Showing posts with label Study tips. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Study tips. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

USMLE STEP1 just changed! You need to too!


On 26 Jan 2022, the USMLE Step 1 changed its score reporting format to Pass/Fail only. This means, that those who give their exam after this date cannot see their 3 digit score, and neither can anybody else (yes, not even PDs)

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Study smarter not harder- Active recall, the foolproof method to ace any test

 If I ask an average student about their preferred study strategy the answer most likely would be Highlighting, summarising, and re-reading. Making aesthetically pleasing notes in a myriad of colours may be appealing to many but is passively re-reading already familiar content an effective study strategy?

Two of the most effective study strategies I have come across are active recall and spaced repetition. In this post, I will be talking about the science behind this method. I’ll cover spaced repetition in another post.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Asking Questions

History taking in medicine is science just as much as art. Here are some tips.


Open questions: ‘How are you?’ ‘How does it feel?’
The direction a patient chooses offers valuable information.
‘Tell me about the vomit’
‘It was dark’
‘How dark?’
‘Dark bits in it’
‘Like bits of soil in it’
This information is gold although it does not cast in the form of coffee grounds.

Patient-centred questions: Patients may have their own ideas about their symptoms, how they impact and what should be done. This is ever truer as patients frequently consult Dr. Google before their physicians. Unless their ideas, concerns and expectations are dealt with, your patient may never be fully satisfied with you or be fully involved in their own care.

Considering the whole: Humans are not self sufficient units; we are complex relational beings, constantly reacting to events, environment and each other. To understand your patient’s concerns, you must understand their context: family, friends, work, dreams and fears. A headache caused by anxiety is best treated not with analgesics; but by helping the patient access support.

Silence and echoes: Often the most valuable details are the most difficult to verbalise.
Trade secret: the best diagnosticians in medicine are not internists, but patients. If only the doctor would sit down, shut up and listen, the patient will eventually tell him the diagnosis.
While powerful, silence should not be oppressive- try echoing the last words said to help your patient vocalise a particular thought better.


Closed questions: Permit no assumptions. Take no subtle information for granted. Let the patient paint you a picture.

Questions suggesting an answer: The doctor’s expectation and hurry to get the evidence into a pre-decided format have tarnished the patient’s story enough to render it useless.

- Ashish Singh

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Submission: Tips for Step 2 CK

Hello All,

I am currently preparing for my step 2 CS exam. I gave my step 2 CK in June 2018 and scored >250.

Here are the resources I used-

1) Onlinemeded lectures+MTB

2) U world Q bank


Here is what I. Used to do-

Listen to Online meded lectures and take notes on MTB but I did not read them again. I just listened to OME lectures  2nd time while exercising.

I printed the pdf file circulating with UWorld tables and Followed listening lectures of online meded  with doing questions of Usmle World and taking notes on Tables file.

Then I used to revise whole system I did in the week on weekends

Initially I started with one system a week and in the end I did 2 systems in a week.

Some important points to note-

1) U world and Online meded are the basic resources. 

2) Listen to all the online meded lectures  before solving U world Qs. It helps alot and makes the process of going through Usmle world Qs a lot easier.

3) Memorise Usmle World tables on your tips. 

4) Every option of Usmle world Qs is important. Go through not only the right one but also the wrong options properly.

5) I used to give a NBME every 3-4 weeks to track my progress and gave UWSA in the end. I started with 200’s and went upto 250’s.

-Parneet kaur

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Studying for Step One

Studying for the USMLE can be a daunting task, especially when you're an International Medical Student/Graduate. Coming from a different background - culturally and educationally - the questions asked in these examinations reflect the health system and health needs of the US's population. Apart from the questions, the financial aspects of attaining residency in the United States may also be a setback for some. Overall, this journey is a test of patience and dedication to the profession and one's career goals.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Time management tips for USMLE exams

The USMLE exams are really long and tiring but they are like parts of a big puzzle and each part does play an important role in the journey to become a doctor in the US.

This post will focus on some time management and test-taking skills that are helpful to each test-taker. I hope you enjoy reading

Before your exam:

1- It is advisable to do a simulation of the exam. Do 7 or 8 uworld blocks- with breaks in between - or 2 consecutive NBMEs or UWSAs. This way, you ll be familiar when you start to lose your concentration or feel hungry and when you will need a longer break between the blocks.

2- This is optional, but for some people, doing the practice test in the prometric greatly reduces the tension of the exam day. If you are very tensed, schedule a practice test in your prometric and live the experience. This is also considered a test drive and by doing this, you ll know exactly where the prometric is :)

The night before the exam:

1- Sleep well. You need each synapse in your brain to work perfectly :D your memory and logic will be tested tomorrow. Your brain should be ready for that.

2- Try your best to sleep without taking any meds, if u have to, make sure that this time is not the first time you try them.

Exam morning:

1- Arrive early to the prometric, 30-40 mins earlier than your exam starting time. You'll sign some papers and pass a simple security check.

2- Wear comfortable clothes with less pockets and shorter sleeves. You ll be asked to show your pockets and roll your sleeves each time you go out for a break and each time you back into the exam hall.

Blocks and breaks:

1- Skip the tutorial
By doing this, you ll have a complete one hour break instead of a 45 minutes one. The tutorial will show you the software which is a replica of Uworldso save your time and use these 15 precious minutes.

2-Pre-schedule breaks according to the previous simulation
Enter the exam with a plan in mind about using your breaks. Will you take a small break after each block? Will you do 3 blocks with breaks then 2 without? Choose what best suits you based on what you felt during the simulation that you did. For example, you might have felt hungry after your 3rd block, so you may need a longer break in the real exam after your 3rd block.

