How to incorporate STEP1 studying into the spring semester

For second year medical students, there’s a looming dark cloud that is seemingly getting closer and closer with each passing month–STEP1. Everyone’s been talking about it since you got in and everyone ahead of you, even physicians, tells you that it was the darkest period of their medical school career (which I agree). So now it’s happening and panic is creeping in as you try and create the prefect schedule and plan to perfectly balance UWorld/USMLERx/Firecracker/whatever questions with school lectures. Hopefully this blog post can help simmer you out and give you a workable plan.

First of all, there is NO magic solution–you have to KNOW YOURSELF. This is what the first year and a half of med school was about–learning what type of studier you are. Because there’s a million resources out there for every study style. Videos, traditional flashcards, Anki decks, textbooks, etc. My first suggestion is to select your resources now and don’t plan to change them. People all around you will talk about what they’re using to study, and you need to be secure in knowing that you already have solidified yours. Those resources need to include at minimum: UWorld, First Aid, and Pathoma (UFAP). For me, I also included Sketchy micro and pharm, Goljan audio, and USMLE STEP1 Secrets (a textbook I used to supplement First Aid). I did not use a formal video course like Kaplan or DIT.

Second of all, you have to be flexible with yourself. The more rigid you are, the more stress you’ll bring on yourself WHEN you can’t keep up with your schedule. You will eventually fall off the tracks, that’s a normal phenomenon when you make a 6 month schedule. Don’t panic, just breathe, woo-sah, and get back to it at YOUR pace.

Third of all, when you need advice, seek it vertically, not horizontally. Your classmates are just as clueless as you are. You need to reach out to people who have dealt with this beast before to guide you.

During the semester, you need to familiarizing yourself with your primary resources (UFAP). Use FA and Pathoma to study the material you’re learning in class. Be familiar with the formatting and where to find certain information. I promise this will make your dedicated time much smoother. ProTip: don’t annotate too much. Now is the time to be incorporating board-style questions into your day if you haven’t already. I personally don’t suggest using any other Qbank for STEP studying than UWorld. Other banks can be used along with lectures to help you study for school exams. The UW questions you begin doing should only be on past material that was covered in the past semester, and newer material can be teased in as you complete your spring semester blocks. During this time, I suggest targeted question blocks (ex. GI, pathophys & path) because you may not have the knowledge bank to be answering q’s on 1st year physiology, anatomy, or random biostatistics questions that you’ll run into on random sets. Once you start dedicated time, random sets all the way.

The benefit of starting UW early is in learning the question style and practice in deciphering what they’re trying to ask you–which is a skill on it’s own. You won’t actually remember that much of what you’re learning from the questions themselves–especially not in January if you’re taking the exam in June. So I wouldn’t go too ham on Q review and note taking. You’re not officially STEP studying just yet. Plus you will do it all over again when you reset the QBank before your dedicated time, which you should absolutely do.

How many questions is enough? I would start now with 10 questions a day. This should take about an hour +/-. Remember, you’re not official yet and you still have school lectures to get to. I chose to bump it up by 5 questions each month. So I was eventually at 25 a day in April. Of course there were times when I didn’t keep up with this, but I did my best. I think I officially stopped going to class in March and watched lectures online. My 6-week dedicated time started May 1. If you have questions about planning that time out, feel free to contact me! Your dedicated time looks so different depending on the resources you’re using. There’s lots of resources online/youtube available to help with dedicated time schedule making as well.

Hope this helps! Please reach out to me for more advice and guidance!
Happy Studying!

ije long logo BLK

How NOT to check your STEP score

The madness I went through and the one who did it to me

The wait finally came to an end. That fateful email slid into my inbox this past Wednesday, holding my destiny. Of course I wasn’t going to check it right then, I had too much anxiety for that. Even during the school year, weeks would go by before I checked my test grades, that’s just how I am. I planned to check it on Friday after work, so none of my innocent patients would be affected by my results. You’re probably thinking I’m being ridiculous, but this was a hope for the best, plan for the worst kind of situation for me. I was too nervous to check it myself, so I chose none other than my older sister to check it for me. This is a common thing for us to do, so I thought I made a good choice. I was wrong.

