How to: Step 1 Study Schedule

For anyone who is a medical student, knows a medical student, or wants to be a medical student knows about the boogeyman that is Step 1. I remember my orientation for medical school they were already talking to us about Step 1 and how essential it was for our careers. That being said, it is obvious that entering second year of medical school one is already freaking out about finishing second year and sit down to prep for Step 1.

I remember that all through second semester I would ponder endlessly about how the hell I was going to design my study schedule. I looked everywhere to find someone or someplace that I could pay to have a schedule made and everything I could find was either super expensive or you had to buy their program and they would make it for you.

I went to my school’s curriculum officer and she helped me figure my areas of weakness based on the CBSSE that our school administered. And she sort of gave me ideas of how to work it out. In the end I ended up making it myself when I got inspired one day during our mini vacation. I started out with an excel document and put the weeks I had and a rough idea on which topics I wanted to cover per day/week and in the order of my weaknesses to strengths.

General Schedule

After that I began to label each sheet with a week and decided on my itinerary. I chose to start studying at 8:30 AM and go to sleep at 11:30 PM. I began Deciding what I needed to do each day and how I was going to divide my time between questions, videos, and reading. I also wanted to try and include some time to exercise and have breaks. I used the picmonic study schedule as a guide when determining how much time to dedicate to each topic and also I looked into other references I found doing google searches of people sharing their experiences.

Week 1

When thinking of resources, I knew I needed to watch videos to fortify my base knowledge and that I wanted to complete 2 QBanks. I chose Kaplan Q bank and UWorld for my question banks and Pathoma for pathology videos. On the other hand, I was undecided on which videos I would use for everything else. Initially I tried SketchyPharm for the pharmacology but quickly realized I needed something more broad and more lecture like. I had access to several courses but I decided to try out the DIT videos. I began with the Pharm Basics and I LOVED it. I loved it so much that I decided to continue viewing the DIT videos but in the order I had established for going through the topics.

Week 3

In addition I had to figure out when to schedule practice tests, tests that simulate the actual exam created by the NBME. I decided to do them every other week during the first month or so and the month before my exam do them every week. With life and things happening I ended up taking them on Thursdays instead if Tuesday but it worked out in the end. As a side note, buy them one at a time, not like me that I bought 4 at the same time and did not realize until after the fact that they have a time limit for each exam to be completed. This affected me in that I ended up not taking them in the order that I wanted.

Week 5

Something that I learned the first week is that things do not always go according to plan. I took my first practice test on May 9th and I woke up sick that day. I had caught a very nasty cold or strep throat and I could not study for a couple of days. When I began feeling better and no longer had a fever I started going through my schedule and realized I had miscalculated some of the time some chapters took and I started to modify my schedule.

It is very important that you be open to change and modification as you see fit during this time. The schedule that you build is merely a guide or skeleton to the whole process. If I found that I needed to re-watch certain videos or the videos were to dense and I had to space them out I did. In the beginning I tried to focus more on watching the videos and reading than doing the questions. As I began to finish more and more topics and I was approaching the 1 month mark to my exam I began doing more question blocks. And spending less time reading.

week 6My personal experience reading the First Aid for USMLE Step 1 was that the second or third time around is awful and boring. What I ended up doing was reading the 2016 First Aid and passing the annotations I had made to the 2015 version (which I filled with extra information from the DIT videos and Kaplan questions). I feel like I truly learned a lot of things that I had passed by during the first 2 years and I am proud of my performance even though I haven’t received my score yet. This dedicated study period is one of the hardest things I have ever done. Spending 11+ hours studying everyday for more than 2 months is exhausting, draining, and very emotionally challenging.

I am very lucky that my husband was helping me out and that I had friends going through the same process with whom I could vent and rant and just let all the stress and worry out. If you can find a study partner, I highly suggest it, if not then at least have someone you can text and call whenever you feel frustrated and overwhelmed. Have a good support system of people that motivate you to keep going when you feel like giving up. This is a very stressful and scary time but it is honestly not the end of the world. I feel like it is overrated and schools put so much pressure on us which only makes us more stressed and anxious.

Do you best and give it your all. In the end what is meant to happen will happen and never give up.

Have you or anyone you know taken Step 1? How did you or your friends study? I would love to hear your thoughts!



10 comments so far.

10 responses to “How to: Step 1 Study Schedule”

  1. thats so nice and thorough! how did u end up doing on ur step 1? what type of doctor do u want to be (if you know yet;)?

    • Jani V says:

      Thank you! I struggled so much to find other people’s schedules to mirror that i want others to be able to find this easily. I get my score tomorrow so i am freaking the F out haha. I hope I do good. I want to be an ObGyn which is what I began rotating in so I am even more nervous about the whole thing. Thanks love.

  2. Mickey Vivaldi says:

    I wish you well. As your Dad, Hope you Ace it. But the real deal is that you pass it, that you feel that you accomplish your goals and be successful. To learn what you need to learn, and most important the your Husband and circle of real friends understand your hard work.

    I only can teach you something: “Go as far as you can see and hope. and when you reach it, you will be able to see farther”

    Love and take care of your family (and I meant your hubby) and home. Walk at his side as well as expect him to walk at your side. Then the universe will make things happened.

    Love you dear.


  3. Jess says:

    I always think I’m stressed doing IB and then I return to your blog and remember you’re at med school and it makes me feel way less stressed hehe xo You have so much on your plate though! And it’s inspiring because if you can plan your day to study then so can I❤️

  4. Abeer says:

    HI, I am hoping you aced your test. Thank you for sharing the schedule. I tried to adjust it according to my social life as I am a single grieving mom losing her 8 year old son and taking care of my amazing 2 teenage girls that are so sweet and good. And working full-time leaves me with a couple of hours here and there during the week. I try to catch up on the weekends though. What helps is that I am an IMG, supposedly I have the background but I need the focus to be able to sit for the 8 hour test.
    I wish you the best in life and to be a successful OBGYN 🙂
    Do you have any advice for such a full overwhelming schedule.


    • Jani V says:

      Hey there, thanks for stopping by. I know IMG’s who do great and others that not so much. It differs by person and most of the time the issue I’ve heard is that they did not plan study time well and that affected them. So I think you are in good track figuring out your study schedule. I think women in medicine with children are incredible and such an inspiration. With regards to advice, I honestly don’t know what else to say other than do as any questions as humanly possible. I think you have a good handle on your things with having the time figured out and having a schedule in place.

      Wish you the very best!

  5. Ren says:

    Hi there!! So glad I found your blog, I just started preparing for the Step 1. I’m an IMS and it’s been so difficult to do a schedule that’s complete without having to pay a whole review course. I wanted to thank you and ask, now that you took the step, if you had to study and take it again, is there anything you’d change about the way you studied or your sources?

    Once again, thank you, I instantly fell in love with your whole blog! Hope you’re doing great and acing Med School!

    • Jani V says:

      Hey there Ren, thank you for your kind words, glad you are finding this helpful. to answer your questions: if I had to study again I would probably do afew things differently, one of them would be to study more during the year with uworld. Also I felt that I did not emphasize/dedicate as much time as I should’ve to uw questions. But my method worked for me in that it gave the chance to strengthen my base knowledge and helped me for third year. How I balanced it was to focus more on uw for step 2 ck and I take that next week so *crossing fingers*.

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Hey There! I am a 4th year medical student from Puerto Rico going into Obstetrics and Gynecology. I love all things fashion, beauty, and lifestyle so come join me on my life as a doctor and blogger!

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