Thursday, December 30, 2010

USMLE Step 1 Prep

Dear readers, this is it - my sharing post on preparation for USMLE Step 1, after receiving quite a number of enqueries for this exam.
Disclaimer: This post is neither a guide nor a suggested study plan. Instead, it is just my own opinion based on past experience. Please take note that I did this exam in '05 (during my 4th year), hence the information may be very much outdated. ;)

The United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) is a multi-part professional exam sponsored by the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) and the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME). Medical doctors with an M.D. or M.B.B.S degree are required to pass this examination before being permitted to practice medicine in the United States of America.

There is a huge variety of resources that can aid you for this exam. It is practically impossible to cover everything (in your usual preparation duration of 3-6 months), hence the choice of material is important. I have not tried out all resources, therefore I'll be only sharing those that I've read/ accessed to.

First Aid for USMLE is a must-have - my sincere opinion. Some call it the "Bible", or "Secret-weapon", generally, it is an indispensable tool in your prep. It is very concise, updated (yearly edition) with full of useful tips and mnemonics. The Rapid Review section is its trademark. And I think that, even if you're not sitting for this exam, an undergraduate should also get this book - it's extremely helpful and will strengten your basic science knowledge.

High-Yield Series are an excellent companion for your study prep. I was lucky to have access to the full series (thanks to my university library), and I find the volume on Gross Anatomy, Embryology, Neuroanatomy and Pathology particularly helpful.

Underground Clinical Vignettes (UCV) series are another high-rated study aids. The format is case-based, and designed to be used as a conjunction with a primary review course. I find the volumes on Biochemistry, Behavioral Science & Microbiology (Vol I & II) very helpful.

PreTest has a wide coverage on all the topics, but I think it's quite impossible to study all. I think maybe you should just get the book on Clinical Vignettes - which are all exam-simulated questions with detailed explanations. You can use it as a self-evaluation tool, i.e. a "Mock" examination for yourself just before the real exam - and time yourself!

Apart from books, online Q-bank (Question bank) is almost as popular (and as important). As far as I know, the 2 top-rated Q-banks are:

Kaplan Medical - The questions supplied are well-written, and very similar in style with actual exam. Very time-consuming though, and cost can be a concern especially to undergraduates.

USMLERx - developed by the authors of First Aid - the contents are outstanding, with much cheaper cost.

And lastly, there are many online USMLE forums where you can discuss and share tips among yourselves. Some even share what kind of questions they encountered in the latest paper that they just sat for - hence giving you a rough idea on your coming exam.

I guess that's all of my sharing. I'll probably write another one on prep for Step 2 CK later.

So, good luck and, Happy NEW YEAR! ;)


kien said...

great post!i really appreciate it a lot.gonna start preparing it after my coming winter exam.but hope can have motivation to prepare for it,since ths exam is own choice.
and i read lot of forum suggesting to find a study partner during it really important to have a study partner along?arghh..but thr's no one here.==

MedStudent said...

Hey Darren, did you pass step 2 CS and step 3?

Darren Lee said...

kien: Thanks. Hope the info helps. And yes a study partner is preferable - I had mine for Step 1. Motivation between each other can help;)

MedStudent: Nope! I'm still undecided at this moment. Step 1 and 2 CK can be done locally, but 2 CS need to be done in States, and usually people will do it with matching together (to avoid double trip), hence it involves a huge cost altogether, so I really need to think properly, at the moment;)

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