Tuesday, April 17, 2012

My Step 1 Study Sources

Just in case I do absolutely fantastic on the boards (or I guess also in case I totally bomb them), it might be nice to know what I am using to study.  In my past I have had a SERIOUS problem of too-many-sources-itis, a fairly common disease in which one buys lots of expensive text books and review books and thinks one must read all of them, and therefore learns none of them to the degree of detail necessary (physiology's Rhoades and Bell was the worst book-buying decision I've ever made). 

For path and pharm this year, I learned my lesson and bought NO textbooks.  I used only the lecture notes and some USMLE World practice questions, and that was it.  There was barely enough time to get through the lecture notes before each exam - having more things to read would have been a serious added stress!  And the strategy worked out pretty well.  While I'm sure there were some facts that I didn't learn for each test, I knew enough facts to do well.

For Step 1, there are at least, AT LEAST, one billion review books.  Now, I don't think anyone is stupid (cocky?) enough to try and use real textbooks during board review time.  But even just having more than one review book to me is stressful (there are many people who would disagree me on that one).  I think that everyone agrees that First Aid is the Step 1 bible.  Where people disagree is if it's really enough or not - some people say if you know First Aid inside and out, you're fine - others say it's not sufficient.  Whether or not those others are right, I don't think I can learn First Aid inside and out PLUS another book (or more) inside and out in 6 weeks.  And I think throwing more review books into the mix will make me learn each of them worse, and my personal opinion is that it's better to learn at least one book really really well (for me, I repeat, for ME it is better).

Goljan (he arm wrestles)
Of course, just reading a book is not nearly active enough, and also not integrative enough.  So I am also using the Kaplan High Yield lectures (they were changed this year to more closely follow First Aid, and they basically read the book to you, with a few extra facts or integrations here and there), and of course Goljan's pathology lectures.  I'm assuming anyone in med school past or present knows about Goljan.  But for those that don't - UCH.  I hate him.  I do.  I think if I ever met him in real life I would absolutely hate him - he's incredibly cocky, he's a little sexist, he's a lot condescending.  But he writes review books and gives review lectures and they are AWESOME, and you are at a huge disadvantage if you haven't listened to his lectures (so I've been told).  So I listen to them (begrudgingly).  And of course the number one source is practice questions from USMLE World.  The Kaplan High-Yield series comes with a question bank also, but I only plan on doing those questions after I have done the UWorld questions enough times that I can get the answer without even reading the question.

That sounds like a lot of sources after I just said I only want to use one - but the Kaplan lectures are basically a reiteration of First Aid, and the UWorld questions are practice questions.  So my main sources are First Aid and Goljan lectures with lots of practice questions.  I'm not using Kaplan's MedEssentials, Rapid Review, BRS, Deja Review (although I really like the cleverness of their name), or any of the other books that are out there, although I'm sure there are many great ones.

I do have one exception though:

I've heard from a few (hopefully reliable) sources that knowing neuroanatomy really really well can be the difference between a good score and an amazing score.  Apparently there are lots of pictures on the test so if you know the anatomy well, you can figure out the lesion/defect/whatever without even having to think about it or figure anything out, and what might otherwise be impossible points become easy points.  So I also bought High Yield Neuroanatomy.  I also am in possession of Clinical Neuroanatomy Made Ridiculously Simple - but I think I'm going to stick with High Yield for now (and maybe in some miracle alternate universe when I'm days ahead of schedule, I'll also read the other one).

Now even in those 20 seconds of searching the internet for images of these books to post I just stressed myself out SO MUCH because the sites that came up are all blogs on how you have to use Rapid Review, or you better be using a text book or lecture notes to fill in First Aid's gaps, or you better get a 280 on Step 1 or you might as well die, or you should have started studying 3 years ago, and other good advice of that sort.  Ahhh.  Enter self-doubt! 

I need to stay away from the internet and keep repeating to myself that my method will work, and really I just need to study instead of stressing about studying!


  1. I'm using First Aid and forgoing Goljan (because I'm crazy probably.) But I think your right I need to quit stressing and stay off of freaking student doctor forums so I can just study. When are you taking yours? I'm June 6th...eeee!

  2. I like hearing the information presented in a different way, which is why I like Goljan's lectures. I did the same thing for the MCAT though - "if I get this score, maybe I can get into this school..." when I really should have just spent that time studying! Oh well, live and learn I guess.

    I take mine May 16 - 4 weeks from tomorrow! So scary!!

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