Let me tell y’all what she put me through.

I call her as I’m wrapping up on Friday and I gave her brackets of scores. I said this is my goal-goal score that I really want (and semi-magically hoping for), this is my real goal score that I’d still be good with, and this is my OK score that I’d still be fine with eventually. Then I asked her to tell me where I am on the scale. And she says to me you’re below your OK score. In that moment I began to experience what I’m pretty sure was a panic attack. I started sweating, my heart started pounding, I got light-headed and I said what? I was hoping I misheard her but she continued this for another 10-15 seconds with yeah it’s below it but it’s not that bad.. and just as I’m questioning my destiny, trying to make sense of what she was telling me, coming to heart-breaking terms with not performing as well as I had hoped to, she says Just kidding you made your goal-goal!

At that point, I believe I had another panic attack, this time falling to my knees (in the hospital…but it was pushing 5pm and the halls were empty). My heart was in my stomach by now and I was just in disbelief. All I could do was just catch my breath, and praise and thank God. Then I had to find some place to sit down before I actually passed out from respiratory alkalosis lol. Half of me wanted to reach through the phone and choke her for that very painful and unwarranted joke, and the other half was too happy to care anymore.

 nba basketball celebration jr smith around the world GIF

It was finally, officially O V E R! And all of my slaving from before sunrise to after sunset day in and day out–It was worth it. God used me this summer to bring glory to His name and show people what He can do when you place all of your trust in Him. I physically tapped out during my study period, and He took over–giving me the strength to wake up, placing my eyes on what I needed to see, designing my exam, and sitting right beside me while I took it. I would be a fool to take full credit for my success on this exam–an absolute fool. But wow, I must say it feels amazing. Telling my parents the news was funny because they didn’t even understand what the score meant. They just were happy that I did well and can finally stop stressing. I think I was starting to scare them because they had never seen me stress so much.

But anyways, thanks again to everyone who kept me in your thoughts and prayers! It’s DONE!

Ekene diri Chukwu! (Thanks be to God)

Hello from the other side!

Post STEP: How the day went, some test details, and how I feel now!

I’m officially on the other side! Who knew this day would ever come. I am so elated to be done with this beast that’s been riding me all summer. And before I even get on with this post, I really want to sincerely thank everyone who reached out to me through all mediums leading up to my test, and even during my test. It helped SO much to go into the exam knowing that I had so much support and so many people rooting for me!

Like I said in my last post, I had let go of all the negative energy the night before my exam, so I was feeling pretty calm as I got in bed and even when woke up the next morning. I had everything packed to the tee and just as I was saying goodnight and ready to get in bed, my mom offers to pray for me. If you’ve ever heard any African pray then you know that took an extra 15 mins away, but I wasn’t complaining! I went to bed feeling very anointed. It took me a while to fall asleep–not because of anxiety, but because my body just wasn’t used to being in bed so early. But regardless, I slept fine, and woke up well rested before my alarm went off (also thanks to my mom who thought I was oversleeping).

From there, the day went smoothly just as I had rehearsed (yes, I had practiced this day a few times in the past with various practice tests). Everyone’s messages and prayers kept me calm and there were some residents at my center taking STEP3 who gave me some encouragement too. I locked all my stuff away (including my sweater which was “too thick” to bring into the room SMH), and led me to my seat and then I was alone. I was like oh boy Ije this is it, it’s happening, this is the moment you’ve been waiting for. Then I prayed, then I started, and then I finished–literally in the blink of an eye 8 hours went by. I was in a vortex. Quite anti-climactic I must say. When it was over I was thinking so this is what all the hype is all about huh.

And I don’t say that because I slayed the test and I’m walking out like it was nothing (absolutely not!!), it’s just that it wasn’t the big scary monster everyone makes it out to be. The test itself wasn’t any different caliber of questions from the thousands I’d seen from Q-banks and NBME exams (some of them were just out there though; I think they made up some diseases that don’t exist lol). I used the same skills, knowledge, and brain power that I had been acquiring. Only difference was that this was the real thing. I couldn’t just finish and check my answers afterwards and learn from my mistakes. This was it. Period. So that obviously added a different air to everything, but I tried not to get caught up in that so it wasn’t as nerve-wracking.

