Askdoc’s USMLE Step 1 Prep Course open for Applicants

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Back in 2004 when I was just starting my preparation for the USMLE, my greatest fear was in failing this examination. My status as an old graduate made failing a stark reality for me. Every person I asked told me that as an old graduate I have no chance. The most encouraging response I got was, “maybe you’ll pass, but it’s impossible to match with really low scores.” When I went to forums, I hear horror stories of people failing which frightened me even more. Then once in a while, when I read of people celebrating and crowing about their 99’s, I secretly wished that that was me. Even my own family thought it was impossible for me to make it. It got so bad, it took me over a year to get around to seriously preparing for it. 😥

Now 4 years later, with a double 99 in my belt, I feel bad whenever, I read about people failing the examination. If I can make it, they should be able to make it, too. 2 years ago I wrote an advise to someone who had failed already thrice and was plaintively asking people “What to do”. I’m happy she eventually passed her exam with an 82. Since that time, I am happy to note that a lot of people have passed and raised their scores and even got 99’s using that advise. A couple of them had the opportunity to catch me between Steps and was couched by me through emails to raise their scores with varying results. However, since that time, hundreds of people still failed. Some had read my advise but were doing exactly opposite of what I had written. Others, I found out did not understand how to implement what I had written.

As I wrote recently in my post “Milestone”, I learned that for some people, you just need to show them how to study and they can do so on their own with excellent results. These are the people helped most by my blog and posts in the forums. Then there are people who need to have study tools and taught how to use them. So recently, I’ve tried to analyze the different study tools and tried to teach people to use them, writing mostly in my blog. I’m also trying to build one through the USMLE Wiki Project. Then, there are those who needs couching in order to get anywhere with their review. Their only choice seem to be expensive prep courses whether “live” or not that are essentially cookie cutter courses made for the average reviewee. However, if these people are really average, they should’ve been able to pass the USMLE already. They need special couching. It is for this group of people that I am starting this course

I would like to announce that I would be starting a free USMLE Step 1 Prep course starting hopefully on September 1, 2008., which is to last from 3 to 6 months. It will of course be called Askdoc’s USMLE Step 1 Prep course. 😉 I will be accepting initially 6 participants to this program. The main criteria for acceptance being that you have failed the Step 1 at least once in the past 2 years. Only if less than 6 applicants have failed Step 1 will I consider applicants who have not failed Step 1. The main reason for this is that they need help the most and also to prove to others that with proper preparation, anyone who is able to finish medical school and pass their countries’ medical board should be able to pass the USMLE.

If you are interested in applying for the course, you will need to submit the following information:

Your Name:
Your preferred nickname or callsign
Year of Graduation
Country of Medical School:
Country of Origin
Country currently residing (ie. where you will be reviewing)
Sex (only so I don’t make a mistake of addressing you wrongly)
Age: (only if you want to, however, I may have to make adjustment to how to couch you depending on whether you are older or younger, so if you don’t want to state actual age, give me an idea more or less)
Year Step 1 Taken (if more than once then indicate all years)
Step 1 Scores (if more than once indicate all scores)
Have you taken Step 2 CK (if yes indicate year and scores)

Please submit scanned image of of your Step 1 Scores (all if taken multiple times). Try to make the files small by using JPEG compression. (I have limited mailbox size) You may cover your USMLE number and street address, but I need your name to match what you submitted, exam dates and country as proof you failed the examination. You will also be asked to submit your perfomance profile at the back of your score report but only if you are accepted as a participant in the prep course

Please submit them to this email address:

Do not email anything else to this email address as you will not receive any reply.

If you are going to this year’s match, please be aware that the earliest I expect any participant to take Step 1 is December with January to February being more likely. So plan accordingly.

Other Terms and conditions you must agree to is as follows:

1. commit to finish the program in the appointed time,
2. willing to purchase, borrow and/or acquire one way or the other the study materials needed for the review. although study material provided by me will be free
3. willing to follow the prescribed schedule and course materials. You can supplement but not subtract from them.
4. will follow instruction and be able to follow all meeting schedule including chat sessions that may be implemented weekly or even more frequently
5. active participation in discussions of medical concepts and practice questions, etc.
6. set a goal of 85 or higher and will not register for the actual examination until advised by me of their readiness
7. will not duplicate and/or sell or distribute study materials developed by me for the sessions
8. will not provide access to any website used for preparation to individuals not in the program by providing them your user name and password, or allowing them access through your account
9.should also have not applied for the next examination schedule yet or are willing to drop it if it conflicts with 3 to 6 month review schedule,ie. September-February.
10. should not have any ongoing family or personal problem that can affect their ability to follow the review schedule as prescribed.

