Revisiting the UWorld Journal: How I Scored a 263 on the USMLE Step 1

  • /Reviewed by: Amy Rontal, MD
  • I recently had the chance to implement my own study technique as I studied for Step 2 CK. I used the exact same UWorld Journal method I described for Step 1 and in doing so, I definitely was happy to see that it was still an efficient way to get the most out of the UWorld Qbank.

    However, with another go (as well as some great comments and questions from other students on my initial UWorld Journal post), I’ve come up with 5 ways to make your UWorld Journal an even better tool.

    1) Use the right Qbank.

    There is a reason that I called this the UWorld Journal and not the Kaplan Qbank Journal. I believe UWorld, as of August 2015, is still the best resource for questions, and its questions are still the most comparable to NBME exams. Some students immediately say: “Why not do both?” What I say to this is that it’s better to do 1 thing right than 2 things poorly. And most students only have time to do 1 Qbank correctly. So if it is the summer between your 1st and 2nd years or later, use UWorld.

    2) You only need to do UWorld once.

    If you are truly learning from your mistakes via the UWorld Journal, you don’t have to do UWorld more than once. What I recommend is completely finishing UWorld 1 time using the “unused” option, and then doing as may blocks as necessary to finish all your incorrect questions using the “incorrect” option. Before I start any of the incorrect questions, I make SURE I go through my journal thoroughly so I don’t make the same mistake twice…or three times etc.

    3) Break down the Journal into multiple docs.

    I’ve been there. The first week or so, reviewing the Journal is not bad. However, 6 weeks into studying you have a 50 page Word document that’s so intimidating you need a break just waiting for the document to load. What I did was make a separate doc for each week. Although this doesn’t change the total length of review time at all, it is easier to digest and review when you can break it up into chunks.

    4) Review all questions in each question set.

    It is easy to just review what you got incorrect after a question set. But while sometimes you’re good, sometimes you’re lucky. I go through each question and if it was one that I guessed on or didn’t really understand why I put the answer, even if I ended up being right, I will put the important info in the UWorld Journal.

    5) Introducing the “get it together” question.

    We have all been here: you get a question about lysosomal storage diseases and you have no idea what is going on. The answer ends up being Niemann-Pick disease and you end up filling in the question into the UWorld Journal. Then, 4 days later you get a question on Tay-Sach’s disease and you still have no idea what is going on. I call these questions the “get it together” questions.

    What this means is that for questions on groups of diseases that you don’t feel confident on at all (examples include lysosomal storage diseases, bugs that cause diarrhea, etc.) I would put the entire table in the UWorld Journal and just put your head down and get it together. This way, you are ready for another question that will test the same group of concepts — and this way you will be ready.

    Try to improve on how you implement the UWorld Journal by using these pointers and let us know how things are going!