2- Eating, drinking and using the restroom
Use your breaks wisely. Eat small things/snacks in breaks to avoid hypoglycemia during the exam and eat a small sandwich/breakfast before the exam to have some energy to start.
Don’t forget to "visit" the restroom in your breaks. You are not allowed to go to the restroom during a block, if you urgently need to do that, this will be labelled as “an irregular behavior” and it will be reported to ECFMG.

3- Staying in the exam hall
You don’t have to leave the hall during your break. If you wanna take a fast 5 minutes break, you can simply stay where you are, close your eyes, relax your mind and continue your exam when you feel ready

While solving blocks:

1- Reading the question/the last line first
 Always read the last line first in all USMLE exams, some questions are answered only by reading this last line! Especially in pharmacology questions, you may have a question stem which is 12 lines long then you ll read: What is the mechanism of action of …..? This will help you to save some valuable seconds.
As a rule, read last line first then go back and read the question normally.

2- Highlight any abnormalities
When you read a question, highlight the age,sex and where the patient was admitted; ER, outpatient. Also highlight any abnormality like hemodynamic instability….chest pain...etc.
Your eyes will focus on these findings and will try to associate them to reach a diagnosis.

3- Omit distractors
With time, this becomes a skill in the USMLE world, you realize that many sentences are just fillers to distract you. For example, a myocardial infarction in a 70-year old male, a person who smokes only occasionally or who drinks on weekends.

4- Resist the urge to re-re-read, simply mark and go on
Read the question and apply the hints mentioned above. If you don’t know the answer yet, read the highlighted parts again, if you still don’t know the answer or you are not 100% sure of it, pick the one you feel it is the right one, mark the question and move to the next question. You may get back to this question only when you finish answering all other questions.

5- Leave abstracts and drug ads till the end
This applies for Step 2 CK and Step 3 exams. Abstracts and drug ads are very lengthy and they may take a lot of time in addition to the fact that many statistically insignificant data is thrown here and there. When you see an abstract or a drug ad, choose any answer then move on and go back only when you finish all other questions. It’s illogical to spend 10 minutes on 2 drug ad questions and miss 7 questions at the end of the block!

6- Don’t leave unanswered questions
Even if you don’t have any clue about a question when you read it, choose an answer, mark it and go on. Having a 20% possibility to answer the question right (supposing a question has 5 choices) is better than having nothing. This will also save some much needed seconds, because if you read a hard question then skip answering it, after reading another 20 questions, you' ll have to re-read the hard one.

In general, don’t change your first answer, your first hunch is most probably the right one. Change your answer only if you are sure that the one that you chose is wrong.

Test taking skills are very important and play a vital role in your journey

Good luck to everyone :) USMLE exams are tough but manageable, just tell yourself: I WILL DO IT :)

And that’s it :)

Sunday, April 15, 2018

USMLEowesome: Studying for the USMLE Step 1 exam


The intended audience for this video is those who have decided to give the exam and are starting to study for it.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

How to use Anki Flashcards for studying


Since many of you guys requested it - A video demonstration on how to use AnkiDroid for studying during premed and med school!

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Some antibiotics in the US and their trade names

When you start your rotations, you'll hear many drug names that will sound new to you and since the drug names written in qbanks and books are the scientific ones, here is a brief list of some antibiotics and their trade names in the US:

Scientific name
Trade name
Ampicillin - Sulbactam
Piperacillin - Tazobactam
Zosyn ( also called Piptazo)
Dalfopristin - Quinupristin

Comment below for more “commonly used” antibiotics (or drugs in general) that may be added to this table.


Wednesday, March 21, 2018

My USMLE Step 2 CK Experience (241)

I would like to thank everyone who I met during this journey from all over the world, Thank you everyone!

Sources used for studying:

> MTB step 2 for IM
> MTB step 3 for other subjects
> Uworld
> Uworld biostat review
> Kaplan step 2 patient safety chapter
> Conrad fischer 100 ethics cases
> Uptodate (only looking for details if needed)
> +/- kaplan epidemiology part for step 2 (for biostats)
> NBME 4 6 7 and UWSA1

Method of studying:

>Did a fast read of MTBs then started UW offline systemically with taking notes using Anki flashcards program.
>Did UW online systemically in tutor mode  with marking difficult/incorrect questions and writing any new notes that are not in the offline version.
(if you feel you have a problem with time management, do more timed mode blocks)
>Did marked questions in random timed mode
>Revised whole notes in 2-3 weeks
>Solved CMS blocks ( good for introducing some new ideas and practicing more questions)
>Did NBME 4, 6 then 7 ..and did UWSA1 ( scores ranged between high 230s and high 240s...the real score was 241
>When I did the exam, NBME 8 and UWSA2 were not released, so it is better to do those too, and NBME4 can be done offline if needed.

Always check UW diagrams/tables before studying the chapter from MTB

UW is really solid in Peds and covers most if not all the needed concepts in the exam.

UW doesn’t constitute a big chunk of the exam, so I felt UW was more than enough for it

Also MTB + UW

Please check uw tables and diagrams for Obgyn before studying MTB and compare between the two..sometimes there are differences and UW is always the correct one. You don’t want to memorize the info wrong first then correct it again.
So UW tables hand in hand with MTB then UW.
Kaplan vids for Obgyn may be used if needed.
-No comprehensive book for CK like First Aid for Step1 but It is an exam that tests your concepts and the more questions you do the more confident you ll feel.
(In my opinion, Kaplan qbank in step 2 is not needed and may confuse you!)

