How I Scored a 270 on the USMLE Step 2 CK: Step 2 CK Study Plan

  • /Reviewed by: Amy Rontal, MD
  • *This post was updated in June 2019.* On the residency interview trail, I was always asked: “How on Earth did you score a 270 on Step 2 CK?” When my students hear about my score, they often ask the same question.
    Getting a great score on this exam was certainly no easy feat, but it’s something I believe to be possible for almost anyone. Below, I’ve included some of the steps I took to prepare for 2 CK. Everyone has a different studying method, but taking some of my approaches could be the catalyst to your success on this exam.

    Pre-Step 2 CK Preparation

    Believe it or not, my preparation for this exam started at the beginning of 3rd year of medical school. As I went through clerkships, I knew one thing: Studying hard would certainly put me at an advantage for Step 2 CK.

    I made sure that I prepared well for each Shelf Exam, and I completed the corresponding section in UWorld for each clerkship. When Step 2 CK rolled around, I was already in a position to excel. For budding M3 students, taking this advice is paramount to your success.

    Time Off During Test Prep Will Help You Achieve a High Score

    When it came time to prepare for Step 2 CK, I set aside some time off from clerkships. I took an easy elective for 4 weeks, followed by 2 weeks of vacation. This free time was crucial to my ability to get through all of the material.

    Despite what other medical school classmates may tell you, if you want to score high on Step 2 CK, your preparation for this exam should be no less than 4 weeks. (Remember, with residencies getting more and more competitive, you want to excel on this exam).

    USMLE and Other Medical Text Resources

    One of the fundamental principles for exam preparation is a healthy mix of reading and questions. You need a solid text source to enhance your knowledge foundation. First, I used Step-Up to Medicine for Internal Medicine. It’s a pretty dense book, but remember: IM encompasses approximately 2/3 of this exam!!!

    I followed this up by reading Master the Boards for Step 2 CK—a great resource for reviewing the high-yield material of the other specialties. At the end of my 6 weeks of preparation, I skimmed First Aid to rapidly review high-yield material.

    USMLE Study Questions

    Everyone knows that questions are crucial. After completing UWorld during my clerkships, I reset the Qbank to study for the USMLE. I did 2 blocks of questions every night, always in timed mode. Note: This is extremely important tip for perfecting your timing on the exam. 

    After completing the blocks, I scrutinized every explanation, even correct ones. There’s an immense amount of information in UWorld, and maximizing the Qbank in this manner is very important. Plus, looking back, just as with the other USMLE Steps, timing was a huge part of my test day experience.

    Practice Exams

    Step 2 CK is an incredibly long test: 9 hours in total. The fatigue you will experience is indescribable, and the best tip I can offer here is to practice.

    First, I strongly recommend that you utilize all of the NBME and UWorld self assessments over the course of your studies. Then, you can take it one step further—as I did—by completing a Kaplan simulated exam (I took mine 2 weeks before test day).

    You may ask yourself, “Why Kaplan? Why not a UWorld or NBME assessment?” My answer is simple: Kaplan is the only service that offers a full-length practice exam; the others are all half exams.

    I firmly believe that doing a full 9-hour practice exam gave me an extra edge on test day, and I don’t doubt it can do the same for you. In my opinion, after experiencing that level of fatigue once, you’ll be more prepared for how to handle it better on test day. 

    Excelling on your Step 2 CK exam is definitely possible. Learn from my experience and incorporate some of these tips into your studying. It might mean the difference between a good and exceptional score!!

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