How I Prepped for the USMLE Step 1 (With a Little Help From My Friends at Med School Tutors)

  • /Reviewed by: Amy Rontal, MD
  • Hey everyone, my name is Clark McLaughlin. I am currently a 3rd year medical student from St. George’s University School of Medicine. Time has flown by as I can remember the day, like it was yesterday, receiving the call and being accepted into medical school while I was at work selling Dodge Ram Trucks. It has been a long-time dream to go to medical school and be the first doctor in my family. Being so excited to start I felt prepared to learn and destroy some exams.

    Little did I know the work I had to put into learning a single lecture in medical school, not to mention the fifty or so I would be tested on several weeks later then repeat this process for 2 years. I never contemplated on preparing for the memory strength it took to learn, understand and retain all this information for the long run. Like many medical students whether in the Caribbean or in the USA, I felt lost in translation and interpretation of our PhD-like detailed lectures (though we aren’t here to become PhD doctors). Taking the detail, substantial volume of information and processing it into memory took time, energy and excessive cups of coffee/monster/caffeine IV drips (joking on the last part).

    Sometimes TOO much information up front can be harmful. Many upper term students were telling everyone to use resource A, where others said use Resource B and so on, until we got to ZZ of the double alphabet. I already felt I didn’t know HOW to study, but now I didn’t know WHAT to study. It was overwhelming, and Step 1 still drew closer and closer.

    Taking lots of time with trial and error on HOW to study, I met my best friend and study partner where we could work together to speed up our understanding of the material. Once I learned the information for myself and learn how I could teach it to my study partner I started leading tutor groups sessions and developed my Youtube Channel to share the information I learned from all those vast resources and provided it on a platter, in a sense, for future students to come and learn all they needed while saving hours of their precious time.

    However, when the end of year two of medical school came around all the students (myself included) questioned whether we were ready to take on designated study time and our USMLE Step 1 exam and what is best to get a strong score, after all, that is what we wanted. We all want competitive board exam scores so when it comes down to who will get that residency spot the scores can play a large part to choose us over the other candidate. We all know competitive scores are a large part of landing that interview for an Orthopaedic Surgery residency, Emergency Medicine residency, Dermatology residency and many other residency programs. When shopping around for what program I would use to keep improving, hold me accountable for studying and guide me in strengthening my weaknesses there were so many options. Whether they were lecture based such as Kaplan or OnlineMedEd, group based like the Institute of Medical Boards “Kansas Program” or personalized, focused tutoring and accountability like Med School Tutors it was a tough choice.

    Logically this became a huge question for all of us and how we were going to prepare, organize our time for our Step 1, but the real question was what works best for me? That is when I first came across Med School Tutors suggested by many upper term students, so I did some research. Looking over the statistics for improvement of NBME preliminary scores to the Step 1 exam final scores were extremely impressive.

    I first met with the student relations team to learn about how the program worked. They were so helpful and accommodating of my time and found a tutor that matched my expectations of a tutor. I met with my tutor each week to answer all my questions, discuss high yield topics and questions on the most recent Step 1 exam. He not only did this but taught me knew ways of organizing the information in my brain that will never come out to this day. From little details getting me free points on Step 1 regarding minute details to large tough concepts; he prepared me to understand medicine on a whole new level.

    Meeting many students who improved from just barely passing NBME scores to extremely high scores in the 250s and 260s on Step 1; I could see they had the same experience. When I received my Step 1 score and saw I passed with a competitive score I was so happy with the results that my tutor and Med School Tutors helped me achieve. It has been my worthiest investment in medical school. From my proposed NBME exams starting designated study time I improved 40 points and I have met many students who have improved far more than that! I couldn’t thank Med School Tutors enough for offering this as an option to so many students who don’t want lectures or group studying.