The exam is 7 blocks of 40 questions, and each block had its own feel to it. Some were heavier in things I was unsure about and some went by more smoothly. I only had to use the calculator once, and it was baby math. I had prepared to go ham on some statistics questions! But again, not complaining. The pharm was straight forward, the anatomy was all over the body, and it had more embryology than I expected. There were very few, if any, first order questions–knowing the diagnosis only gets you so far. Overall I don’t know how to feel in terms of whether or not I met my goal score, especially after looking up answers to questions I remembered that stumped me (which I was warned not to do but still did anyways). What I do know is that I did my absolute best and now its out of my hands. I was locked in focus throughout the entire thing. I hated the times when I was torn between answers and changed them, because I know that’s a dangerous game for me to play. But as each block ended, I put it behind me and moved on, because that was all I could do.

So now that it’s over, I feel very accomplished. This was a big step (no pun intended) for me and I made it through! I’m proud of myself for having the discipline to sit my butt down for 15 hours a day to study, because that work ethic is what brought me through to this point. On the flip side, I feel like I’ve sort of lost myself a little. I came home from my exam and just sat down in the living room in silence because I didn’t know what else to do. And I couldn’t even remember what the pre-STEP me would have done with her free time. It was weird. But with time I’ll ease my way back into being normal again. I got a month to not think about it until our scores come back! I’m just going to enjoy the free time that I have until third year starts in 2 weeks. Good bye classroom, hello hospital!


‘Twas the night before STEP1

6 weeks of work all for 8 hours!

So I guess this is the moment I’ve been preparing for for the past 6 weeks, 600-700 hours of studying…it’s all coming down to an 8 hours exam tomorrow. It’s hard to really put into words how I feel, but I can say most importantly that I feel confident in my preparation. I have honestly done everything in my power to prepare for this exam, and I’m just ready to see all of my hard work mixed with God’s power manifest. And I’m ready to have my life back!!! Geez, I feel like I don’t even know what it’s like to be normal anymore! I don’t know anything that’s happening in the world, and frankly I’m just tired of looking dusty all the time. I’m done being a caterpillar, ready to emerge as a butterfly!

Super Deluxe dancing happy dance joanne the scammer scammer GIF

In retrospect, a part of me wants to say that this intense study period wasn’t really that bad, but then I might be lying. Because a good chunk of the time I felt like:

 meme running memes crime joanne GIF

I will say that it went by faster than I thought it would. I feel like it was just May 1st when all of this madness started. Maybe its just the routine of it all, because now it all feels like a blur. My only vivid memories are of times spent with friends and on my few days off, everything else is pretty nonexistent (AKA Repression, for my fellow medical students lol). All of the information is still there of course, but the day-to-day acquirement of it all–that’s gone.

At this point I have given all pressure, anxiety, and nervousness to God and in exchange I have peace, assurance, and comfort. I refuse to give any of my energy to any negative thought–all of it is geared toward this exam and declaring success for myself. Yes of course it’s intimidating (my future is kinda sorta riding on this) but my God is greater than any intimidation that tries to come my way. He is the Alpha and the Omega–He was here on May 1st and He’ll surely show up for me on June 12th.

TV One music happy sad good GIF

And, I mean at the end of the day, it’s just another of many exams to come, and go. So, here goes! I’m ready to rock this thing! Say an extra prayer for me if you happen to read this in time! And if there’s anything in particular you want to know about the exam, let me know and I’ll be sure to touch on it in my next post.

 film new girl yes yeah nick miller GIF

Also, side note, I’m really glad I located my testing site earlier today because it was so stressful navigating in Atlanta! I hate driving in the city with all of its one-way streets and pedestrians. Take me to the suburbs any day. But whatever–now tomorrow I know exactly where to go so I can focus on more important things.

