How to Stay Motivated While Studying for Step 1

  • /Reviewed by: Amy Rontal, MD
  • Alex conquered Step 1 — scoring a 254 — and shares how he maintained stamina during his intense study period.

    We asked MD student Alex how he stayed motivated during his intense 7-week study plan. Below Alex describes his study plan, which was structured around three passes through First Aid.

    How did you structure your study plan week to week?

    I thought that doing multiple passes through my resources was the most important part of studying. Weeks one through four were spent on an in-depth first pass through First Aid, (FA) which I supplemented with Pathoma. During my first pass of these resources, I also finished approximately 60% of UWorld. Each day, I usually chose question sets that covered the material I was covering in First Aid that day.

    Weeks five and six were spent on my second pass through FA. In addition, I used Doctors in Training to hammer home important or difficult concepts such as biochem, pharmacology, microbiology, leukemia/lymphoma, and ovarian and testicular tumors. I also finished UWorld (on random mode), and began to review the questions I answered incorrectly.

    Week six and half to seven were for my third pass, a high-speed FA run-through at two minutes per page. I also finished my review of the questions that I got incorrect in UWorld. The day before the exam, I did flashcards for about half of the day, but most importantly, I spent time relaxing.

    You can use Cram Fighter’s study blocks feature to incorporate multiple passes of a given resource within your study plan. With Cram Fighter you can go through a resource at different rates based upon the length of each study block. We asked Alex how maintaining his stamina during his study period helped him accomplish his goals.


    What strategies did you use to make sure you were staying on track?

    First, I found that having a study partner can be a big help. We helped push each other and kept one another on track. Often my partner and I would review the answers to self-assessments together, which greatly sped up the review process.

    In addition, keeping weekly buffer time kept me from falling too far behind. I recommend giving yourself at least one half day per week to catch-up, as there will be days that you don’t keep up with your schedule. Buffer time also encourages you to keep up with your schedule, because if you don’t need the buffer time then it becomes time off!

    Stay on track for the USMLE with a personalized Cram Fighter study plan that tells you exactly what to do each day.

    The Step 1 is like a marathon, and you can get through it if you approach the exam the right way.

    I used Cram Fighter from day one to help me keep on schedule. Generating a schedule using Cram Fighter allowed me to easily distribute my study materials across a multi-week study plan. The ability to adjust my schedule on the fly was incredibly helpful, especially when I needed to account for days when I didn’t quite keep up with my schedule as planned. With Cram Fighter, I didn’t have to worry about manually rearranging my schedule when I fell behind. Cram Fighter, therefore, freed up more time during my most packed days. I felt Cram Fighter was reasonably priced for the value that I got from saving time and staying on track.

    Do you have any tips for students who may be struggling with stamina throughout their study period?

    Taking care of myself throughout my study period was extremely important. I slept eight hours a day, ate healthy, and worked out a few times a week. I listened to about 50% of Goljan audio lectures while working out, which helped allay guilt about not studying. I took either a half day or a full day per week to pursue my hobbies. Having a book, a video game, or a TV show that you can pick up for a half hour at a time was great for when you hit a mental wall, but can’t afford to take multiple hours off.

    The Step 1 is just a dumb hoop to jump through, and then you’re free of it forever!

    The Step 1 is like a marathon, and you can get through it if you approach the exam the right way. This is a great opportunity to consolidate what you’ve learned so far, and revisit what you didn’t have time to study closely in your Major Clinical Year. It’s also a great opportunity to get back to healthy living habits. It’s brutal. This exam sucks, and there’s no reason to learn about one third of the material. The Step 1 is just a dumb hoop to jump through, and then you’re free of it forever!

    The key to finishing a marathon is maintaining the right pace. Use Cram Fighter to find the pace that’s right for you.

    About the Author

    Erica Forrette is the former Director of Marketing at Cram Fighter.