As many of our readers know, creating the optimal study plan for the USMLE is not an easy task. So we asked Thomas Mike, a third year medical student at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, how he created his ideal USMLE study plan using Cram Fighter.

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What advice do you have for medical students preparing for the USMLE Step 1?

The most important advice that I can give to anyone preparing to take Step 1 is pretty straightforward: know yourself. If you’ve survived a few years of med school already, then you’ve probably figured out what kind of student you are. Don’t let anyone convince you to change. Not even me! Lots of people are going to be offering unsolicited advice on how you should be studying, so take everything with a grain of NaCl.

Not to say that people aren’t going to be offering good advice (I wouldn’t be writing this if I really thought that), but everyone is different with regards to how they study and how they learn. Learn to critically evaluate all the advice you’re being given, and only use what you think will fit your study style.

Lots of people are going to be offering unsolicited advice on how you should be studying, so take everything with a grain of NaCl.

What study style suited you best?

When I study, I prefer to sit alone at a desk, and listen to music on Spotify (shoutout to my favorite band, Relient K, for getting me through that stressful period of my life!). Studying in groups has always been distracting to me, so I avoided that for the most part. I also learn best by understanding things rather than memorizing them. With that in mind, I spent my first two years going to class and trying to do well.

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How did you balance classes and studying?

My school is on a block schedule with Reproduction as our last class. It was one of the least challenging classes of 2nd year, so I allowed myself one hour each day to go over First Aid (FA) Micro. Memorizing bugs and drugs is awful, so I knew I would need that extra time. Once Reproduction was over, I took one CBSSA (Comprehensive Basic Science Self-Assessment) to see where I was starting from, and then I used the weekend to recover and prepare for full time studying.

Can you elaborate on the mechanics of your study plan for us?

I started official, full time Step 1 studying on a Monday, exactly 7 weeks before my Step 1 test date. The day before I started studying, I used Cram Fighter to make a schedule. I divided my schedule into 3 study blocks:

Thomas Mike

Thomas Mike

Thomas Mike

That’s essentially how I studied for those 7 weeks. It was way too intimidating and time-consuming to try and hash out a schedule on my own. I used Cram Fighter to organize my study efforts. I fell behind almost every week on studying. Consequently, I scheduled one day each week to catch-up, so that I wouldn’t be too far behind by the end of the block.