Top 4 Study Resources for USMLE Step 1

Hey all HY Medicine readers! My name is Kevin Connors and I am a third year medical student at Sidney Kimmel Medical School at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, PA. This is going to be my first post and it’s a long one. I took my Step 1 exam this past June and did pretty well on it and wanted to share what I believe helped with my success the most! I hope some of what I am saying isn’t too much of a surprise to you with the top resources being UWorld, Sketchy, Pathoma, and First Aid but how you use these is very important.

First up is UWorld. At least at my school, there is a lot of talk about using UWorld early on vs. using another q-bank and saving UWorld for later. Before starting my second year I had outside advice from a surgical fellow I trusted who told me to go through UWorld twice so that is what I did. I believe this is the best advice I ever received. It allowed me to: 1. practice doing Step questions so I knew how to read/do test questions before dedicated started and 2. it strengthened my foundation, by doing cardiology questions while in my cardiology block of second year, etc. Also when you have a question bank of over 2,400 questions and you have completed them over 6 months to a year depending on your subscription/study plan, when you get to dedicated you are not going to easily remember specific questions and answers. And don’t forget how important it is to read the UWorld explanations for all answers and not just worry about getting a question right or wrong.


Second is Sketchy. I only used Sketchy Micro and Pharm so cannot give a good opinion on Sketchy Path. Sketchy does an amazing job to help you memorize the bugs and drugs and put it in long term memory. Still on clinical rotations, I am thinking about the sketches when we are discussing managing a patient with an infection or the side effects to a drug we are giving. I highly recommend using sketchy during the first two years when learning about the different microbes or drugs. It will help you for your exams and then during dedicated when you rewatch the videos, you will be able to get through the videos that much quicker because it is a refresher.


Third is Pathoma. I am not going to say many things different than Sketchy for this. Pathoma is an incredibly good overview of pathology that will help you learn it for the first time and will be super valuable for reviewing it during dedicated. When you buy a subscription, it also comes with a textbook that I reread my last week of dedicated before Step and I thought it helped jog my memory on the Pathoma chapters I had watched earlier during my dedicated time.


Last is First Aid. I feel like med students buy First Aid before even really knowing what Step 1 is and that is not a bad thing. FA is THE reference book for high yield topics that will come up on Step 1. You don’t have to read the entire thing cover to cover before dedicated but you do want to become very familiar with it before dedicated starts because you will most likely read it cover to cover at that point. If you only use First Aid and memorize it, you will pass Step 1 and probably score pretty well. That being said, you will come across questions in Step 1 that are not in First Aid and those are the questions that will help you get the higher scores and why it is important to use multiple resources and not just FA.

Ok that’s it for my take on the top 4 resources! This is just a basic overview and how to think about these resources throughout the year leading up to Step 1. Lastly remember that so many medical students, residents and practicing physicians all took Step 1 before you. So if you ever feel like you are in a place where the Imposter Syndrome hits, remember you are not alone.

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