…and any other conditions that may be implemented as necessary to insure that the prep session go properly and be successful.

Although this program have been conducted in part before informally, this is the first time I will be doing this formally. As such, I expect, it will not go smoothly. There will be startup pains and missteps. Nevertheless, although previous participants have used this system to raise their scores, some even getting 99’s some have not reported back and the possibility that they actually failed the exam could not be discounted.

Therefore, although I will try my best to help you pass this exam, I think you know that I can’t guarantee that you will pass for the simple reason that only you can guarantee that you’ll pass this exam since only you can do the studying needed to pass this exam. All I can do is guide you and help you.

The deadline for submission of your application is August 10, 11.59 pm EDT Sunday. Names of those accepted will be announced subsequently.

Whether or not there will be future prep courses will depend on how this first one turns out. Certain parts of this prep course will be made available to others so that they may be able to see how the participants have progressed in their review. However, some portions of the prep site will only be available to participants.

All discussions and teaching session will be held at the forums: Quizzes and other study tools will be available at Both sites are of course still empty and closed although the necessary software to run the sites has been setup. phpBB3 for forums and Moodle (an educational program) for prep website.

Again, I hope this project is successful and I can help more people achieve their dream of a medical career in the US.

note: Marlene, sara, sara9999 and others, hi. you can now start applying.

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48 thoughts on “Askdoc’s USMLE Step 1 Prep Course open for Applicants

  • August 1, 2008 at 9:09 am

    make it 3 seats for those who failed and 3 for newbies

    cause i shouldnot wait to fail to participate!!! ).

  • August 1, 2008 at 10:30 am

    I know i am not eligible for your course but need some advice, would really appreciate it.
    i am just done with CS two years ago. Applied for the exam twice but never appeared, lost the money, due to many reasons and also becuz i am a biggest procrastinator ever. I am 2002 grad. bought my first aid book in 1997 so you just can imagine what kind of person i am. Just started again studying and planing to give exam in october. would you tell me by your experiance is there any chance to match this year. I am just afraid that these days all IMG’s apply to programs on september 1st with full package which makes my chances go very low. I have gone through all your posts and advices.

  • August 1, 2008 at 1:33 pm

    Dear askdoc,
    just sent my application your way. Thanks again. Let me know if there is anything else you need or didn’t receive it.

  • August 1, 2008 at 6:47 pm

    @askdoc: Hmmm, I expected that you will make something clever to prove that your way of teaching works. Pretty smart and damn good idea to help people who already failed.

    When I was younger and stupider nobody was around to show me the proper way for studying. There was no Internet too.
    Now, almost 15 years later I feel in a different way about studying (in particular Medicine). Studying is all about having fun remembering and managing the right information in the right way.

    I didn’t get 99 on step 1, I got 93…but it was fun: the preparation, the usmleworld questions, and the test itself.

    Guys, it is possible, you just gotta find the right way. That’s why we are lucky to have people like askdoc around.

    Study smart!

  • August 2, 2008 at 5:13 am

    To dokidok;

    There is still no guarantee that I can help all of them pass. As I said, those who reported back, reported passing, but there are those who did not report back and they could have failed. Another thing is that none of those who had failed before reported scores higher than 87. Only those who had not taken the exam but had a hard time raising scores reported higher than 90, one 94 and another 96. However, my statistics are spotty as all were done informally, so there was no formal reporting. People who reported 99’s were all studying on their own, following my advise and occasionally asking questions on certain points. So they were already doing well and used my advise to go for 99’s.

    Since this is the first time that it is going to be done formally, this first batch is important since I’ll be doing more intensive handholding and the reason why I prefer people who failed as they would probably be more willing to change their study habits since they know what they were doing before is not working. However, my method may not work for everybody and adjustments needed. This will be the best way to find out, right.

    Although I’m doing this for those who failed, it seems people who are first timers are more interested in the prep course. Of the 8 who already a sent in their application, 3 have failed while 5 are first-time takers who are doing poorly in qBanks and NBME so are asking for help. If this keeps on, I may just make it 4-2 or even 3-3 as haitham suggested.