- It is advised to leave long abstract and drug ad questions till the end because they need time to be solved

- I did CK before step1, some people argue against this. Regardless of what you do first, any step that you will do first will help in the next step ( 2 before 1 or 1 before 2)

Good luck :)


Tuesday, March 13, 2018

My USMLE Step 1 Experience ( Road to 255 )

Hello everyone :) I would like to share with you what I did/studied for USMLE Step 1
It is gonna be long because I tried to include every single question that I was asked about my prep

First of all, I would like to thank everyone who I met during this journey from all over the world, Thank you everyone!

 Sources used for studying:

>First Aid
>First aid proposed and official errata (please check the proposed errata before studying any page in First Aid, it may have nice mnemonics, corrections. concepts..etc):
>Uworld biostat review
> +/- kaplan epidemiology part for step 2 ( those 2 youtube videos may be used in addition to  kaplan):
>a person rearranged Pathoma into this amazing Onenote website:!2705&parId=375C2C99998A5C62!2703&authkey=!AHH10BbZMBrqM0k&app=OneNote
>Sketchy micro and pharm videos ( I didn’t watch all videos but a lot them are really helpful)
>Kaplan videos for biochem / Sam Turco
>Kaplan step 2 patient safety chapter
>Conrad fischer 100 ethics cases
>+/- Flashcards notes ( Brosencephalon Anki deck for revision for some First Aid chapters)
>+/- BRS physio (curves and their questions in cardiology/respiratory)

 Method of studying:

>Did First aid general principles part except biochem 
Did some systems then went back to biochem
Then completed the systems

 >Uworld mainly done after first solid read of First Aid ( I started doing Uworld after finishing some of First Aid then I stopped and continued studying First Aid)

 >I didn’t do any online NBME but I solved NBME 15 16 17 18  and biostat and genetics questions in older NBMEs
Also did UWSA 1, 2 and FRED
(I felt my level was ok, I don’t advice you to do 2 online NBMEs at least. I also didn’t try to convert my offline score and compare it..again, don’t do what I did :D)

 First Aid and Uworld are used for all the subjects in addition to what is mentioned below:

  •  Biochem:

>Kaplan Biochem Videos by Dr. Sam Turco 
>Kaplan biochem book for pages that correspond to the videos skimming, don’t spend much time doing it!

  •  Immuno:


  •  Micro:

>Sketchymicro videos +/- pdf file of videos helps to cement info
>Use a lot of mnemonics whether from the proposed errata or any other source you find, also take care of the pics of organisms because they can be a question too.
> viruses DNA vs RNA and taxonomy mnemonic:
The video is drawn in a nicer way here too:

  • General Patho:

  • General Pharm:

Dr Raymond in Kaplan pharm about energy and inhibitors

  •  Public Health Sciences:

>Biostat: the more questions you solve the better, as mentioned above: uw biostat review
>+/-Kaplan step 2 epidemiology may help in giving a broader idea for a person who is studying biostat for the 1st time 
>Conrad 100 ethics cases + behavioral:Kaplan step 2 patient safety chapter

  •  Cardiology:


BRS Physio - Cardio chapter ( if needed)

Some mnemonics that may help in hyperdyslipidemia:


  •  Endocrine:

+/-BRS Physio 
Sketchypharm..some really nice videos for anti-Diabetic drugs

  •  GI:


  •  Hemonc:

>Pathology and a lot of physio:
In addition to many mnemonics that are found online, you may check the anti-Neoplastic part of Sketchy pharm, I haven’t seen it but I heard it is cool.

  • Musculoskeletal:


  • Neuro:

>Some books in First Aid are not clear enough the foramina of the skull,,I suggest looking for some pics that are not clear in First Aid.

 > A much simpler way to understand Basal Ganglia:
(the whole channel: “Draw it to know it” is amazing)
>An amazing video to memorize the Brachial plexus:
>Sleeping associated neurotransmitters

Pathoma presents tumors in a simpler way

  • Psych:
I suggest studying drug toxicities, DSM rules and drugs mech of action from Uworld because it is more arranged and accurate than First Aid.

  • Renal:

Patho and some physio:
Pathoma is great in pathology here and some parts of physiology are covered too

  • Reproductive:

Mnemonic for tanner staging:
The tumors part can be rearranged better in First Aid, I suggest focusing on Pathoma and checking the reproductive part here too, tables can really make things easier:!2705&parId=375C2C99998A5C62!2703&authkey=!AHH10BbZMBrqM0k&app=OneNote

  • Respiratory:

+/- curves from BRS physio


 General advices/Before Exam:

Mnemonics (memory aids) are a very vital part of step 1 ( at least for me :D ) that make remembering stuff much easier. A lot of the data is very dry but it stuck to your mind with mnemonics especially with pictures. I suggest checking the mnemonics in First Aid itself, First Aid proposed errata and these two very awesome websites: 
(for sure :D you ll find mnemonics for everything here)

Although memorizing is very important for step1, be sure to understand the concept before memorizing it. This is especially true in physiology because one fact may be asked in many ways.

 -How much time needed?
I have seen ppl doing it in a period as short as 5 months ( esp if step2 is done before) up to more than 1 year with others. In my case, It was on and off but if you want to put a timeline I would say 6-7 months.

 -How many times do I have to do First Aid? 
No fixed answer to this question. It depends on your type of studying. Are you the type who likes to read fast then revise again and again? Or you like one solid 1st time then a fast revision?
I personally prefer a very solid 1st studying time with mnemonics and concepts and a fast revision after that. In my case, I studied First Aid once and skimmed it once

 -Active studying
After you study First Aid and solve Uworld, try asking First Aid facts in a question form, do that on Facebook groups,Whatsapp..or with your study partner. Asking facts in question form will let you see many lines in First Aid that your eyes can oversee!

 -Every single line can be a question
Please don’t omit any line, diagram..curve in First Aid, anything can be asked! 

