My Step 1 Study Method

By popular demand, I am finally writing about my Step 1 study method! This method worked for me and I wouldn’t have changed a thing! My step studying was molded by my preferred study methods, word of mouth from upperclassmen, Jenny at, and Clare at


Main tools I used during dedicated study time (in no particular order):

  • UWorld
  • Pathoma
  • Sketchy Micro
  • Sketchy Pharm
  • Sketchy Path (only a few videos)
  • First Aid
  • Cram Fighter
  • NBME’s
  • UWorld assessments

Now, if you are curious for a more detailed breakdown, continue to read 🙂


August 2017 (beginning of 2nd year) – December 2017

  • Study classes normally (as I did 1st year), but supplement with First Aid readings and annotation
    • I did this to familiarize myself with First Aid and the concept of using outside materials after a 4th year advised this because she was overwhelmed when picking up First Aid for the first time in the spring
  • Supplement with sketchy pharm and sketchy micro
    • These resources were key throughout the year and board studying
    • I started out making drug tables with notes from class and adding a column for sketchy videos to get used to what different symbols would represent
  • Supplement pathology with Goljan and his audiobooks on long drives
    • As most of you know, I travel a lot to and from my home state to visit my fiancé and family. I loved listening to his lectures on these drives!
  • Near the end of the first semester, I started reading Pathoma instead of Goljan, while still listening to Goljan
  • Near the end of the first semester, I had bought a subscription to USMLE Rx question bank and videos. I used it pretty well for a few months but switched over to UWorld in January. If I was more diligent, I could have probably used both!

January 2018 – April 2018

  • Started to switch gears towards more and more step studying
    • Accomplished this by studying lecture material less and beginning uworld
  • I invested in Cram Fighter, a resource that I highly recommend. (get 10% off while I get $5!)
    • I bought the 6 month subscription and was able to put in all the resources I wanted to use. The program knows how many pages are in a chapter or how many minutes a video is so it was able to map out how much time it would take me to go through each item. It could organize my schedule by different subject and I could pick the order of subjects. I also scheduled a full day of no study items and used it as a catch up day or get ahead day!
    • You are able to create different “study blocks” where you can designate what study materials you would like covered during that time.
      • I created one giant study block from January to April, right before our class was scheduled to take a series of NBME subject exams in pharm, micro/immuno, path, clinical med, and the NBME comprehensive basic science exam (CBSE). During this study block, I had put in sketchy pharm, sketchy micro, first aid, and pathoma. Cram Fighter organized this into subjects which I tried to align with what was being covered in class.
      • I created a weekly study block with varying number of Uworld questions. On an excel doc, I mapped out how many questions I wanted to tackle each week depending on if we had a class exam that week, other extracurricular activities, etc. I had 13 week blocks with varying amount of UWorld questions.
        • If you are dying to know, here are the amount of questions I did with each week:
          • week 1 – 120
          • week 2 – 87
          • week 3 – 22
          • week 4 – 140
          • week 5 – 153
          • week 6 – 68
          • week 9 – 302 (spring break)
          • week 10 – 240
          • week 11 – 325
          • week 12 – 265
          • week 13 – 264
      • So by the time it came for shelf studying, I had already completed one pass of UWorld, First Aid, pathoma, sketchy pharm, and sketchy micro.

April 2018 – early May 2018

  • During this time, I was studying for the specific NBME subject exams so was able to focus on different areas I thought were difficult with all the resources I have mentioned previously, USMLE Rx videos and questions, and some flashcards.
  • I also studied my UWorld spiral book of wrong answers! (see below for details)

May 2018 – June 14, 2018

  • I organized one more giant study block which included another pass of UWorld, pathoma, first aid, sketchy micro, and sketchy path. I organized the schedule into subjects and I started with subjects I was particularly weak in first so that I would be able to review them an additional time. I scheduled for this study block to end the Sunday before my test so that I could use the remaining days looking back at this difficult material.
  • I took NBME 13 before our class sat for the CBSE (basically a preview of what step might look like).
  • After the shelf frenzy, I took 3 full days off to travel back home and relax before officially starting dedicated on Sunday 5/13.
  • I scheduled practice tests for myself every Thursday to simulate actual test day. Here is the order that I took the exams:
    • NBME 13
    • UWorld 1
    • NBME 16
    • NBME 18
    • NBME 17 (1 week prior)
    • UWorld 2 (Sunday before)


