Tuesday, January 27, 2015

I have no idea about USMLE Step 1

I have noticed that some of my readers haven't spoken to anyone about USMLE step 1 exam and ask very basic questions about the preparation so I decided to write a separate post on it.

For those who have started preparing for the exam and have a general idea
- You'll find most of this post useless and redundant.
- I have marked asterisks (*) for important points you might wanna look at :)

Lastly, most of these are replies from conversations that I've had with real people so
- I haven't sequenced them in order.
- Ignore grammatical errors that I may have overlooked.
- Some of them have shout outs to Indian medical students (Simply because I know the Indian system better and it's hard to separate those points and write em again. Please don't mind that. I love you all equally, medics of the world!)

Okay, let's begin!

I just started. Which books do I get?
Kaplan notes and Goljan pathology.
* Don't buy First Aid initially since you'll be requiring a new edition in the last 3-6 months of your prep.

How do I start preparing?
You'll have to start with Kaplan videos. Supplement them with notes. Add extra points, stuff not mentioned in the videos to it. Hear Goljan audio while travelling, cleaning the house. Read the book and know it cold.

What is Goljan audio?
Recorded lectures of an absolutely amazing pathology professor, Edward Goljan.

What all is encompassed in Step one? Which subjects?
Anatomy, Biochemistry, Physiology, Pathology, Microbiology, Pharmacology and Behavioural science.
* It has a lot of clinical questions as well so it's hard for me to restrict the syllabus to basic sciences. For a hypothetical example, say, a question on burns was asked on my Step. In India, it is taught in Forensic Medicine and Toxicology and Surgery. So you get the idea? You require an over all comprehensive knowledge for Step 1.

Behavioural science?
It's Biostatistics from Preventive and Social Medicine (3rd year minor for Indian medical students) and Psychiatry from Medicine (3rd year major for Indian medical students).

If there are minor and major subjects, won't I score better if I give the exam after I am done with MBBS?
Yes, I think people who give the exam after they complete final year score better than those who give it in their basic science years simply because people from first year and second year lack clinical knowledge essential for Step 1.
I must say, my opinion is biased on my experience. I know of a senior who gave his exam before final year and scored a 265 on his Step 1 (So that's pretty awesome and you should go ahead, give the exam without doubt in your basic science years!)

Umm so why give Step 1  early?
- You're utilizing your time efficiently.
- You'll need the score to apply for electives in certain colleges.
- You get "done" with the exam and you can chill out.

When and how to register?
You'll need an ECFMG id to give the exam. That requires college stamp. You'll get the instructions online. If you can't figure it out, email me.

When do need to get the id? ASAP?
3-6 months before you feel like giving the exam, you make the id. It takes approx 1 month to make.
The thing with ECFMG id is that you need to pay a certain amount of money to make the id. That's why, I recommend you to make it when you're absolutely sure about giving the exam.

What is uWorld?
It's an online question bank. They are questions which are similar to those on Step 1 and essential to get an idea of what the exam is like.

When do I start with uWorld?
It is a resource you would like to use in the later months of your preparation because it is difficult (You can't do it without having any knowledge) and because it trains you for the real exam.

Are there other questions banks that I can do?
Many. Kaplan Q bank, USMLE Rx to name a few.
* Unlike uWorld, you can start with other question banks well before the exam because they are not very similar to the real exam, they scare the shit out of you with facts you don't know and motivate you to study.

What is NBME?
Mock exams created by examiners who write questions for the test. They predict your score.

I've heard you need to do research stuff in the field you are interested, is that right?
Yes. Research and electives are required for residency.

How do I become a part of some research?
That is later. In USA. Give your step exams first.
For Indian medical students - You can do research in India as well but it has no value. You'll get experience but that's about it. No credibility.
Procedure in very short: You'll need to contact the HOD of that department, get permission from ethics committee and contact a professor who would like to mentor you for research.

No advantage of research in Step 1?
Nope. They help you in residency match. Just get a good score for now and worry about the other details later.

(I'll keep updating the post with recent questions as and when I can.)

Related posts:
Preparing for the USMLE Step 1 exam

USMLE for Indian medical students 

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