It is not necessary to study the subjects in a system exactly like First Aid
The 2 that are very connected are physiology and pathology. I sometimes used to finish Anatomy, Embryology and Pharmacology then go back to physiology and pathology.

 -Taking notes
This really differs for every person, some ppl like to write notes on extra notebooks, others write on First Aid or add sticky notes to it.
I starting adding notes from Uworld to First Aid then I stopped and continued taking notes using the flashcard program/app: Anki
It lets you search, add pics, audio and video 
Always remember the best notes are those you make yourself.
(Taking notes may take a lot of time sometimes so it’s ok too if you use other ppl notes)

You can come up with any personalized revision schedule you like, for me, revision was done after I finish the whole chapter in addition to its Uworld questions in the form of questions and answers with my friends on Facebook/Whatsapp.
Some already made Anki decks are there for step1, the most famous one is the Bronsenchephalon deck.

 -What if I need more?
I suggest making Google images and Youtube videos your new friend, they can simplify a lot of concepts. I didn’t use DIT videos so I can’t comment on them. Idea is when you need extra clarification go to youtube or google and don't feel obliged to watch video series like DIT or Kaplan..etc
I believe that watching Dr. Najeeb’s videos or studying Goljan or textbooks..etc is NOT needed and is beyond the scope of Step1 and will just take extra time from you with no much difference in score! many times?
Regardless of how many times you ll do it, the 1st time should be always so solid, understanding concepts, writing notes..etc
Because when you solve Uworld again, recall bias would kick in and you ll be able to answer some questions not because you understand them but because you remember the question.

 -Uworld timed or not?
Many factors affect this, but if it is your first time with the USMLEs, you can do some blocks untimed in tutor mode then try timed mode, if you feel there is no problem with time, you can continue doing tutor mode.
Another method done by some ppl is to do Uworld tutor mode first read then timed mode in their 2nd read.
This is also affected by how fast you read English, how you train your eyes to omit distractors and by resisting the urge to re-reading the question sometimes. 
With time, this becomes easier!

 -Uworld system-wise, Subject-wise or mixed?
It depends on each person and each has his own approach.
 I think the 1st time should be done system wise excluding anatomy, microbiology, biostat. Biochem and genetics 
Eg: Cardio => physio, patholo, pathophsyio, pharm...same for other systems
Anatomy should be done all together, same for biochem, genetics, biostat, micro
This will help integrating the relevant data together.
Mixed mode can be done for marked questions or the 2nd read of Uworld ( depending on how many times you ll do Uworld)

-How to approach questions?
Always read the last line first...sometimes you may be asked a pharmacology question that is 10 lines long, then the question may be: the drug works by the following mechanism! This will greatly help in saving time for more questions in the exam.
After reading the last line, you can start reading the question from the start, a good thing is to highlight the abnormalities or the main points so your eyes can pinpoint what the question is asking.

 -Kaplan Videos and qbank
This questions depends on your level. I did my step 1 after graduation and I did CK before that, so in my case, I felt I didn’t need videos to explain the basics for me.
>I felt kaplan videos were needed for biochem, because in First Aid biochem is not that clear.
My advice is to watch the videos by Dr. Sam Turco, then look at Kaplan Biochem book to read what he explained but don’t see other pages that he doesn’t talk about because they are low yield.
>Kaplan pharmacology vid by Dr. Raymond may be used to explain the general pharmacology part of inhibitors.
>Kaplan qbank: in my opinion, it is not needed but it may be used for more practice for genetics and biostats questions.

Even after studying First Aid, Uworld, Conrad Fischer 100 ethics cases, you may find some questions in the exam in which you are left with 2 answers to choose from. Follow your guts and move on :D

>My advice is doing NBMEs starting from NBME 15 ...till 19
At least do 2 NBMEs online to get used to the exam preferably NBME 18 and 19
In my opinion. Older NBMEs don't represent exam trend and may have some very strange questions..but if you have time, do the biostat, genetic bands questions to be more used to deal with those. If you really have more time and you want to do all of NBMEs, you can do them too but know the concepts.
>Take NBMEs as an average, mostly your score will be somewhere between your lowest and highest score, It is something good to see you score increasing in each NBME, but put in mind that mostly NBME17 is underpredictive and that online ones are graded differently than offline ones. 
>If you get scores in NBMEs that are near the passing score postpone your exam till you get a satisfactory result! Step 1 score will haunt you all the way :D so give it your best shot :D

 - Step 2 and Step 1
I did CK before Step 1 so it helped in Pathology, micro, ethics, biostat, behavioral and a lot of pharm. In short, any step that you do before will help in the next one which leads to shorter studying time.

Exam day:

 -Sleep well..arrive early,,skip the tutorial  

 -Breaks during exam?
>If you skip the 15-min tutorial at the start of the exam, you ll have an hour of break time
>I took a break after each block with a larger break after my 3rd block, relaxing more, eating a bit more.
>Eat a bit in breaks, go to the restroom and try to relax your mind,
>Wear something that has less pockets to save time because you will be checked each time you enter the exam room after any break.
>Do a simulation test for yourself before the exam, spend 8 hours with breaks in between and know when you feel more tired or more hungry and decide how to divide breaks in the actual exam accordingly.

 -WTF questions
No matter how much you study, be prepared to find some strange questions in the exam, don’t panic, just follow your common sense, choose an answer and go on.

After the exam:

 >You ll feel some relief, you did a great job...8 hours are gone and It’s time to breaaathe and maybe eat a large meal :D 
>Now your mind will start remembering every single stupid mistake you did and you ll feel like: Who did I do that????
>Now 2 things: either leave it and suppress your ideas and hide anything related to Step 1 or go and do a brainstorming session and remember everything to reach a level of internal peace with what you did.
>You ll have some waves of anxiety for score anticipation in the 3 weeks after your exam :D this is NORMAL :)

Good luck everyone!

