What Are Some Good Step 1 Study Habits to Develop Now?

  • /Reviewed by: Amy Rontal, MD
  • The USMLE Step 1 is approaching fast! Here are give study habits you can cultivate now in order to prepare for the boards in advance.

    For most 2nd-year med school students, the beginning of the second semester after a midwinter break represents the time that Step 1 is finally a real, tangible milestone on the horizon. It’s a new year, and you’ve made it through first semester. You’re back from winter break refreshed. So how do you take advantage of this “reset moment” and build some good study habits and time management skills now as Step 1 looms?

    Note: It should go without saying that your coursework is still very important. Understanding course topics will be critical for success on Step 1. So please keep up your attention to your courses and modules!

    1. Set aside time in your schedule to go through just Qbank questions or flashcards.

    On top of the coursework and course study time that you may be juggling at this time, we recommend you begin to get familiar with Step 1 questions by using a Qbank, such as Pastest or creating flashcards, such as an Anki deck. As your time allows, allocate specific times to go through your chosen resource, while keeping to your existing coursework commitments. Even committing to answering just 10 questions per day will help you develop your knowledge base, while you’re still a few months out from your exam date.

    2. Use Cram Fighter to build study blocks and remind you to do your early Step 1 studying

    At this time, you can use Cram Fighter’s Study Blocks feature to create a study period containing just your Qbank or flashcard deck and customize the hours per day and the days of the week that you want to spend on each.

    This feature is helpful when you’re still taking courses because you can schedule more hours on the weekends, or whatever day(s) in your own schedule on which you can allocate more time to early Step 1 prep like answering Qbank questions or flashcards. Use the email reminders from Cram Fighter as a starting point to put the number of hours each day into your overall schedule, so that you effectively get everything done you’ve committed to.

    Study hours

    3. Get in the habit of doing a bit each day and sticking to your schedule.

    By following the guidelines above, you should naturally get in the habit of diligently committing to your study schedule and studying a bit each day. Daily commitment now is good practice for when you enter dedicated study—a time when building a plan and sticking to it will be critical. Studying for Step 1 is a marathon, not a sprint, so creating the building blocks of good study habits now will pay off in the long run.

    4. Learn about your weak areas early by paying attention to how you do on the questions/flashcards.

    Use your performance on certain topics in the questions/flashcards you’re answering, to understand where you will need to focus your study efforts more. Are there questions on certain body systems or topics that you continually get wrong? Use this feedback as a learning opportunity to identify what you’ll need to increase your attention on, and possibly devote more study time to, in order to get better.

    5. If your time allows, start reviewing First Aid.

    Early in the second semester, you may have time to begin looking at First Aid. In fact, it’s smart to start reviewing First Aid as soon as you can, especially the sections that correlate with your coursework. If you decide to put this into your schedule, you can approach allocating study time for it in a similar way that you built small amounts of time for your questions or flashcards. Set aside an hour or so in each day. While you’re going through First Aid, try not to passively read, but actively participate. Take notes in the margins, and highlight key concepts.

    Interweaving together your coursework, First Aid, and Qbank or flashcard work should help build a strong foundation early.

    About the Author

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