    To sam, haitham;
    First-timers are not disqualified, just given lower priority than those who have failed. So feel free to apply, as I said it seems that more first-timers are applying than those who have failed and if the ratio holds it might go 4 – 2, those who have failed versus first-timers. Now sam as to your chances for match, I met someone in interview trail who graduated in 2002. He got 99 – 98, however completed application in October, got only 4 interview and as far as I know did not match. (He told me that the other 3 gave prematch and 2 had filled out their positions as of the time we met. The hospital that interviewed both of us had 1 position left for prematch and I think they selected someone else since no position was left by match time for ranking) So being old grad, definitely applying with full package by Septermber is important in getting enough interviews and increasing your chance for matching

    This prep course was initially set up to help those who have failed. Someone told me I should charge something for it even a token amount as there will be more people applying than positions available and that will separate those who really need the help vs. those who want in because its free and they have nothing to lose. I decided to use proof of previous failure instead. However, if the demand and need is really that large, I might open another course to start October, 2008. However, the only way I can do so is if there was a way to finance it, probably by donations. So if there is enough demand (based on total number of applicants) then I’ll probably conduct a survey sometime in September, 2008 and if enough people feel that they are willing to donate in order to finance a second class, then a second class may be institituted by October. But that’s the maximun I can handle right now, 2 classes as I still have to work for a living. The extra money is to hire an assistant part time to help with managing the websites and doing proofreading and some typing work for the course, my blog and the wiki. Otherwise, I have to do everything myself, and its quite some work you’ll agree. That’ll free me up to conduct a second class.

  • August 2, 2008 at 9:07 am

    Hi Marlene,
    Wow!!! Good thing I enjoy a challenge and believe me your case is a big one. If this course succeeds in helping you pass Step 1, I believe this course could help anyone pass Step 1.

  • August 2, 2008 at 9:44 am

    Hi Marlene,

    OK, I want you to start ahead of everybody else. Do not touch Robbin’s Review of Pathology or any of the review materials we’ll be using. Get Robbin’s Pathologic Basis of Disease. Read the first chapter, multiple times if needed. Write out an outline note of the first chapter. Use bulleted list. Then email it to me as an attachment. OK. Do it ASAP and as fast as you can. That’s part of the test.

  • August 2, 2008 at 11:05 am

    thanks for your reply askdoc. I will apply but as i see so many people applying, i think they are in need of this course especially for people who failed and who are getting low scores in question banks.
    What I will do is will study by myself but will approach you for help and suggestions when required if its ok with you.
    Coming to this year match, I will apply and hopefully with good scores because we never know whats there in store for us, may be i will match this year God willing. thanks once again askdoc for your noble work to help us.
    If I get through this, as i always had problem with concentration and motivation, will help the people on this blog to overcome and make them strong for exam psycologically with your permision.

  • August 2, 2008 at 6:38 pm

    Hi askdoc,
    ouch…. that hurt ☹. Glad you are up to the challenge though. Anyway, I just got your message. Was at the library all day, worked on physiology. I make it a point not to take my laptop as to not to get distracted unless I need it for online q’s. I will get the book tomorrow and work on it as fast as I can.

  • August 3, 2008 at 6:32 am

    Hi Marlene,

    Sorry, just caught by surprise. Admire your tenacity though. The reason I want you to read and make outline notes is for me to see how you organize information in your head. So do not follow any outline like BRS, just do it yourself OK. After I check it, you will also do second chapter of Robbins since cell pathology is two chapters. After that I will ask you to use your corrected outline as guide and try to reread first two chapters until you feel you can remember at least 90% of the content. This is to test how well you can judge how much you have absorbed. You will do this all the time in the future to train your own judgment. It’s a good skill to take with you in Step 2 CK and Step 3.

    I am currently setting up a 50 to 60 item quiz in They are straightforward questions half matching and half multiple choice. If you score well here than you have no retention and recall problem. Only then will you go to Robbin’s Review of Pathology for USMLE type questions. If you fail here while doing well on first quiz. You have problems with analysis and critical thinking that is causing you to fall for distractors. It will be harder to correct but not imposssible. You need to be more critical in your reading and your outline notes should always contain listing of critical differences between concepts and not just implied. If you score low on the first quiz, then your problem is retention and recall and the solution to that is repetition. So do it in the order I am setting up and do not deviate. We need to see where your problem is. Your problem could also be both, making it more difficult to correct but not impossible.

    Rest assured I’ll try my best to help you, I’m not one who easily gives up either.