Written by: Murad 

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

NEET preparation in early years of MBBS

Hey everyone! 

Pratibha Jha agreed to write a post on how to study for NEET during MBBS for all those still in medical school! :D

Here is what she has to say -

1. Concentrate on individual year subject: Strengthen your subjects in that year itself.

2. Be friends with reference books: Don't get scared by the size. You don't have to read it completely but just the regular topics, markings, that you read from theory books. Read them from reference books. (Guyton, Robbins, Harrison, Love and Bailey - Always try to read these books!)

3. Raise questions in mind and search answers in books! 
Spend time on understanding what you read. Take help of online videos (Rajeev Ranjan anatomy lectures, Dr Najeeb lectures, Khan academy physiology class, Dr Smily ma'am, Dr. Karthikeyan biochemistry videos, embryology videos, Armando Hasudungan videos - are some specific ones but it is endless on YouTube)

Bottom line is take every effort to make your reading conceptual - it makes learning interesting, don't just mug it up.

Be consistent!
Take college classes, practicals, all exams little more seriously (too much sincere-ness is not possible but little will go long way :P)
Just be regular with reading and library. It is better to read everyday some pages then overloading at the end.

4. Should I join classes?
Yes, I feel it is required to make concepts so if possible join it!
Make sure to come and revise the notes after class or else you will forget them and can't even understand your own words written later.

5. When do I join classes? 
Two strategies:
I. I have joined in second year - it gives u very early orientation of PG exams which is important. It helps in UG years and university exams. You can build base gradually, there is no hurry. You can take your time according to your pace to understand stuff.

II. Some join in majors or internship but I feel by then you are hurried and already occupied by other things. You don't have time to read reference books. In short pressure starts building up. But the advantage is that your notes are fresh, you understand them and it's more fresh memory considering nearness of exams.

6. When to start reading medicine and surgery:
Minor, I feel, is good time. Always sit with pathology and pharmacology books alongside. When reading Harrison, don't be reluctant to go to previous year books when you are stuck with something.

7. MCQ books in UG? 
I think yes. I did it. It sounds too much but it is no extra efforts, really. It is just solving question based on what you have read and like revision, you have don't have to learn anything new. It is just compact version of what you have already read.

8. Read theory given in MCQ book or only solve question? Why not directly solve MCQ book?
Theory is very crisp, read it. Its not new information as you have already read it. First read from book, then read theory in MCQ book and then go for questions and not retrograde.

9. How to do all this together?
Example: If you are in second year, reading inflammation from pathology - Read Robbins, understand, then go through Devesh Mishra - read theory and then test yourself on a question. It is okay to be wrong! Keep solving.

10. Keep a balance. 
Don't neglect fun for studies and end up feeling frustrated and averted to books. Vice versa don't neglect studies for fun so much that at the end, it piles up to a giant monster and seems impossible. A balance between both is very much possible.

11. Don't give up if you don't understand something: It doesn't make sense in first 2-3 reads, really! So that's normal, keep reading and struggling with it till it starts making sense!

Hard work is the key to success. If you start early, it is easier later. So it is the best way. If you start late, it is difficult relatively but if you decide to give the hard work it takes, you can do it. It is never too late.

Written by Pratibha Jha

PS: Pratibha scored an All India Rank of 21 this year (Isn't she completely awesome?)

How to study for NEET by Pratibha Jha

Hey everyone! 

My awesome junior, Pratibha Jha, agreed to write a post on how to study for NEET :)

Her experience and study tips are so genuine - I feel like they can be applied to any exam - be it USMLE, PLAB or just a final year theory exam.

Here is what she has to say -

1.  Be focused on your aim and not on your distractions, weaknesses and problems. You have them, everyone has them. We are fighting so many issues in our mind but with so many thoughts and anxieties running through your mind - you have to take that one thought, "I have to do it" and focus on it repeatedly. The rest of the anxieties will blur out

2. Every subject is important. Make sure you read all the subjects. It shouldn't be like you know too much of one subject and nothing of the other.

3. What to read? Multiple choice question (MCQ) books? Class notes? 
If you have attended classes and have  notes, read them. Then solve questions and update it in your notes - the areas that are left out, whatever more important points you come across.

If not, MCQ books are good as well, they cover more topics. So less chance of missing out a question. I like to read MCQ book and add left out important points in my notes. You will know once you start reading, what suits you.

3. Time the subjects. Set a time for a particular subject. It can vary individually but try to finish a subject in that time limit. This keeps you tied up with a schedule. Otherwise, it takes forever considering every subject is huge in itself. But also make sure that you understand what you read and you're not hurrying up too much as well. It's okay if you're a little late of the schedule.

4. Always solve MCQs! 
It's a must. Make it everyday habit, not just weekly test!
Because ultimately, you have to learn to apply concepts on MCQs and it will only come with practice. I recommend the marrow app and pre pg app.
Whatever topic you read, back them up with MCQs of that chapter. It helps memorize better. Make it a mental rule - you have completed a topic only if you have solved its MCQs. Develop technique of eliminating rather than jumping directly on answers. Think about why the rest of the three options are not the answer.

5. Revise and revise!
Make sure you remember what you read, for that revise.
Before starting with a new subject, give 2 hours of the day to revise the subject that you have already done.

What to revise? Notes, tables, important MCQ and lines that you have marked. This is very important during first read - we all know what we will forget!

6. If you can't revise: Try to keep time distance between first read and subsequent revision to 1-2 week so that it doesn't appear from your memo. First read after you take up the subject like 1 month later, but just make sure to revise.

