USMLE Step 1 – How to Study (Dedicated Period)

For future physicians, the USMLE Step 1 board exam is arguably the most important

exam you will ever take.

I'll share with you the strategies that will maximize your score.

What's going on guys!

Dr. Jubbal,

The USMLE Step 1 consists of seven blocks each lasting 60 minutes and consisting of

up to 40 questions each.

This 8 hour marathon is high-stakes, but fear not.

With the right plan and approach, you will be prepared to crush it.

This video primarily focuses on the dedicated study period which generally varies between

four and eight weeks.

The take-home message of this video is that you need to create a schedule and do your

best to stick with it.

Assuming you have a sound study plan, the deciding factor on whether or not you'll walk

away with a score you're happy with is having the discipline to stick with it.

A quick word on scheduling your tests; I had a six week dedicated period and I took my

tests four and a half weeks in.

I used the remaining 10 days to go on a cruise, and yes it was awesome!

When scheduling your test, it's important to keep three things in consideration, first;

more time is not always better.

With time, your knowledge and test score will start plateauing and at a certain point actually

start dropping as you burn out.

Secondly, you want to have a break before starting the grueling journey that is your

third year clerkships.

And lastly, do not push your tests back for the reason of not feeling prepared.

You will never feel fully prepared and pushing your tests back for this reason will likely

do more harm than good.

Now first, let's decide your resources, the UFAP protocol should be your core.

This consists of UWorld, first-aid and Pathoma.

I also use Goljan audio lectures for pathology and Sketchy micro which I personally found

tremendously helpful for Microbiology.

If you are a visual learner like me, I highly recommend it.

Now, pick your resources carefully, you do not want to have too many resources during

your dedicated study period.

You will quickly get overwhelmed and not be able to get through all of them.

NBME practice exams come into use as well but they are not primary study resources.

On to the schedule: creating a plan of attack for yourself is key.

I made my schedule in Excel and this is what it looks like.

Don't worry, I'll explain exactly how I got to this point.

You can download the excel document down in the description below.

This is what works for me and it's fine for you to use this as a base template but it

is important that you personalize this for your own strengths and weaknesses.

For example, if your cardiology is weak, make sure you spend more time on cards.

If you struggle with finishing tests on time, then make sure you do plenty of timed practice

blocks to improve your pacing and so on.

My days and weeks were highly structured and this may not work for everyone.

I personally preferred this because it removed thinking from the equation.

Everything was laid out and I just had to follow it to achieve a killer Step 1 score.

The first step in creating the study plan was laying out my daily schedule.

Each day, studying was divided into three four-hour blocks of morning, afternoon and


I took five to 10-minute breaks once per hour during each of these sessions.

I woke up everyday at 6 a.m.

As this was the time I would wake up on test day.

At 7 a.m., I walked to school and listen to the Goljan audio lectures at usually 1.5 to

1.7 X speed.

The morning study block started at 7:30 which was always UWorld block of 46 questions.

I would then review the block thoroughly until 11:30.

Lunch was 11:30 until 12:00 and 12 p.m. Marked the beginning of the afternoon study block.

This block ended at 4 p.m.

And I got a quick 30 to 45 minute workout up until 5 p.m. I did evening blocks starting

at 5 p.m.

From home but they were broken up with dinner as my mental endurance was waning later on

in the day.

The first half of the evening block was 5:00 to 7:00 p.m., dinner was 7:00 to 7:30 p.m.

And the second half was 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. I was in bed and asleep by 10:00.

I followed this daily structure from Sunday through Friday.

Every Friday evening block was for fun and relaxation, meaning Fridays after 5:00 p.m.

I did not work.

Every Saturday morning until lunch time was reserved for groceries and laundry and whatever

other errands, but I got back to studying immediately after lunch.

So now that my daily schedule was determined, I went back and prioritized my study materials

to organize my weekly studying.

I recommend going through first aid twice and Uworld at least once, preferably also

going through all of your in corrects a second time around.

I determined how many pages each first-aid section was to help me estimate how many blocks

to allocate to each system.

Next, fill in with supplemental study materials as needed.

I had already gone through Pathoma twice before my dedicated study period, so I only occasionally

referenced it.

I watched sketchy micro videos either during my study blocks when I had assigned myself

micro or during lunch breaks since I did find the videos entertaining to watch.

I did have an Anki deck but I rarely used it during the dedicated study period as this

was more useful earlier in second year when I was still seeing material for the first


I felt the application of that knowledge with the UWorld questions and high-yield review

with first aid was a better use of my limited time.

The reason I started my morning blocks with the UWorld is because I needed to get used

to test taking first thing in the morning, and I also felt like my mind was freshest

at this point.

I tracked how many questions I completed each day, the percentage correct and the number

of questions remaining.

This was important for me because it was really encouraging to see my percentage answered

correctly slowly rise over time as well as the number of questions left unanswered slowly

decline over time.

At the beginning, I focus my blocks on the systems I was studying.

If I was studying microbiology in first-aid, then I would do a block of maybe 20 questions

on UWorld of just pure micro and then another block of mixed questions.

A couple weeks into my dedicated period however, I exclusively did mixed blocks and UWorld

with all topics as this was more representative of the actual tests.

Regarding practice tests, I recommend you take one towards the beginning of your dedicated

study period mostly for self-assessment purposes and then the rest of them towards the end.

These practices are really important, they help you get used to the USMLE question style,

they hone your endurance and they help master your pacing.

Make sure you take the practice tests mimicking the real environment - which means wearing

earplugs, timing yourself closely and sticking to the time limits on breaks.

More on breaks in a little bit.

I took my first practice test which was an NBME test within the first two weeks.

I then took four additional practice tests in the two and a half weeks before my test.

I do not recommend taking a practice test within the preceding 48 to 72 hours of your

actual test as you do want to be fresh for the real deal.

And yes, you should absolutely review your practice test and see what questions you got


Come test day, relax because you have got this.

Be sure to check out the test day strategies video well in advance of your test date and

begin practicing those principles now.

I would also add that you should go in with a plan of how you will allocate your break


If you've skipped the 15-minute tutorial at the beginning, you will get a total of sixty

minutes of break time.

Some students like to skip their first break and do two blocks back-to-back.

I do not recommend this.

Your attention span is not limitless.

I instead recommend taking a break between every single block even if that break is short.

My break time was organized as five minutes, five minutes, ten minutes, twenty minutes,

ten minutes and ten minutes.

Shorter breaks at the beginning since my mind was less fatigued, one longer twenty minute

break for lunch and ten minute breaks at the end since my mind was more fatigued.

I go over how to spend your break time and other test day considerations in my test day

strategies video.

Link in the description below.

Now, I cannot guarantee a certain score or outcome but if you deliberately create a thoughtful

schedule and stick to it, you will maximize your score come test day.

A word of caution though, you will fall behind, trust me.

I had a beautifully laid out highly ambitious study plan and within the first two weeks,

I was already falling behind.

But that's okay, readjust your schedule and keep at it.

There is nothing wrong with shifting things around.

Be realistic with what you can accomplish during each study block but also don't beat

yourself up if you fail to achieve it.

Readjust and keep moving forward.

Thank you for watching and best of luck with your Step 1 exam.

For more Step 1 resources and study strategies, check out the links in the description below.

If you guys liked the video, make sure you press that like button.

Hit subscribe if you have not already and I will see you guys in that next one.