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When To Choose Your Step 1 Resources

We polled medical student leaders on the best time to select USMLE Step 1 study resources.

Although the new school year has just begun, it’s not too early for second-year med students to start choosing their boards prep resources now.

We conducted a survey of our Campus Heroes who have already taken Step 1 or COMLEX Level 1 to get their input on board exam resources. Campus Heroes are leaders at their med schools and have insider advice about when to select your USMLE Step 1 resources, and why. Here are some of the highlights from our survey.

When Is The Best Time To Choose Your Step 1 Resources?

A whopping 93% of our respondents said that M2 students should choose their resources now! About 50% of our survey respondents told us they began choosing their resources in the fall of their 2nd year. And 20% said they started choosing resources during M1. The general consensus is that the sooner you start familiarizing yourself with the resources, the better. Some other tips included:

  • “Using Step 1 study resources early not only helped me study for lectures and exams but also helped me get used to them before I buckled down for Step 1.” (Chose resources beginning of second year)
  • “Now is a great time for second years to try out resources in order to firm up which resources they will use later. I recommend only using resources for the system you are currently learning in school. For example, if you’re studying Renal use boards and beyond, first aid, sketchy medical, etc. for only the Renal section.” (Chose resources in late fall of second year)
  • “Each pass through your Step 1 study material leads to more recall/understanding. The earlier you start to use your resources, the more familiar they will become/the more you will feel like you are learning the information.” (Chose resources in first year)
  • “The more exposure and repetition you can get with your resources the better. So using your chosen resources alongside your curriculum throughout second year will be helpful.” (Chose resources in late fall of second year)

What Are The Best Step 1/Level 1 Resources?

Medical students study for Step 1 or Level 1 using multiple resources. So we also asked our community what Step resources they consider “must-haves.” Unsurprisingly, 100% of the respondents said that their “must-have” qbank is UWorld (the “U” in UFAP). Two med students also recommended USMLE-Rx and COMBANK, respectively.

As for the recommended, “must-have” book resource—88% of our respondents recommended First Aid (the “F” in UFAP).

The responses to the question about the “must-have” book and qbank resources are reflected in our stats for the most popular Step 1 resources used on Cram Fighter.

Popular 9/2018 (Above is our most-popular Step 1 resources as of September 2018.)

Among all of our customers, we see 67% adding First Aid and about 44% adding UWorld to their study schedules.

One of the biggest takeaways we got from this survey was that many med students recommended being very careful about what resources you choose. Many said “don’t over-resource!” In fact, this comment from a University of Toledo student sums up the general theme about resource selection: “Don’t buy them all! You need to really think hard about what you will actually use.”

In addition, when we asked med students what other advice they’d offer M2s (and even M1s) about choosing Step 1 resources now, our survey respondents said:

  • “Keep your resources limited and use whatever is most compatible with your learning/studying style.”
  • “Use resources that you can use to study for both Step as well as for your 2nd year classes. More exposure to the materials is best.”
  • “Plan to get behind schedule. As much as you try to stay on track, there will be some days you have that are incredibly productive and other days where you may have a lot of other things pop up, and you just don’t get through everything you wanted.”
  • “Be practical in your timing. Plan ahead to know the proper amount and length of subscription is suitable for your study plan to save time and money.”

Students also offered additional resource suggestions in their comments to us:

  • “First Aid, Pathoma and UWorld/COMBANK are your top priorities. If there are any gaps in your knowledge supplement Sketchy Medical, Boards and Beyond, DIT, Anki, etc. as needed.”
  • “Sketchy Medical is an AMAZING resource!”
  • “Sketchy for everything and Boards and Beyond are a must “
  • “Boards and beyond is a great option.”
  • “Grays Anatomy Qbank”
  • “Pathoma, Goljan, Sketchy, First Aid (and FA Clinical Cases)”
  • “Use Zanki deck”

As you can see, the recommendations for Step 1 resources for your Step 1 study plan are varied, but there are a few key recommended resources you can feel confident adding to your study schedule. Most of these offer a free trial, so you can take this opportunity early in your second year to give them a test run.

To help you get started, here’s a comparison of our top 5 most popular Step 1 resources.


About the Author

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