7. Remembering memory based info: Compile them, go through them frequently (eg I made a pdf via cam scanner of everything that's volatile for me (eg  paeds milestones, scoring of pancreatitis, trauma scores - TRISS/MESS/Glasgow..or list of osteochondritis, enzymes in biochemistry, or chromosomal locations, table of CD mutation/translocations in lymphomas) before sleeping and anytime you're having a break. Go through them frequently, it forms visual memory.

9. Images! Don't forget them. Keep looking for the images as and when you come across them. May be click it and make an album in your phone, keep seeing them when you have tea / fb break.

10. Surround yourself with the right people who will motivate you, will give you positive boost. Discuss difficult topics with them and please don't compare, underestimate or overestimate. Just be focused on how you are doing and continuously analyse yourself and work on your flaws. Stay away from anything that disturbs you mentally. Keep bringing yourself back to the track which leads you to your goals.

11. Time gone is gone. You can only compensate for it by focusing on the time you have right now in hand. It's never too late - never! You just have to start and be strong-headed!

12. Take regular tests and keep assessing your performance: Especially, in the last 3 months. Check where you lose more marks and focus on those subjects. Revise them more. Many of us fear that we will score less and lose our confidence but remember, it's all in the head. Do not lose confidence but let it make you stronger. If you don't score well, find out why you are not scoring well, find out where is the lag and work on it! All the best!

To summarize: Read - solve MCQ - revise - repeat!

Written by Pratibha Jha

PS: Pratibha scored an All India Rank of 21 this year (SHE IS SO COOL!)

Friday, March 2, 2018

How I scored a 258 on USMLE Step 1

I scored a 258 on the USMLE Step 1 a year back!

How I prepared:

I studied for a total duration of dedicated 6 months. I used following resources:
-Google/Youtube/wikipedia (my prime educators)
-FA 2016
- uWorld offline 2016 (was tight on my budget so didn't buy online)
- BRS pyhsio (only did renal, body fluids and Acid base)
- BRS behavioural (only for devlopemental milestones, physician patient relationship, medicoloegal/ethical issues, healthcare delivery and epidemiology/biostats)
- High yield biostats (only for study designs, bias, probablities and aplha/beta concepts)
- BRS genetics (only for population and hardweinberg genetics)
- Shelf notes (anatomy)
- Beckers anatomy (only for selected topics in neuroscience [didn't do entire neuroscience], upper and lower limb)
- Beckers immuno/micro (for immuno and bactrial/viral  genetics [didn't do entire micro]
- DIT 2015 (short and precise, found it effective atleast for me)
- Kaplan 2014 video (only for pharma)
- NBMEs ( all of them)
- Kaplan Qbank offline (only for genetics, pathophysio and pathology)
-Goljan audio lectures

I started my prep with offline uWorld, did all the questions according to systems and used it solely as a learning tool.

Meanwhile, I was also using DIT, FA, Goljan audio lectures and NBMEs

- How did I use offline uWorld?

According to systems (first did all the questions of particular system followed by explanations with read of relevant topics in FA [This is how I integrated all the scattered topics in FA relevant to that system], I never read FA cover to cover but with this strategy I was going through the same topic many times.

Advice: Make seperate notes of UW acc to systems rather than annotating it on FA, clean FA really helped me in the end.

- How did I use audio/video stuff?

Parallel with UW and FA (It didn't take long, since DIT videos were short and oriented to FA. Goliyan audio lectures were also short. Kaplan pharmacology lectures I watched in  x1.5 speed [I really can't sit for straight 4 hours :D ])

- How much time all this took?
UW with FA and audio/video stuff took 4 months.

- When did I start NBMEs?

I started them right after after 1 month of starting UW & FA (first I needed to figure out what topics were  being tested and to what extent [though USMLE site gives info on it but you only get to know it when you start doing NBMEs], then I  focused on HOW CONCEPTS were tested rather than what concepts were being tested. By this type of analytics you get general idea of predicting different ways a concept can be tested.

Advice: Please start doing NBME early in your prep, all the NBMEs asess your baseline knowledge in different ways. So if used properly NBMES can be a learning tool aswell as an assessment tool.

Opinion: In my view NBME 12, 16 & 18 were closest to my exam (real exam was a beast but that doesn't mean its not doable). For me NBME 12 was an eye opener, it really fine tuned my Q approach and provided guidance on what areas to work on. It is after this NBME that i was able to push my scores beyond 180/200.
Note: I used NBME 1-11 for learning, practice and analysis.
NBME 12-18 I used for asessment.

- What about last 2 months?
In last 2 months I did assessment NBMEs (was doing it at every one week interval, in btw interval I was doing FA + my notes, read relevant topics from resources I mentioned in part#1, did kaplan Qbank questions and also BRS Qs (questions given in the back of each chapter and at the end of book) so one week before exam I was done with all the NBMEs.
- NOT TO MENTION THAT I was GOOGLING/YOUTUBING all the time during my :D

- My NBME scores:
  Nbme 12 -178/200
   Nbme 13 - 190/200
   Nbme 15 - 188/200
   Nbme 16 - 183/200
   Nbme 17-  186/200
   Nbme 18 - 259 (online)
   Real deal - 258!

Advice: Before your exam do 2 NBMEs or UWSA 1 and 2 in a row in one day to practice endurance, because in my experience fatigue almost killed my concentration  in 6th/7th block.

Feel free to ask questions.
Study hard and smart.
Good luck everyone :)

Written by Ammar Mushtaq

Monday, February 26, 2018

How I scored a 270 on USMLE Step 2 CK

Hey everyone!

My friend Ammar Mushtaq just got done with his CK and scored a brilliant 270. Here's what he has to say about this prep. Take it away Ammar:

Done with my CK it's a 270!

Kudos to my family , friends, and anyone who was involved during my prep for all the support.

