Feeling Confident with Your Step 1 Study Habits

  • /Reviewed by: Amy Rontal, MD
  • Find out how to develop study habits that set you up for success without stressing you out.

    Theodore Roosevelt famously said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.” Everyone is different, and therefore, will do things differently – including studying. Med school is tough, and comparing your study habits to your peers’ may only make it tougher.

    Your classmates may already have a Step 1 study schedule in place and appear to be calmer than you when it comes to exams, or even brag about their marathon study sessions, making you feel like what you’re doing is inadequate. Or maybe you’re the one studying really hard and putting in the hours, while they seem like they’re cool and collected, and that alarms you – why do they make it seem like a breeze? It can definitely make you feel insecure. You may even always feel like you’re behind, as you compare yourself to classmates. Whatever you’re feeling when you compare yourself to others, throw that all out the window!

    You know how you learn best. Take those methods and devise a routine tailored to your needs. Creating a detailed daily study plan, with a clear objective for what you need to get done, is a great way to stay on track and keep yourself accountable. Plus, keep in mind that other people will often outwardly brag about what they are, or are not, doing, in order to make themselves feel better. You need to learn how to tune that out and, as it’s often said, “you do you.” Ultimately, everyone studying for the USMLE Step 1 is pretty much managing the same study workload, so you just have to figure out what works best for you.

    Creating a detailed daily study plan, with a clear objective for what you need to get done, is a great way to stay on track and keep yourself accountable.

    In addition to mentally focusing on yourself and turning off the voice in your head that compares you to others, you can also take concrete steps to develop a plan that will set you up for success:

    Develop study habits.

    Getting started can be overwhelming. Take that first step by building a detailed study schedule (like what you can get from Cram Fighter), then stick to your schedule to build your habits. When your studying becomes routine, and then becomes a habit, a deeper focus will follow.

    Tackle one goal at a time.

    To lower your study stress, set up a timeline with realistic milestones that you feel confident achieving. Doing so will help you stay on track while also boosting your confidence every time you accomplish a goal.

    Create a “feedback loop” with qbanks and practice exams.

    Disregard what other students are worried about and focus on YOU. Use question banks and practice exams to reveal your weak subjects, so you can focus on them and improve, which will further build your confidence.

    Ask other people for suggestions.

    Look to advice from those who have been in your shoes. Be open to tips and suggestions from upperclassmen and mentors. But be careful not to fall in the trap of comparing yourself to these people. Take their advice, and again, modify it as needed to work for you.

    It’s normal to question your readiness for big exams including the USMLE Step 1. Could you have studied more? Should you have focused harder on another topic? That’s normal. But by sticking to your study schedule, and not worrying about the peer pressure coming from other med students, you will know that you have done your best for yourself, to prepare for exams. As with many things in life, the journey you take or methods you use toward getting a great score on the USMLE Step 1 ultimately don’t matter – it’s that you got that great score.

    About the Author

    Erica Forrette is the former Director of Marketing at Cram Fighter.