How This Medical Student Scored a 260 on the USMLE Step 1

  • /Reviewed by: Amy Rontal, MD
  • Columbia med student Katie Williams shares how she organized her resources and how Cram Fighter kept her accountable to absolutely demolish Step 1.

    Was there a specific combination of resources that you found helpful?

    Yes. I felt that combination of First Aid, UWorld QBank, and Pathoma covered pretty much everything on Step 1 and generally explained concepts in the level of depth that I needed in order to remember key ideas and terms.

    How do you best fit question banks and flashcards into your study schedule?

    I did about 50 questions a day, usually at the end of the day after reading in the morning, which allowed me to get through most of the Step 1 UWorld questions by the end of my 7 week study period. The satisfaction of checking off the tasks I completed for the day and the guilt of the red bar if I didn’t, did a pretty good job of keeping me on task. Cram Fighter provided me with a source of external accountability, even though I was the one who had set the schedule and I was the only one to be affected if I didn’t keep up.

    Cram Fighter provided me with a source of external accountability.

    How did you allocate your study time across multiple resources?

    I spent some time on each resource every day. I lose focus and motivation easily if I’m doing the same thing for too many hours, so I found being able to bounce around from reading, to videos, to questions really helpful. The ability to switch to different media, if I was tired of reading or tired of questions, was essential for me. Cram Fighter was helpful for making sure I did a significant amount of everything each day. If left to my own devices, I might have watched all of the videos, which were easier for me to focus on, in the beginning of my study period. Then, I would have had to slog through the reading and questions at the end when I was already burnt out with studying in general. Cram Fighter was kind of like my mom telling me to do my homework (the First Aid reading) right after school because she knows I really won’t want to do it later.

    Use the tool that helped Katie crush the USMLE Step 1.

    What resource did you start with when you began your studies?

    I was fortunate to have classmates who had started studying a month before I did and who were very helpful in filling me in on what resources they had found most useful so far. So I identified the three resources (First Aid, Pathoma, and the UWorld QBank) I was going to devote most of my time to before I started studying. I found them helpful, so I stuck with them.