  • August 3, 2008 at 6:36 am

    Hi sam,

    problem with doing advise outside of course, is that I think by the time the course actually starts, I won’t have time to give personal advise to people anymore. So there is no guarantee that I can continue giving advise like I do currently. Or I can do it occasionally which means that it may take a long time before some people gets answers. But you’re welcome to ask, if you are not chosen among the applicants and I’ll answer whenever I can. And if you want to help other people in my blog, you’re welcome and I thank you for it.

  • August 3, 2008 at 10:04 am

    Hi Askdoc,
    point taken. I am certainly not proud of my failures from 10 years ago, but I figured if we are playing with open cards I might as well be honest. I am not ashamed, my only regret is that I wasn’t wise enough to not even try when I did. If you knew my whole story, it wouldn’t have taken you quite by surprise like that. Maybe I will tell you when everything is over and I passed my exams, about what happened, and what my life was like, given that you are interested. This is to all those who are trying to pass this exam that have circumstances (personal or otherwise) that preclude them from concentrating on this task. You can’t have “construction sites” going on in your life or elsewhere and expect to have your head free for this exam (new love, divorce, separation, loved one who is sick….). I am glad to say, that this time around it wasn’t what kept me from passing. For all I know, there is not excuse why I didn’t. But that is why I am here, asking for your advice, happy to have found you web site. Anyway, will go to work now on my assignment. Thanks for taking me on. I certainly have never tried your approach before and I am very curious to find out how this works for me. It sounds very logical and I am stunned that I have never thought of it on my own, as I have tried to analyze why I am having such trouble passing this thing.

  • August 3, 2008 at 11:39 am

    Thanx askdoc.
    I too have a story to tell which I would share after clearing this exam. There would be a meaning to it only if I clear this exam.
    wiil be in touch with u guys.
    Gud luck to all and for askdoc too.

  • August 4, 2008 at 4:05 am

    hi askdoc,
    what a pity that i have already submit for exam that is in sep
    i really like to join ur course prep. i m now doing uw.
    but the point is i cant concentrate and absorb.and also as u describe , i have recall problem . Some studied in last 3 months , i cant remember.
    i have failed once.i didnt do online prep. and actually didnt know the usmle well.
    at that time i think it wont be that difficult. but now i have many other family problem and very frustrated. But u know, i still need to pass in very recently.
    guys r very lucky that having a guiding star like u
    i appreciate ur posts.

  • August 4, 2008 at 8:57 am

    Hi Sam, Marlene;

    There is nothing to be ashamed of in failing. Everybody’s failed one way or the other sometime in their life. The important thing is to wipe off the dust and get back up on your feet again. People who have never failed are people who have never tried. Or as my brother said, to make sure you never fail, keep your ambitions low. If your ambition is to be a beggar and you are anything but a beggar, why you’re the most successful person in the world and you don’t even have to work hard for it.

    In my ebook, I quoted Og Mandino

    “It is better to aim for the moon and hit an eagle, than to aim for the eagle and hit a rock”

    If the basis for success and failure is hitting your target, than I’m a big failure. I aimed for a 99 / 265 in Step 1 but got a 99 / 256 instead. Ditto for Step 2 CK 99 / 268 and got a 99 / 258. In both cases a big failure. While somebody who aimed for a 75 and got a 78 is a bigger success than I was because he exceeded his target.

    So don’t be afraid of failure, it’s just one more step you need to take in order to succeed.

    Marlene, I received your outline notes. Now I know where some of your problems lie. Give me a day or two to critique it. What edition of Robbin’s Pathologic Basis of Diseases are you using. Mine is Sixth Edition, maybe yours is more recent.

    To hebe,

    If your September date is your first eligibility period, you can move your exam to another date. Your first 3 month period is September to November and you can move it 3 more months to December to February if I’m not mistaken, you just have to pay US$ 50. Please check out ECFMG.

    For me, if you have already failed once, your number one priority should be to pass the exam and not to make it to the 2009 match. Reason is you cannot afford to fail again, since each failure will not only make it impossible for you to get to 2009 match, it will affect your chances in subsequent match as well. In fact your first priority is to get a high score, since anything less than 85 after failing your first exam is still not too good, more so scores that barely make it like 75 or 76. Failing a step is a bigger liability than being one year older graduate.

    Yet I see so many so who have failed a step, so eager to take it ASAP without regard to whether they’ll pass the next one. Doing all the same thing they did in their first attempt, committing all the same mistakes and expecting that somehow by some miracle, they’ll pass this time, or if they’re really lucky get a high score.

