I’ve had requests to talk more about my Step 1 plan: what I’ve done so far, what I plan to do in the coming months, and when I’m taking it. So I figured I would answer some of these questions in hopes that it will help at least one person out there struggling along with me. My school’s M2 curriculum ends May 19th and M3 clinicals starts July 1st, so we get 6 weeks between when classes stop and rotations begin to study for Step, take Step 1, and then have some sort of a ‘break’. I’ve scheduled my test to have 4 weeks of dedicated study time, and 2 weeks of break before surgery rotation starts. Knowing myself, I knew I’d want at least 2 weeks to decompress and relax, so that was the main factor in scheduling my test when I did – I worked backwards from how much time I definitely wanted to have off. Because my school is on the shorter side in terms of time off to study for Step, most of us in the program start studying between January – March in order to slowly spread out studying, with that being said, most of the M3’s that I’ve talked to this year told me that they improved their Step1 score by about 30 points during their 4 weeks of studying, so most of us really cram at the end.


My ideal goal for this year was to mainly focus on my school’s curriculum and use some Step1 resources that aligned with what we were learning in school up until spring break. Then my goal was to start focusing more on Step1 than my school’s curriculum after spring break in order to get a solid basis before heading into dedicated study period. In the fall, we had MSK, Neuro, Endo, and Repro blocks, and between winter break and spring break we had Cardio and Pulm. For these blocks, I did my class assigned readings, the associated Pathoma chapters (some 2x) and looked through/annotated First Aid. I also used the USMLE-RX QBank to do tutor mode questions limited to the organ block we were studying. I bought USMLE RX videos in December, and started to go through the videos – my only regret so far was not buying this sooner! So this was basically where I was a few weeks ago… Spring break was in mid February, and from spring break to May, my curriculum covers Heme/Onc, GI and Renal blocks. Over spring break, I focused on some of the chapters in First Aid that we learned during M1: immunology and microbiology (I also wanted to do pathology and pharmacology but that did not happen). I bought UWorld at the end of spring break and have now been focusing on doing between 7-9 tests a week.


My current UWorld strategy is to do timed blocks of 40 questions, which I usually finish in around 45 minutes. Then I go back over the test that same day by flagging any questions I got wrong as well as questions I got correct but don’t feel as comfortable with, and I take notes on all questions I got wrong and about 1/2 of the questions I got right. Basically if I am not 100% confident, I’ll take notes on it. I take notes using the note function in the UWorld program, and I try to limit myself to 2 sentences unless it is a topic that I am really weak on. For me, typing is so much more efficient than hand writing, so this was my main motivator to type my notes. I used the UWorld notes over a word document because it is there and easy to use, and because it can organize the notes based off of topic (pathology vs physiology vs pharmacology) as well as by organ block. You can print or save the notes as a giant PDF file whenever you want and organized in either way. Aside from taking notes on the application, I am also hand drawing some of the figures / charts that UWorld provides. I typically hand draw around 3 – 4 figures per block, and again, there are on topics that I am not as comfortable with.


Looking ahead, my goal is to have completed UWorld 1.5x (1x and then 1x through my flagged ?’s) before dedicated study time starts. I also plan to have finished all USMLE-RX videos and all Pathoma videos by then as well. I know both of these goals are ambitious, but I know myself and I know that I like to shoot high, and that I’m okay if I don’t quite meet all my goals (this does not work for everyone). Maintaining a balance between studying, being prepared for class, as well as staying active and having some self care time is important to me, so my plans/goals might change a little over the next few months. I haven’t made my study plan for dedicated study time yet, so that will be another post in the future. I hope this was helpful, and if you have any questions feel free to connect with me on instagram @beingfranke !



  • First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 2017 : This is the must have book – I got mine spiral bound at my local office supply store, and I’ve been trying to keep a consistent color code for annotations.
  • Pathoma : This book has helped me so much to preview each block and then listen/read through it again after the block to keep the pathology fresh in my mind. I’m definitely a visual learner so I am looking at the book almost the entire time throughout the videos, but just having the voice talking me through it really helps!
  • USMLE-RX : This is the question bank that I used before investing in UWorld – I actually really love that when it provides answers it also provides the pages / figures from First Aid that goes along with the question. I used this on tutor mode to go over questions on the topics we were learning in class.
  • USMLE-RX Videos Express : These videos have been an amazing resource – I don’t know why I didn’t hear more about them as an M1. Basically they are like Pathoma but for First Aid… They walk you through page by page of First Aid by section and explain what is often missing within the texts. It doesn’t just read First Aid to you, but rather it explains some of the underlying concepts that helps you build better connections.
  • UWORLD : Just started this… I was expecting the questions to be a lot harder than RX based off of what I was hearing, but they really aren’t that different, maybe like one step up?… some of the questions cover material not in First Aid though so that would be one difference. Regardless, everyone says this is a must!
  • Lange Pharmacology Flash Cards : one of my weak points is definitely pharm, so I invested in these flashcards after not being happy with Anki or USMLE-RX Flash Facts… basically I love that these cards have everything I need to know about one drug per card.