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Last Minute Study Tips for the USMLE Step 1

Some crunch-time study planning advice to help you conquer the boards.

Sometimes you fall behind on studying leaving you desperately racing to be ready in time to take the USMLE step 1. It can happen to anybody. With only a month to go, you will have to be efficient with your time and prepared with a study plan.

The best short-term study plans incorporate these core aspects:

  • They cover all of the necessary material. With the scarce time before your test, you have to make sure you can cover all of the material before taking the exam.
  • They build in free time and/or catch up days. These days are used to give you flexibility when studying and to prevent burnout. Sometimes, it’s good to take a brief break because you’ll come back refreshed!
  • They space out the material. It’s much better to study for hours each day during the time leading up to the test, than to pull all nighters right before the test. Spaced repetition has been shown to be the best way to remember concepts time and time again.

Based on data collected from Cram Fighter customers, in Spring 2018 we posted about a detailed study plan perfect for this scenario. It’s 4 weeks long and breaks down each study topic with a recommended number of questions to complete every day. It requires the following resources:

  • First Aid for the USMLE Step 1, 2018 edition
  • Pathoma
  • Qbank of your choice

This schedule calls for between 6 to 10 hours a day of studying most days. It also recommends that you take some practice exams throughout the 4 week period so that you can monitor your progress as you go. If you find yourself struggling on certain topics on the practice exam, we encourage you to revise the study schedule and focus more on those weaker areas.

We’ve also recently posted additional 4-week study plans incorporating combinations of different resources beyond First Aid 2018, Pathoma, and a Qbank—including the recently-popular study aids: SketchyMicro, First Aid 2019, and Boards & Beyond.

Remember you should be studying for the USMLE Step 1 for months ahead of time. But if you get stuck with only a month before your exam, you can still feel prepared. If you start with a solid study plan and a willingness to commit up to 10 hours/day for studying you can get through the resources you need to in 4 weeks. If you need help setting up a study schedule in Cram Fighter, let us know anytime by emailing Good luck!

About the Author

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