How This User Scored 250 on the USMLE Step 1 and 715 on the COMLEX Level 1

  • /Reviewed by: Amy Rontal, MD
  • Joel Harding, a medical student at The Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine, tells us about his routine and how he killed it on his exams.

    Joel Harding says that his best habit when studying for the USMLE Step 1 and COMLEX 1 was staying constantly motivated and to keeping his goal in mind.

    Creating a schedule and sticking to it was vital to my success.

    Since long-term studying for boards is very different than studying for course exams, Joel had to change many of his habits. “Creating a schedule and sticking to it was vital to my success,” says Joel. A schedule, no matter how tentative or flexible it is, is far better than not having a plan. Joel’s study plan was well organized in that he tried to maximize his time and be as efficient as possible during his study hours.

    Here is a description of one of Joel’s average days. “I would usually start around 8:30/9:00 am by looking at my Cram Fighter schedule. I would go over material and then take a lunch break around 12:00 pm. I would come back around 1:00 pm and start a series of 2-3 question sets. Once I finished them I would take a break and walk around the track at school with one of my study partners and talk about different subjects or different presentations of certain disease that I thought were unique. I would then head back in to review those questions and have dinner around 5:30/6:00 pm. I would head back to studying after that and go over some more information that I thought was high yield for the day and quit around 9:00/9:30 pm.

    Overall, Joel completed between 8,000 and 9,000 UWorld questions. “I would review UWorld questions in detail, as well as the UWorld practice exam questions,” Joel says. According to Joel, First Aid is an absolutely necessary resource if you want to do well. “I would annotate every question from UWorld in there as well as new information that I gleaned from Pathoma. By the time I had gone through all my resources and marked the new information in my First Aid I could answer 80-90% of the questions I had by just looking in there,” says Joel.

    Joel went through periods during which he studied 10-12 hour days, but he always made time to eat well and exercise. In addition, despite how much he had planned to accomplish, Joel made sure to take at least one night off a week and to have one weekend day off every weekend. Joel was dedicated and resilient, but always sought to find a good balance between his mental health and studying.

    “Whatever you do, try not to compare yourself to others. You won’t learn anything from checking on how others are doing.was my worst habit” says Joel.