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!

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Reclaiming your time | Time management 101

Time management is one of the most difficult things for many people to master, especially the professional student. Some people have always had a knack for it, and others have always felt like there just aren’t enough hours in the day. I come at this from the student perspective (professional and pre-professional), but most of the advice I have will actually be applicable to people in the “real world” too. I consider myself credible on this topic after successfully juggling school, extracurriculars, social life, etc. for many years now. I will cover just the basics of time management, just enough for you to get started on your journey to reclaiming your time!

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In order for you to master your time you need to first recognize what you’re doing with your time. What are the fixed times in your day (classes, work, etc.) and what are you doing with all of the other hours in the day that aren’t fixed? This can be done mentally or through hour-by-hour tracking. You might notice that a chunk of your day is spent napping or you spend way too much time between getting home from school, showering, and dinner before you’re ready to be productive again. Small revelations can make a big difference in your management.

The next step is to figure out how you want to manage your time. This step also takes a little self awareness because there are so many ways to go about this & you want to choose one that best for you. Planners are so cute and chic and make your flat lays pop, but if you’re never going to actually write in it, what’s the point? If you want to go electronic, you need to make sure you choose something that syncs between your phone and computer. In other words, don’t use iCal on your Mac when you have an Android phone–try google calendar instead. If you are a ToDo list person, I don’t believe you can ever truly master time management, because there’s nothing about them that actually manages your time, they just help you stay organized. They are a great add on to an already established schedule. Personally–well first of all I’m a micromanager of my time, so a lot of what I do is unnecessary for the average person. I use iCal which syncs in real-time between my phone and laptop. I’m able to color coordinate (unnecessary) categories such as personal, academic, specific student orgs, etc. I can usually schedule out about a week in advance, but sometimes I end up scheduling out the day on the morning of–it be like that sometimes. I schedule free time and breaks also, which I advise so you be sure you have little blips of time for yourself.

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So, once you’ve chosen your method, the final, but most important thing, is to know what you have to get done, and how much time it will take you to get done. One of the biggest mistakes that people make is being overambitious thinking they can finish something in less time than reality. I’ve learned it’s always better to overestimate how much time something will take because it takes the edge off and if you finish sooner, then great! Then you can take a break or keep it pushing and go to bed earlier. For example, if you have a one hour block between class and a meeting, you will serve yourself better by reviewing old material or sending some emails than trying to tackle a new lecture you got that day. You’ll spend so much brain power and just when you’re starting to flow, your times up. So save hard core studying for times when you can dedicate at least 2 hours or time.

After that, all you need to do is actually figure out when to get things donewhen in the day and when in the week. With the first step (recognizing what you’re doing with your time), you would have realized which days are heavier on the extracurriculars and have more awkward gaps of time, and which days can be real hard core study days. In order to most efficiently map out a day, you need to determine when you are most productive. Are you a morning person (like me) and can wake up at 5:30am to study before classes? Or do you get your best work done between 9 and 11pm. You’d want to schedule your main studying during your peak productivity hours, and your busy work/errands/exercise/etc. for your off-peak hours. How much sleep do you need a night to be alert all through the day (no nap included)? Sleeping more and napping less can make a big difference as well. And if you hold leadership and have a million extra tasks you need to get done, take advantage of bursts of time that might not even feel “free” like waiting for a friend or breaks in class or that 5 mins before class really starts.


These are some of the things that have helped me improve my time management. If you’d like to know more about his I schedule my days specifically, please contact me. I hope that these tips help you get a better grip on your days. Or if you know someone who struggles with this, pass this post along to them! Have a great week!

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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.

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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)