Kudos to the guy/girl who compiled the offline uWorld 2016 (hats off to you!)

Kudos to the guy/girl and members of his/her facebook group who uploaded CMS/NBMEs with answers and explanations.
Update: There was a CMS group on Facebook where IkaN had copy pasted UpToDate explanations for CMS questions. IkaN loves UpToDate and that group was very helpful. Unfortunately, it was deleted by the admin :(

Kudos to IkaN for UpToDate access.

My preparation:
6 months of total prep. After 3 months of prep, I was supposed to give my exam. I had decent assessment scores and IkaN thinks I could've given it then and still scored a 270. However, due to terrible anxiety, I postponed my exam for another 3 months. It's really hard to sleep and poop in the last 3 months xD

I started directly with offline UW subject wise and did it slowly but for once only (for me repeating the same thing weakens my reflex and ultimaltely, I end up paying less concentration). I did not make any notes, all that highlighted on offline UW PDF were basically my notes.

With 60% of UW done, I started doing CMS and NBMES (NBME 7 - 25 wrongs, NBME 4 & 6 - 13 wrongs, NBME 3 - 24 wrongs) with aim of learning and not assessing my self. I did all of them offline and in timed mode.

I read MTB 2 once not to cover facts and figures but to see what Conrad wanted us to think. In the end, I experimented with few Kaplan and Rx questions but soon gave up because of poor wording and because the questions were not designed to make us think on multiple levels as UW and CMS questions are.

I used to Google images all the time - x-rays, physical findings, etc. I think that helped a lot too.

I solved psych, stats and ethics of UW step 3 too. The frustration and anxiety led me to solve step 3 NBME in step 3 groups. I went nuts basically :P

Exam day: 
Exam was a tough beast, it's a mix bag UW and CMS/NBME concepts (DON'T neglect them) - you can not blindly use UW logic for every question.

Time was issue for me, so I missed 3 Qs on exam just like in UWSAs. Exam is all about time strategy and gaining points on common concepts because 15-20% of exam topics are way beyond our reach (at least for me) so all you can do is to make an educated guess and move on instead of dwelling on those Qs.

Stem lenghth ranged from mix of lengthy, medium and 3-4 liners. Devise your own strategy (Mine was to read the Q from start till end), to read the options once because you cannot afford to lose time.

Don't bother about drug ads and abstracts, they will be time consuming and can be tricky so do them at the end of block.

All in all, you will be able to do 75-80% of exam with UW and CMS/NBME.

UWSA 1 > 270 one month before exam
UWSA 2 > 260 one month before exam

Good luck!

Written by Ammar Mushtaq

Q&A with IkaN: I basically interviewed the poor guy till he got fed up of me.

I: For baseline purposes, what's your step 1 score?
A: My step 1 score is 258.

I: Did you revise step 1 before the exam? If yes, what did you read?
A: I did a lot of Googling on the web, Image searches and Youtube studies during my step 1 which  helped me in step 2 as well.

Around 10-15 questions are similar to step 1 but they are doable. FA should be enough for revision.

I: Do you think a big gap in between step 1 and CK makes a difference in score?
A: I don't think so, I had a 1 year gap approx.

I: What makes a 270 really? Everyone does UW and CMS.
A: I did all my CMS and NBME with intention of knowing the question writers perspective and that's really what I think made a real difference in my performance.

I: How many hours per day did you study for the 6 months you prepped?
A: I could not study 8-12 hours per day, at most 6 hours a day, that is why it took me 6 months.

Can you share your study time line?

I did UW only initially. I did it slowly, at a very comfortable pace because first encounter with the concept/knowledge is the one that is everlasting.

With 60% of UW done, I started doing NBMES every week and doing CMS in between. Never make your self slave to the thinking, "Once I am done with everything from UW and books then I'll start assessments."

No, don't do that because unless you know how boards will ask a concept, you will not know what to look for when you study.

I: Besides UW, which sources did you do for Biostatistics?
A: High yield biostatistics is gold building foundations for statistics and I did that during my step 1 prep.

I: Does MTB really help?
A: Yes, I would advise people to read it as it is not a great deal of content to cover.

I: How did the study groups on Whatsapp help?
A: Study groups on Whatsapp and Facebook really helped me but they were very anxiety provoking. Proceed with caution :P 

I: What kept you going on the rough days?
A: The American dream; people like Kanye west, Timberlake, Adam levine, Zara larson etc; tourist spots such as Miami and LA kept; the bond style martini kept me going lol.

And Ammar shared a glimpse of his playlist:

Kanye West - Stronger
This was quite motivating

Friction By Imagine Dragons (Mission Impossible Fallout Trailer Music)
This was recent addition in my motivation list

Kanye West - Heartless
This perfectly describes my feelings right after exam and before the result was out 😂😂😂

Thank you so much, Ammar! :)

Friday, February 9, 2018

My NEET experience

I could start off by mentioning how daunting it is to study for this particular exam, but I don’t think I need to. Nearly everyone, from their own experience or that of others has known and feared the NEET preparation. 19 subjects, 10 months, and in my case, the year of internship. Weekdays were spent running around the wards, weekends, trying to stay awake in 10-12 hour long classes. This was essentially 2017 for me.

It took me a while to get used to the amount of work and studying, both of which were never ending. The first week was like being thrown headfirst into a deep pool without knowing how to swim! Several coin sized haematomas later, I finally learnt the basics of what an intern was supposed to do.

Then came the first class of the year. If having 500 students in the batch wasn’t intimidating enough, the teacher more than made up for it. And so began my journey of fear, hurtling towards the NEET with no idea how to brake. Things became clearer in retrospect, as they should, for that is what retrospection is for. I wonder if I have had a calmer, even happier year if not for the constant weekly badgering. That being said, I knew I would have never stood a chance if not for the highly concise and valuable course material given to us by our classes.

