Should You Consider a Step 1 Tutor?

  • /Reviewed by: Amy Rontal, MD
  • Something I’ve come to appreciate during my journey as a medical student (and now a resident) is that having good guides and mentors to rely upon is very important. 

    When I was a student, upperclassmen pointed me to study materials and gave me some tips on Step 1 prep. An upperclassman’s insider advice is something that couldn’t be found in a textbook—after all, why reinvent the wheel? They know what you’re about to go through, having done it so recently themselves.

    Of course, upperclassmen aren’t the only source of wisdom and guidance out there. A Step 1 tutor can play a role similar to upperclassmen, only on a whole other level. Think of them as a dedicated coach who can provide personalized and real-time feedback for you to reach your medical school goals. 

    If you balk at the idea of finding a Step 1 tutor because you think it indicates a lack of maturity or skill on your part, here’s the kicker: learners of all skill levels benefit from tutoring, from students studying for Step 1 to residents trying to master their specialty. This is true for almost every field of human endeavor. After all, people learning to swim have swimming coaches, and so does Michael Phelps!

    If you’re thinking about finding a Step 1 tutor but aren’t sure it’d be right for you, I’d like to give you some concrete examples of what they can do. 

    Here’s five ways a tutor can help you prepare for Step 1.

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    The 5 Benefits of Working With a USMLE Step 1 Tutor

    1. A Step 1 tutor can help you create the right study plan.

    When I was on the speech and debate team in high school, our captain shared a lesson about preparing for tournaments. He said, “The fool believes the tournament is won in the final round. The smart individual thinks it’s won in the preliminary rounds. However, the wise person knows the tournament is actually won in the practice that took place before the competition even started.”

    The same can be said of preparing for Step 1. There’s no better way to prepare for the USMLE exams than by having a solid Step 1 study schedule in place and knowing which resources to use. And a Step 1 tutor will help you do just that. 

    In my first session with students, I work to establish a study plan that best fits their needs with the resources that optimally match their preferences. An important part of this is choosing study materials that are tailored to their needs. 

    In each subsequent session, I check in with the student to see how the schedule is working and if any adjustments are needed. If you’re struggling with creating a study plan, a tutor can help you create an adaptable schedule.

    2. Step 1 tutoring can help identify high-yield study areas. 

    If there were only a few questions about biochemistry on Step 1, conventional wisdom may tell you to put it on the back burner when studying. However, the fact is that biochemistry is an important subject for the exam. While it seems like a never-ending puzzle of alphabet soup, there is indeed a strategy to go about studying biochemistry that can make it manageable for Step 1. 

    As a tutor, I emphasize the high-yield concepts that will enable my students to be as successful as they can be on test day. After mastering that content, we can then advance to the nitty gritty details to get those extra points. 

    The key point is that not all information is equal (for exam purposes)! Some topics are more worth your effort than others when you’re in a crunch. Having a Step 1 tutor can help you allocate your time so you get the most bang for your buck!

    3. A USMLE Step 1 tutor can help you understand a large number of challenging concepts.

    Part of the challenge of the Step exams is the sheer volume of information. After studying one subject, it may feel like you have to delete some other information to create space. A Step 1 tutor can show you learning techniques that can help you compress all these details into your memory so they’ll be readily available during your actual exam. 

    During a tutoring session, I have brief presentations on the key details of a concept so that it can stick in a memorable way. The best strategy is to create a mental tree that connects all the topics of medicine and recognizes the interplay between them. This will form a mental map that will greatly benefit you on test day. If you’re looking for more memory tricks, a Step 1 tutor can go into greater depth during study sessions.

    4. Step 1 tutoring is a great way to learn about expert test-taking strategies. 

    Having a Step 1 tutor can also be helpful when your practice exam results hit a plateau. In many cases, more content review doesn’t always correlate with an increase in performance. This is because of the style of USMLE questions. They’re not just asking you to relate A to B—instead, they’re asking, “how does A connect to B in relation to C and D?” 

    During tutoring sessions, I like to watch my students approach a question and see what areas they can develop. This way, I can provide them with concrete tactics to put in their toolkit for attacking different questions. Students who implement these strategies can become more efficient when answering questions, translating to a score boost. 

    5. A Step 1 tutor is like a coach that pushes you to your limits (safely). 

    Having a tutor is really no different than a coach that can help you achieve your goals. Regardless of your performance level, having a trusted resource to give you personalized feedback is invaluable. 

    By monitoring your progress and working with you longitudinally, a tutor can help you break through whatever ceiling is preventing you from reaching your dream score. 

    In the end, having a Step 1 tutor in your corner isn’t a bad idea because studying for the exam is no easy task. The test will throw curve balls at you and your performance on Step 1 can impact your career. That’s why you can trust the professionals at Blueprint Prep to navigate you through this journey. We’re 100% dedicated to ensuring your continued success and have the tools in place to facilitate your exam preparation. 

    Is Step 1 Tutoring Right for You?

    If any of these benefits resonate with you, working with a USMLE Step 1 tutor might be the right fit for you!

    To be a tutor is a great privilege for me. I see it as an opportunity to pass on tips and tricks I learned to help my students crush their exams. In fact, one of my proudest tutor moments recently was when a student increased their Step 2 score from the 210s on the diagnostic test to 260 on the actual exam—in just six weeks of working together!

    For whatever my students need and regardless of their backgrounds, I offer a personalized approach to maximize our time together, pack in as much high-yield information as possible, and build their confidence, so they can excel on test day!If tutoring sounds like it might be the right option for you, click this link to schedule a FREE no-strings-attached introductory session with me.

    About the Author

    Hailing from Phoenix, AZ, Neelesh is an enthusiastic, cheerful, and patient tutor. He is a fourth year medical student at the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California and serves as president for the Class of 2024. He is applying to surgery programs for residency. He also graduated as valedictorian of his high school and the USC Viterbi School of Engineering, obtaining a B.S. in Biomedical Engineering in 2020. He discovered his penchant for teaching when he began tutoring his friends for the SAT and ACT in the summer of 2015 out of his living room. Outside of the academic sphere, Neelesh enjoys surfing at San Onofre Beach and hiking in the Santa Monica Mountains. Twitter: @NeeleshBagrodia LinkedIn: