This is my experience for USMLE STEP 1. Score: 255. Time spent: almost 2 years! less than 5 years of graduation.
little background: I work almost 50 hours a week and studied mainly in the early mornings from Monday to Sunday. In average I studied 36 hours/week during 8 months. From then my work schedule was changed and I changed my study schedule and for the next 11 months I studied almost 36-45 hours/week because of my 24-36 hours shifts twice per week. Here I can tell some mistake that I made and that was not working out and I did no take any day a month to spare myself, so I got burned out a few times during this path. Every time I burned out I lost a week because it was very difficult to be focussed.
The material I used was:
Kaplan Lecture Notes + DVDs (only the DVDs for the pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics. I felt it takes too much to view the videos and it was better to actually read the lectures)
First Aid for the USMLE 2013, 2015
Goljan Rapid Review of Pathology
Conrad Fischer Ethics Book
Kaplan Step 1 Qbank
USMLEWorld Step 1
Wikipedia (english version)
the last four only for some doubts I had to understand the things better.
Kaplan Lecture Notes (one read, except for physiology, and pathology. I Used BRS Physiology 5th by Costanzo and RR Pathology 4th by Goljan). I read that material just once but it take me a lot because of the available time I have to read and because I was reading it very thougoughly. At the same time and between the kaplan books I used 1 year subscription of kaplan q bank (KQB) online. I did this in this manner: Anatomy, Physiology, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology and Genetics, KQB blocks (anatomy, physio, biochem), Micro/Inmuno, Pathology, KQB (Micro/inmuno and Pathology blocks), Pharmacology, Behav Sci, KQB (only 70% completed). I read the former material while writing notes on my FA 2013 but at that time I did not read FA entirely. And I took My first NBME online: 220. At this time I read FA 2014 only on my weaknesses. I knew that I had some material pending to read. But I was happy that my first score was that and not less.
I started with UW Online (my advice is that you try to buy an online subscription for at least 6 months, it’s better than buying one month and to renew it every month) at this point I went for 40 blocks or something like that reading the entire questions (correct and incorrect) and the rest just doing the questions without reading the explanations. Once I was done with all questions on UW I took another NBME. Score: 252. I felt great.
After that I just read the pending blocks but only reviewed the incorrect and marked questions because I felt It was taking to much time. Once I was done with that I took another NBME online. Score: 239. I was panicked But tried to pull myself together and began with FA 2015. I was under a lot of stress but I read the entire FA 2015. (I did it twice actually, once during the process or at work and once at the end, it really helped me a lot).
After that I took another NBME: 249 this time. At that time I was burned out and payed for the exam hoping that the scheduling permit will be available in the next week wich did not happen until 2-3 weeks later.
Since I had to travel for personal reasons there was a pair of week before the exam that I did not study too much, I think I should not have done that because I loss some stamina then I returned to my home 1 and 1/2 weeks to study. I tried to keep on UW questions until the date of my test. I did 8 blocks of the questions dayly and tried to review some material on FA. Then I have to travel to do my exam those were 2-3 days without studying properly.
One day before the exam (I don’t recommend you to do this, but I considered necessary since I lost some weeks during my last travel)I hit Behav Sci from FA until noon and I felt like I was burning out again. So I did not read anything more I made the checklist for the exam (clothes, ID, Scheduling permit). I went to downtown to walk a little and to spare my mind from the worries of the exam. I jogged for some time(at this point I was used to work out again). I even tried to go to the movies the night before but I was so stressed that I went out from the movies before the movie actually had finished.
I did not reviewed the Fred software during the last months so I didn’t remember how the tutorial was and for that I was kinda of worried. So I decided to review it at midnight (WRONG) my computer did not work and I decided that it was better for me to sleep. I slept 5 hours before the exam. Wake up early, take a bath, had a breakfast (2 slices of bread, eggs, jam, coffee with sugar). Went to the test center and they give you a locker to put your belongings, they check you with a metal detector, make you empty your pockets to make sure that you don’t bring anything inside the application room. There is a computer with a camera on the roof (that make me a little unconfortable since, at least I felt, I wasn’t able to strecht my back after a few blocks so you need to train for the exam in such conditions)
The tutorial is 15 minutes and break time is 45 minutes.
I did like Kaplan Qbook suggests.
2 blocks 5 minutes, 1 block 5 minutes, 1 block, 20 minutes for lunch, 2 blocks (I feel that I needed at least 5 minutes between these blocks) but I did it this way, 10 minutes, one block and I was done. I wasn’t very nervous the day of the exam but noted during the first 3 blocks I was very sleepy. I don’t think 255 is a bad score, I was aiming for more, tough. I am very grateful to God for allow me to follow my dream and to get on this path. I learned tons of knowledge that I actually apply to my patients on my practice. I can say I’m a better doctor after my preparation for the USMLE Step 1.
Good luck to everyone! I hope that this could be of some help to someone. Keep working hard and get your goals!
By Robert Cole