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How This Medical Student Scored a 250 on Step 1 with the Help of a DIY Study Guide

  • by Shweta Kumar
  • Oct 01, 2015
  • Reviewed by: Amy Rontal

St. Georges University medical student Shweta Kumar shares her plan of attack for preparing for the Step 1

As someone who used Cram Fighter for your study plan, what did you find were the most helpful aspects?

The two most helpful aspects of Cram Fighter were its flexibility and its resource list. It was nice to be able to map out what subjects I would be studying on certain days, instead of creating an overly general study plan. I could also account for holidays really easily. The list of resources on Cram Fighter contained basically anything that I would possibly use. It was really easy to populate my study plan without literally saying: “I want to do 12 pages from this resource on this specific day.”

How did you find the specific study strategy that worked best for you?

Over time, I figured out what worked well for me, based mostly on my experience in undergrad and in my basic science classes in med school. I noticed a lot of my peers were doing things that did not work for me. Using flashcards was a perfect example. I didn’t find using flashcards to be particularly helpful. Figuring out the right study strategy for me was a lot of trial-and-error.

Eventually, I figured out that I learn best when I’m writing. I write a lot. In my notes, you will see a lot of flow charts, diagrams, and tables. This way I can actively learn the material, instead of trying to memorize highlighted words on a page. I need to put the material in a different form than I originally saw it in order to comprehend it. I need to break things down and put them back together.

Above: Two examples of Shweta’s home-made study materials.

I have a perfect example of how I studied the material by breaking it down myself. I actually broke down my First Aid book. I went to Staples and had them hole punch the whole thing. Then, I put it into a binder. This way I could insert my notes right into the text.

Did you find your study plan changed throughout your study period?

Actually, yes. It changed a lot. My initial plan was grand and complex. I wanted to do two blocks of UWorld every day, and then go over the material in each by using other resources. I bit off more than I could chew. I was getting really frustrating using Cram Fighter at first because my overdue tasks kept going up and up!

I decided to break my eight week plan into two week study blocks. On each Sunday, I would take an NBME. I would use this to triage my week, so I could focus on my weak areas. I’m a very quantitatively-driven person. It was great to have the NBME self-assessments so that I could quantify my weaknesses. It was far too easy to feel as if you are good at a given subject. After taking an NBME, you may realize you need more practice.

Do you have any recommendations for students?

Yes. UWorld has great explanations! I feel like they are not as difficult as the NBME tests because UWorld tests are trying to teach you something. It’s easier to say on UWorld: “I see where they’re going with this.” The test questions on the NBME are more like the ones on the actual Step 1 because they are harder and more random.

I felt insane: my room looked like a scene from the last season of Homeland where there’s all these photos posted to the wall, connected with yarn.

Self-assessments definitely helped me triage my weak spots. I would say the most helpful thing I did was surround myself with the material. I would post tables and charts that I had made around my room. Many of them were comparisons between two similar diseases, or similar enzymes. Seeing them every day helped me remember. And making them helped me remember too. Often I made them by synthesizing information from a few paragraphs in a textbook into a table or a chart. I felt insane: my room looked like a scene from the last season of Homeland where there’s all these photos posted to the wall, connected with yarn.

Did you meet your goal for Step 1?

Yes. I’m actually really proud of my score. I got a 250. When I started studying I stuck a post it note to the wall the said my goal was a “250” and that is exactly what I got.