Dear Doctors,

Any advice for studying for Step 1? I’m feeling overwhelmed and don’t know where to start.

– Overwhelmed


Dear Overwhelmed,

I started studying for Step 1 around the middle of my first semester of my second year.  This was really like studying (maybe 10-20 questions a day). My dedicated study time was 6 weeks before my test for about 10-12 hours a day.  I treated it as a new job.  I had a group of friends. We met at one friend’s house and studied and worked on our own as well.  We ate together, went over practice tests together, and kept each other accountable.

I broke down my dedicated study time using a couple tools:

  • Cramfighter – this is a website you can use where you tell it all the resources you have, how long you’re going to study, and how time much on each resource you’d like to spend per day.  It then generates a calendar and a daily checklist.  It costs a bit, but if you’re bad at organizing like I am, it’s a godsend.
  • Upper level students plans – a lot of people in the class above me made their own plans.  These were usually in excel or word and broke down what they did on a day to day basis.  They were a good guide on how to space things out and how to cover things. Also gives you an idea of what resources they used.

Key resources are:

  • UWorld – this is the be all end all resource.  Everyone you ask will say this is a must.  It’s a question bank with around 2k+ questions. Some people try to do it twice, some only do all once and missed ones again, and others just do it all once.  I did it all once and some of my missed questions.
  • First Aid – a solid text reference for the whole exam.  This needs to be within 1 year of you taking the test, as they update it regularly.
  • Pathoma – the book is cheap and some students will usually share a subscription.  It’s a great resource for pathology and general information as well.
  • Sketchy Medical – As a visual learner, this was a godsend.  I struggled with meds and micro since it’s all brute force memorization.  These gave me a reference to always go to.
  • Practice tests – the NBME has some practice step tests. Treat this like actual step tests.  Go to a foreign computer in a new setting (we usually went to the library).  Do blocks and time it just like step will be.  This gets you in the mind set.  To make it actual length, you’ll have to add some UWorld blocks.

It’ll be rough and you’ll feel hopeless, but you’ll get there.  Just stay strong!

– Dr. Brandi


Dr. Brandi Jackson

Brandi Jackson, MD is a practicing Psychiatrist and Clinical Professor in Chicago. She co-founded Med Like Me with her twin sister, Dr. Brittani. Read their inspiring comeback story From Self-Doubt to MD. Feel free to send Dr. Brandi a message anytime.Here

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