Thinking about Step 1 and how you'll prepare can be stressful! Just because it's now pass/fail doesn't mean there's no stress around the exam. Thankfully, Reddit users (who are also medical students who have taken Step 1) have been compiling advice in r/Step1 for years! We sifted through and assembled our favorite tips. Whether you're close to your exam and need exam day tips or if you're just starting to think about it, we've compiled the top 13 tips from r/Step1:
Begin your Step 1 studying early
"Start early and work consistently. When learning anything, doing a little bit everyday will almost always net you more knowledge/skill than cramming it all in at the end. This means that over time, your net-work will actually be less overall, giving you more free time to do whatever you like to do. I basically had Step1 in my mind from the first day of med school and worked towards my goal from the very beginning." - u/sketchymicrop****4
Focus on small steps
"Mentality: The most difficult part of this test is the mental part. I felt terrible for many days or weeks. The way to overcome the stress is to just focus on doing the next right step. Instead of focusing on the outcome (the score) which is very stressful, focus on the process (studying) and your score will improve. This journey is very long and exhausting, but doing the hard work everyday will eventually pay back." - u/Dr-Small_Head
Do practice questions
"If there's 1 thing you have to do, its practice questions. This is non-negotiable. You can sit there pressing spacebar all you want, but if you don't know how to apply it and get a question right, all that time was wasted. PERIOD. The end goal is getting points. How do you get points? Picking the right answer. You gotta practice this. You can memorize the rules of football backwards and forwards, but if you've never actually played, you're not gonna be happy lol.
Important: When reviewing your questions (especially your incorrects), you should be reviewing the explanations so thoroughly that if this same exact question came up again, you will get it right. If you aren't reviewing with this much intention, then you're not efficiently using the question." - u/clorox_veins
Pay attention to why you get questions wrong
"When you get something wrong, start to identify why you go it wrong (knowledge miss vs. test taking error) and self-analyze the data to see what's going on. If you keep missing knowledge questions - ask yourself if it is something you reviewed relatively recently and just forgot, or if it's something you've never seen/haven't reviewed for a long time. If you reviewed it recently, you need to do more spaced repetition." -u/fighter2_40
Find a study buddy
"I studied with one of my friends 2 days/week and having someone to talk to and be around kept me sane. I highly recommend doing this if you can." u/throwawaaaaaystep
Take care of yourself daily
"Step1 not only requires the necessary knowledge, but is also a skill in itself. The only way to get better at a skill is to practice it, so the only way to get better at Step 1 is to do practice questions. Put your all into every question as if they were the real test. I started last summer doing 10 questions a day, and slowly worked my way up to more and more questions. I think there were only 1-2 days where I didn’t do any questions. ... Beyond the test - lifestyle is incredibly important. In order to do your best on this test, IMO, it’s a must to be as mentally and physically healthy as you possibly can be. Do your hobbies, see friends (surround yourself with people that also want to do well! My friend group averaged >260, I think being surrounded by awesome people that wanted to do well definitely played a part in doing well myself. Love you guys!!!!), relax, meditate. Have confidence in yourself, and aim high!" - u/sketchymicrop****4
Don't compare yourself (or your scores) to others
"DON'T compare yourself to anyone (on here or your classmates):
everyone's different and your experiences will vary greatly as you may perceive something to be easy that someone else may deem hard af." -u/the_struggles_real
Take advantage of the free 120Qs
"Key point: make sure you do the free 120qs before the exam because they will get you familiarized with the software. I failed to do this because I forgot that the interface is actually different on the real exam on due to heart sounds + breath sounds overlapping on the simulator on the real exam. Also, the way to cross off questions on my exam was different than I had encountered on the Q banks and NBMEs and that gave me a bit of a panic during my first block when I didn't know how to mark incorrect choices. Turns out you have to highlight the answer choice or double click, rather than single left click or single right click. Maybe this is how they do it in the free qs." -u/fighter2_40
Visit the test center before your exam
"The most important thing to do when preparing for the test is to visit the testing center before your exam. There are many unknowns when it comes to each individual testing center: parking, lockers, testing procedures, bathrooms, etc. I think much of the anxiety surrounding the test can be alleviated by simply reporting to the testing center before your scheduled exam. Hell, I did it the day before. I found this worked best because as you are all well aware- accepted practice is to take the day off before the exam. So, what better time then to check out the center than during your off day, so you don't have to skip any studying?" - u/GubernacuIum
Prioritize your mental health
"My most important piece of advice: Please take care of yourself. Take days off. See your family, friends, SO. Exercise, take walks, do things that make you happy.
I reached a breaking point at some point in my early dedicated before covid forced me to push my date. Legit did not think I would make it through. Coupled with the fact that my practice scores were so clearly low. I considered changing professions, not taking step at all (DO student), giving up all together. I took a week break when I hit rock bottom, went to see family, and regrouped myself. This is really what changed the game for me. I was able to come back stronger + with a clearer head.
Mental health is so incredibly important. You won’t perform well if your mind isn’t in the game, no matter how hard you study." -u/hopefullyfuturedoc
Take frequent study breaks
"I took a break after every single block. I highly recommend this. Even if it's just to walk out of the room and back in, get the juices flowing!" -u/AlexanderHamilt0n
DON'T neglect sleep/exercise:
"Whenever I had bad anxiety during a practice self-assessment, I could usually attribute that to poor sleep the night before. Also, go workout on days you really just can't/don't wanna do s**t. I would try my best to not feel guilty and went for a walk, got some ice cream with a bro, spend time with fam, etc. DON'T just sit around watching youtube/movies. You want your mind/eyes to catch a break, too!" -u/the_struggles_real
Remind yourself that you've earned your spot
"If you’re reading this and thinking that you’re alone in your struggles, your trauma, your anxiety and depression - you most certainly are not. But you have earned your spot and you are MORE than this exam. Your struggles will likely make you more empathetic and approachable. All the minutiae in the world isn’t helpful if your patient, colleagues, and staff don’t communicate with you.
Now that I’m working with patients it all feels worth it. You’ve got this." -u/Solid_Influence_8230
It's never too early to start thinking about how you're going to study for Step 1!
First step for studying for the first step?: Choosing your learning tools! MedStudy’s Medical Student Study Strong System covers everything on the USMLE Content Outline and builds an incredible foundation for your coursework. Plus, Personal Trainer (included) guides you through exactly what to study and when, locking the must-know information into your long-term memory. This way, you’ll crush your goal of passing Step 1 AND excel in medical school. It’s a win-win!
MedStudy Founder Robert A. "Tony" Hannaman, MD, introduces the Medical Student Study Strong System
Consistent use of a study schedule is so important for a successful Step experience—from studying to actually passing your exams. Personal Trainer creates a study plan for you by asking when you plan to take the exam. It then shows you what you need to be studying to get to your goal. Topics will first show up in your "Preview" section. After you review the Preview | Review Questions for that topic and mark them done, they will show up the next day on your "Study" section. Then after you study a section and mark it done, it will show up under the "Spaced Retrieval" section to help you remember the information for the long-term and not just until the exam.