in the afternoon on annotating SketchyPharm into FA. To gauge my progress,I also blocked two days off each week to complete (and review) either a practice NBME or one of UWorld’s self-assessments.
  3. Phase III (one week) consisted of reviewing and force-memorizing certain minutiae (e.g., biochemical pathways). I also completed the free NBME this week.

I found Cram Fighter so valuable, because I knew which resources I wanted to get through by which date, and it did the work of creating daily schedules based off that. Furthermore, it adapted the schedule if I was not able to complete all my tasks on a given day. There is not much I would have done differently.

Do you have any advice for students taking these exams who also want to reach their goals?

One of the keys to a successful study period is creating a schedule and sticking to it. While it’s certainly acceptable and almost inevitable to require time for catch-up, really try your best to give it everything you’ve got for that dedicated study period.

I found Cram Fighter so valuable, because I knew which resources I wanted to get through by which date, and it did the work of creating daily schedules based off that. Furthermore, it adapted the schedule if I was not able to complete all my tasks on a given day.

While it may seem excessively draining to study for so many hours every day, like it or not this exam is one of the most important objective pieces to your residency application, and your investment now will pay off tenfold when you are applying. While it may at times seem it, the test is NOT impossible—thousands of students successfully conquer it every year, and you can too!

How did you hear about the study resources you chose, and why did you choose those ones in particular? Do you have any recommendations for how students can find the right resources for them?

I heard about UWorld, First Aid, Pathoma and SketchyMicro+Pharm from upperclassmen during my pre-clinical time. (Word-of-mouth is probably the best way to find different resources that work.)

After trying a few different resources when starting medical school, I found these to be the highest yield and most efficient. I chose them because they gelled with my specific learning style.

There are tons of different resources for preclinical studies, physiology, pathology and pharmacology, and if used effectively, they will all likely get you to the same endpoint (Step 1 is standardized, after all). The key is to find what works best for you as you begin medical school, and once you have found that algorithm, stick with it. Step 1 dedicated study time is not the time to try a new resource—stick with what has proven efficacy for you.

Thank you, Cooper, for sharing your experience and board exam study tips! Keep an eye out for our next med student interview, coming soon.

For more information on how Cram Fighter helped Cooper with an adaptable study plan, learn about our Rebalance feature here. To try Cram Fighter yourself, sign up for a free 7-day trial and create your own schedule. Or download one of our free sample USMLE Step 1 study schedules.