In the weeks that followed, I managed to juggle both my duties with difficulty, not quite succeeding at doing justice to either. Nevertheless, I was happy, probably because the gravity of the situation hadn’t quite caught up with me.

‘There’s always a next year’, I thought to myself every time the dark thoughts about the exam loomed nearby.

Now, this blissful ignorance was beneficial in some ways, because it allowed me to adapt to and deal with the various perks of my job. The daunting working hours of the heavier departments, being constantly exposed to blood and bodily fluids and being in a frightful sense of awareness about the the hazards they carried, being addressed as ‘sister’ while my male colleagues had the privilege of being ‘doctor saab’ and the eventual satisfaction that came with staring a patient down till they squirmed and called me ‘doctor’, to name a few.

Reality caught up with me sometime around July, and brought with it a portion of self esteem issues and demotivation, much to my dismay. Try as I might, I just couldn’t rid myself of the notion that I would falter and fail. The previous mantra of ‘there’s always a next year’ didn’t seem comforting anymore, not when I saw my batchmates grinding it out everyday in the library. I tried to buck up my pace but kept zoning out, distracted by the very thing I was supposed to focus on. This mental inertia lasted for almost 2 months, relapsing and remitting, for lack of better words.

It spilled over to aspects of my life other than studying. I began to lose interest in work. It didn’t help that I was posted in Surgery, which is one of the more trying postings with shifts running upto 30 hours on emergency days. Imagine being an intern in surgery and not wanting to learn suturing. That is how demotivated I had become and that is how worthless I felt.

In the midst of this, there was a marathon 3 day session from our classes. Maybe it was the 42 hours worth of lectures that finally pushed me off the edge, but I ended up having one of the worst breakdowns of my life on the last day of the marathon session.

Thankfully, crying it out is something that has always made me feel better and this time was no exception. “Where there’s tears, there’s hope.” the Twelfth Doctor had said, and I truly realised the significance of that simple but powerful statement that day.

After that, I made a vow to pull up my socks and put in every effort towards my goal. Regret is a terrible thing, and nothing hurts more than knowing one could have done better. I made a list of the subjects I was not good at, and allotted more hours to them. I signed up for a series of mock tests which helped me keep track of my progress. I split the remainder of my time into revision sessions of 15-20 days, as per the advice of my extremely helpful seniors. When I was actively doing all the things, it was easier to put the crippling self doubt to the back of my mind, and assure myself that I was doing everything I possibly could.

Did I falter every now and then? Of course I did. My mock test scores had reached a plateau I couldn’t seem to overcome. There were times when I couldn’t remember the simplest of things that would lead to gross errors, at times simply because I did not read the question properly. This was more distressing than it should have been, mainly because I was functioning on such low levels of self esteem, and tended to be very harsh with myself for making errors.

With time, I realised this attitude was getting me nowhere. However, changing something that is so deeply ingrained in yourself is easier said than done. Nevertheless, I tried my best to build up my confidence by working on my weaker subjects, cutting myself some slack, and when things got difficult, confiding in my parents and friends and basking in their endless love and support. I also pampered myself with my favourite Murakami novels and endless mugs of tea. It didn’t make the stress go away, but it certainly made it more bearable.

Before I knew it, my time was up and it was time for the exam. I went in, promising myself that no matter what happened, I would not be drawn into the pit of self loathing I had escaped from. Surprisingly, I didn’t need to be. The weeks after the exam passed in a blur and then the results arrived, when I was on a train to Gwalior. My mother’s excited phone call rang through the sleeping compartment at 5am and I could barely stop smiling when I heard that I’d sailed through, and with a good score to boot!

I could hear the relief and pure joy in my mother’s voice, and then the tears fell, for what it had cost to get here. Back then it was almost impossible to believe, but in the end, it was worth it. Every extra hour, every missed question, every mediocre mock test, every stepping stone that had eventually paved the way for this.

If I had a few words of advice for the next batch of students preparing for the NEET, it’d be this. Surround yourself with people who love and support. Keep encouraging yourself and don’t be too hard on yourself when you make mistakes. Don’t ever withhold the things you love as a twisted form of positive reinforcement. It never works and ends up being a punishment for something you haven’t even done wrong. Be nice to yourself. You’re doing your best. Have faith and never stop believing in what you can achieve!

- Written by Aditi

Aditi decided to write the emotional aspect of NEET which very few students address. Hope it is helpful and relatable to those beginning the journey :)

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Step 3 CCS tips & Frequently Asked Questions

This post is all about how to study for CCS.

How to study for CCS?
Use the UW software. It is more than enough.

Should I do Archer videos?
They are just 5 videos and are not mandatory to do. It's just that most students do not know how to fast forward the clock, change location, etc. and Archer does a pretty good job at explaining it. (I might do a video later!)

Should I opt for softwares other than UW?
It is not necessary because UW has just enough. Other softwares might train you to do "extra" unnecessary orders which maybe sub-optimal in the real exam because there is not enough time to do everything.

MUST DO before the real exam: Practice the CCS cases on the website. You have to be comfortable with the software and the different orders available.

Monday, July 24, 2017

How to study for USMLE Step 2 CK

If you are short of time, don't read this. Seriously, if you have 2-3 months to prepare - Just do UW, assessments and give the exam. You will do great!

If you have a good 6-12 months, you are just starting your prep and need honest advice, here is mine.

I haven't got my score yet, but the post has been requested before I even gave my exam. So here it is =) I wonder if my credibility changes after my result. Oh well, guess I'll never know.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Authors diary: Have fun while studying

If you are not having fun while studying, you are doing it wrong.

I crack really lame jokes. It keeps me sane :P