How I Scored a 847 on COMLEX Level 2, a 271 on USMLE Step 2, and Lived to Write This Blog Post Too

  • /Reviewed by: Amy Rontal, MD
  • In my last post, I laid out my advice for DOs studying for both Step 1 and Level 1 – though it certainly applies to students just studying for one or the other as well. To be honest, much of what makes for a successful Level 2 CE and Step 2 CK experience is the same. That shouldn’t be very surprising.

    It also shouldn’t be too much of a shock to learn there are some big differences between them as well. Below, I’ve mapped out what I did to score high on the second phase of COMLEX and USMLE, especially when it differed from what I did for my first set of boards. I hope you find it helpful!

    COMLEX Level 2 Study Resources

    Just as with preparing for Step 1 and Level 1, the trick here is to choose a few key resources and master them:

    • Your “General Review Book”: unlike with Step 1, unfortunately there aren’t really any great ones out there. Even the best have errors and are incomplete. The three most popular are First Aid for Step 2, Step Up to Step 2, and Master the Boards Step 2. You can also use Step Up to Medicine instead. Pick your poison, but pick one. You need to annotate UWorld somewhere, and having a review book provides the framework to do so.
    • First Aid for Step 1: this book is still high yield for Level 2/Step 2. You can forget some of the basic science material, but the rest of the book is great – especially if you annotated it for Level1/Step 1. This time, it will serve as a platform reminding you of everything you need to have mastered to delve into clinical material.
    • OMT Review by Savarese: again, for OMM.
    • UWorld: purchase a year-long subscription at the start of M3. During each of your rotations, do the corresponding section in UWorld and annotate the key concepts into your review book. Then, reset it a few months before your exam and do all the questions again.
    • COMQUEST: again, I personally prefer this one to COMBANK. Purchase it a few months before your test date and finish it once to get a feel for the COMLEX style.
    • Practice Tests (COMSAEs, UWorld SAs, NBMEs): take as many as you can over the course of your preparations. Don’t take Step 2 CK or Level 2 CE until your score is consistently where you want it to be – at the very least, a standard deviation above passing.

    Timing Your Exam Prep

    This is where preparing for Level 2 really differs from any other exam, as DO students have COMATs instead of traditional Shelf exams. In my opinion, the COMATs are difficult to prepare for, as I found the content of each one to be very random. Regardless, they provide goals throughout the third year of what to study for Level 2.

    Treat each COMAT as though you’re studying for that portion of Level 2/Step 2 and use your resources accordingly. Review all of your annotations before your COMAT; they should make an effective study guide. Preparing this way should not only help you do well on each COMAT despite their unpredictability, but set yourself up long-term for success on the boards.

    Try to schedule a break or an easier elective rotation around June at the start of M4, as this is the time to plan for your dedicated study (about a month was ideal for me). Check out what I wrote in my previous post about making the most of this period, as it still holds true here. I also advise taking your test around the end of June or early July. That way your MS3 year is still fresh and you’ll receive your scores before submitting your ERAS application.     

    Putting It All Together

    And that’s really it. All my general advice from before about study discipline, support, and test date timing still holds true for taking Level 2 and Step 2 together. If you did well on your first set of boards, keep up the momentum! If you didn’t do so hot, then the second set of boards is a great place to make up for it. Good luck… and happy studying!

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