This post is regarding my USMLE Step 1 experience.
Well, it is true that when you're doing the exam you'll realize that a considerable portion of the questions that you face have absolutely NOTHING to do with what you've come across during your Step preparation.. but that obviously does not mean you shouldn't do your absolute best studying.
1. Pick a date!
You will NOT start taking things seriously and study well everyday till you have picked a date for your exam. It should be roughly 5-6 months after the point where you have started the preparation process and have figured out your daily studying schedule. This, however, varies with the level of your basic knowledge and whether or not you're preparing during summer vacation vs. school days.
2. The "book eating" stage:
I've drawn for you a study plan that I believe should yield the best outcome in terms of UNDERSTANDING the material of Step 1 for easier MEMORIZATION; you'll have to comprehend information first to then be able to save it to your hard drive. However, the problem when it comes to trying to understand and memorize this HUGE amount of new/relatively new (ie, once studied but now long gone) material is that many concepts are based on each other or are overlapping.
The following study plan, in my opinion, puts this issue to a minimum by starting from the most basic subjects and moving up the ladder.
A. First round (in that order):
Behavioural/Psychiatry + Biostat: watch Kaplan videos first while taking your own notes in the Kaplan book as the lecturer goes ==> FA ==> USMLE World Qbank. It is also very helpful to do Kaplan's MCQs as well, especially for biostat.
Biochem: Kaplan videos simultaneously with Kaplan book/own notes ==> FA ==> USMLE World Qbank. It is also very helpful to do Kaplan's MCQs as well.
Immunology: FA ==> USMLE World Qbank (tip: do not waste your time memorizing the complement pathway step-by-step!)
Microbiology: FA ==> USMLE World Qbank (MORE than enough)
Basic pharma (kinetics and dynamics): Kaplan videos simultaneously with Kaplan book/own notes ==> FA ==> USMLE World Qbank
Basic patho (inflammation, neoplasia, etc..): Pathoma videos ==> Pathoma book ==> FA (there is no option in World Qbank to have only basic patho Qs, thus the Qs will have to wait till you start the systems).
Systems. Order of systems (doesn't matter much but it's more convenient this way): repro ==> cardio ==> renal ==> respiratory ==> GI ==> neuro ==> hem/onc ==> MSK.
For each system:
* Embryology: FA
* Anatomy: Kaplan ==> FA
* Physiology: BRS ==> FA
* Pathology: Pathoma videos ==> Pathoma book ==> FA
* Pharmacology: FA
* USMLE World Qbank
Your first NBME. This is to set your baseline to compare and see the degree of improvement after the second round.
B. Second round:
Redo FA entirely.
Redo World Qbank (if not entirely, at least the questions that you'll have highlighted).
-Your second NBME. At this point, you should be able to decide whether or not you should postpone the exam.
C. Third round:
Your third (and hopefully last) NBME. This should be around a week prior to your exam date. This is the final checkpoint that helps you make a final decision whether you're going in or that you need a little more time.
D. The final days before "it" happens:
I found that FA's rapid review section was a good read before the exam as it raps up some of the important concepts that you need to be 100% aware of.
During this period, you should also stress on the subjects/concepts that you think still have a little room for improvement. This can be appreciated by your NBME detailed results and by your own judgement.
You may also go through some NBME forms (other than the ones you've done) that are available online with their answer keys, cuz you may actually see a few Qs on the real exam that you have seen on the NBME.
On the very last day before your exam, just RELAX. Don't study anything. Pray, watch something, eat, go out... do NOT study. You'll get yourself stressed out and won't be able to sleep (see #2). Trust me, one extra day of studying won't make a difference with the ocean of knowledge that you're required to know for your Step 1.
3. SLEEP, SLEEP & SLEEP:
I cannot stress enough on this point. Personally, I had a major problem getting my sleep cycle back to normal even when I started trying ~8 days before my exam. I tried different kinds of sleeping aid with no success. On the night of the exam, I got only 3-4 hours of sleep when I had already been sleep deprived for days. On the exam I crashed right at my forth block when I still have 3 more to go. It was the worst feeling ever.
My point is, regardless of how well you've prepared, if you can't read and understand the Qs properly and if you can't analyze and deduct the question options and then regurgitate the information you've been learning all those months, then you might've as well entered the exam without studying at all.
4. Exam taking skills:
As I started off this post, Step 1 will surprise you with so many questions the answers to which can't be found anywhere in the books you've studied, heck sometimes not even online. Don't panic. Just give the question a general look and think: what does the examiner want me to know? Many of these questions are just to test your UNDERSTANDING OF CONCEPTS rather than KNOWLEDGE. If you look carefully and analyze the big picture of the question you might be able (at least some of the times lol) to make a correct guess.
At the end of the day, some of these Qs are actually experimental (ie, for research purposes; not marked). The problem is, you'll never know which is which.