Update: STEP Studying has taken over my life

Go become a doctor, they said…

Who sent me to go and become a doctor?

It’s not too late there’s probably still openings at *insert place of  lesser establishment*…

Can we just skip to 2019? *gets question wrong* Never mind I’ll probably ruin my first patient…

My brain hurts, I’m tired, there’s no food in the fridge, I’m broke…


Just a few of the thoughts that have run through my head over the past 4 weeks of my STEP1 study journey. Of course, if you know me, there’s 10x’s more positive thoughts floating around than the negative stuff, but just saying that these times have been trying. I’m 2 weeks out from my test with no intentions of pushing my test back by the grace of God. But when I say I’ve never studied for a test as hard as I have for this, I mean it. Every morning I’m up at 6am, spend quiet time with God, watch the sunrise as I go to school (sounds good right?), then sit in a room for the next 12 hours or so before coming home to keep pushing. I mean I take “breaks” in that time of course, and I still go to the gym to maintain my sanity. But I barely have time to do anything else. And it’s not that I don’t want to, it’s just that I find myself asking “is __ really worth this extra UWorld set I could be getting done?” or “should I work on my blog/go to the gym/call this friend or finish this chapter of reading/go through these anatomy points/review micro?” And with such a cramped amount of time to study, I can’t afford to get behind! So I’ve made many sacrifices in this period for sake of my studies–which will pay off in due time (at least that’s what they tell us). Some days my body just can’t do it and I find myself in the fetal position, other days I’m stronger than ever.

Despite everything, I’m still standing, and here’s a few things I’ve learned over the last 4 weeks:

You can still laugh

During the first week of studying, I was so locked in that I didn’t realize how deprived I was from social interaction until we had some friends over our apartment studying. I don’t even remember what we were talking about, but we were just cracking up and inside I was like woah, I feel like I haven’t done this in a while! So that was a quick simple lesson to not get caught up in all the moroseness of studying.

Your classmates know the real you now

During the year, I had weave, twists, crochet, etc. so I didn’t have to worry about managing my natural hair. But during this period I’ve just been wearing my natural hair because I don’t like having hair all in my face. I’ve done cornrows, french braids, etc. to try and spice things up, but after a few days, especially without any make-up I just go back to looking homeless haha. So the classmates I see these days on campus have gotten to know the real me, because I just don’t have time. And unfortunately my Nigerian hair doesn’t just pull back into a nice ponytail/bun.

You need sleep

When I don’t get enough sleep the night before–at least 7 hours–I surely pay for it the next day. My neck just gives out on me and my eyelids follow suit. I’ve never been a coffee drinker, I rely on sleep to make sure my brain is alert the next day. So I have to think twice before I decide to do any extra work after my bed time (which is very tempting actually–wow, how sad is my life lol). When the sleep man comes for me during the day though, I make a double dose of green tea to keep it pushing.

You’re not stupid (even when you miss a Q that 95% of people got right)

I remind myself of this constantly. It’s so easy to get caught up in comparing yourself to everyone else also studying. Especially when you’re constantly being tossed into percentiles. But I’ve learned to trust in my knowledge and have confidence in what I know which has brought me very far. There’s a lot of things I don’t know, but there’s a lot I do know too!

You’re not a machine

The human body wasn’t designed to live like this. No way. You can’t expect yourself to be able to sustain this kind of intensity day in and day out. Common medical school is one thing but this is a whole ‘nother level! It’s OK if you get tired, it’s OK if you want to spend hours on the phone instead of study, it’s OK to rearrange your schedule to squeeze in more time for yourself. Now let’s not get carried away of course, this isn’t play time I have to do well on this exam, but I just have to be real with myself and continue listening to my body.

God is faithful

All the time. I write my prayers out and there are days when I’ll say God if I make it through this day still standing on my 2 feet then I know it was only by your grace because I just don’t have the strength. When I am weak he is strong. Ancient of days. When I finish this marathon I will praise Him without end.

Ok that’s all the rambling I got. I’ll keep y’all updated on my journey! Keep me in your prayers!