  • UWorld
    • Created an excel doc with 3 columns: test #, takeaways, Q ID#
    • This part is pretty self explanatory but tis is definitely where the bulk of my study time went from January – April.
    • I started out on timed tests. I only switched to tutor mode the last couple weeks of dedicated study in end of May/early June.
    • I reviewed every single answer, both right and wrong. If I was wrong, I took notes in my excel doc. If I guessed randomly and got it right, I took notes in my excel doc. When in doubt, I took notes in my excel doc.
    • After my first pass, I organized the excel doc so that the Q ID# would go in ascending order. I had the doc printed into a book at OfficeMax for maybe $5 or so. It was spiral bound, had a front and back cover.
    • During the shelf study period, I also read the entire book! It was very time consuming because I would often try to find the subject in First Aid to make sure I had the full understanding of the subject.
    • During my second pass of UWorld, I did not create a new excel doc.
      • Instead, I would annotate my little booklet. If I had gotten the question wrong previously, I would highlight the Q ID# in the book to show I really needed to review it. I then made a post it note with the main fact that I could not seem to remember.
      • If I had gotten the question correct previously but now missed it on the second pass, I created a sticky note and put it on the back page.
      • My plan was to reread all these sticky notes of questions I missed the second pass, especially the ones I missed twice! But I did not get to this task.
      • I still believe doing UWorld twice helped me the most out of all my resources. I am such a practice question person!!
    • IMG_6922.JPG
    • IMG_3360.JPG
      some pages were much cleaner than others 🙂
    • IMG_4734.JPG
      most frustrating thing was missing questions for a second time :/
  • Pathoma
    • During the school year, I watched the videos and annotated First Aid
    • During dedicated, I read the book and would highlight (much more passive)
  • Sketchy Micro
    • During the school year, I made bug tables with important lecture material and would have a column dedicated to sketchy
    • I stopped making tables near December and started annotating into First Aid
  • Sketchy Pharm
    • During the school year, I made drug tables with important lecture material and would have a column dedicated to sketchy
    • I also stopped making these tables near December and started annotating into First Aid
  • Sketchy Path (only a few videos)
  • First Aid
    • Annotated information from other resources (sketchy, pathoma, UWorld, USMLE Rx)
    • Read 2x
  • Cram Fighter
  • NBME’s
    • Took the practice tests in a test like environment at the same time my step 1 was scheduled
    • Ate an amazing lunch afterwards
    • Reviewed the answers I got wrong using and google
    • Made an excel doc with the gist of the question I missed with an explanation of the correct answer
  • UWorld assessments
    • Took the practice tests in a test like environment at the same time my step 1 was scheduled
    • Ate an amazing lunch afterwards
    • Made an excel doc with the subject of the question I missed with an explanation of the correct answer


  • Added time in my schedule for breaks
    • Some days I was so tired that I took an unscheduled night off. I am so thankful I scheduled catch up days for this purpose!
  • Study at home
    • My mom and dad literally took care of me! Did my laundry, made me food, and helped create a great study environment.
    • I was able to see my fiancé almost everyday 🙂
  • Maintained motivation
    • I was able to go all out for this exam because it has been on my radar for 2 years. It is unfortunate how big of a deal this exam is, but it scared me into focus, motivation, and determination.
  • Made an effort to continue exercising
    • Started out strong, but definitely dwindled during the end.
  • Stayed positive
    • Managed to watch my favorite shows, spend time with family, and have purposeful study breaks.


I really hope that covered everything! If you have more specific questions or if something doesn’t make sense, please comment below!

Good luck to everyone gearing up for tests!!!


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