    There are parameters you must meet in order to achieve a certain score in this exam. And there are ways to know if you are ready to achieve that score. If you don’t use it, then it’s your watch out. It’s like going to war where you are outgunned 10 to 1. You have rocket launchers, tanks, jet fighters to even the odds and yet refuse to do so. In that scenario, failure is not due to bad luck and completely avoidable.

    If you are not ready to do well in this exam, then I suggest you postpone it. Failure (or a low score) is not an option for you if you really want to match.

  • August 4, 2008 at 9:41 am

    Hi askdoc,
    I look forward to your comments/critique. I am using the 6th edition as well. Thanks.

  • August 4, 2008 at 11:48 am

    u r right askdoc…I agree with u.

  • August 5, 2008 at 7:45 am

    hi askdoc
    u r right , sep is my first month.i totally agree with ur advise. Though i want to sit in sep, i m still not sure.Now as i have little chance to study in the house, i go to library 5 days a week .( But here , library is noisy with old people and children also.). when will u choose ur applicants? i m at the start of uw and ends at the start of sep.
    best regards

  • August 6, 2008 at 5:42 am

    hi hebe,

    I’m in the process of choosing applicants. Currently 4 people who have failed has applied but only 2 have submitted their score report. While 5 people who are taking it for the first time has applied. If the other 2 who have not submitted their score report do not submit them, then I will consider them with first-timers. If you submit your application and score report then you will be the third official applicant accepted. I’ve emailed the first-timers and 2 have replied that they’re willing to wait until the deadline to know if they are in or out. That’s currently August 10.

    You need a quiet place to review. Are you using those small community libraries? I agree that they’re usually noisy. When I was in SF I notice the small library near where I was staying was loud and noisy. However, the main library in SF was quiet. ie. since it was very big, there were portions of the library where it was relatively quiet. So suggest find another library. Also, university libraries seem to be quieter, too

    About UW, I don’t know how you can fix that as we don’t do qBanks until November. I think there are 3 alternatives. One is to do the qBanks as you would normally, however, if your base review is not good, no amount of qbank practice will raise your score by much. Second is to find someone who might want to “purchase” your remaining time, at least you can get part of your money back. Third, you can give it to someone, although that again depends whether it is feasible for you to do so.

    Hi Marlene,

    I’ve sent you my critique of your outline notes. I believe that explains a lot why you are having difficulty with multiple choice questions that require analysis and critical thinking. Although if there are other problems, we will only know once you’ve done the other tests. For example in irreversible cell injury, you listed around 8 biochemical mechanisms. Although the two critical mechanisms is implied in the eight, you did not state it explicitly. A good test writer will probably include 4 of the 8 reactions you listed and one of the 2 critical mechanism. You’ll feel that all 5 choices is correct and you’re right but only one is critical and therefore more correct and so you don’t get the right answer.

    Anyway, just rewrite and submit the outline based on my observations and email it back to me.

  • August 6, 2008 at 12:04 pm

    Hi askdoc,
    thank you for your great analysis. I am working on a correction.

    When I did my outline, I was trying to adhere mostly to the organization that I encountered in the textbook, since you didn’t give me any guidelines. I agree, it would be better to do it differently in some areas. The reason for re-organizing some parts was that I found them confusing when they showed up again in other areas. Quite frankly, to me it is more confusing to come back to it later in a more detailed way, when the connection is lost on the way. So I redid in for those areas that I thought were out of place for my understanding. But I do not envy you for having to find the proper parts in my texts. Sorry.

    I agree with you that I didn’t stress explicitly which the critical mechanisms were. That is mostly because I had trouble understanding which information IS critical because I felt the author actually did not stress them himself.

    Also, I was unable to find a lot of comparisons between related items like e.g. your comparisons between hypoxia and ischemia in terms of speed and severity. I found this textbook a very hard read for figuring out the high yield information and I wasn’t sure, if you wanted me to adhere to most of the info given.

    I wonder, if it would be easier for me to read the BRS sections next and then go back to the text with a better knowledge of what to focus on. I can already see that your analysis is dead on with regards to poorly distinguishing critical information.

    I will also try and cut it down to what I think is important. It will be really interesting if, after the next read, I will look at the textbook in a different way. Talk to you soon.

  • August 6, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    BTW, of course I won’t touch BRS unless you tell me to. I am kind of curious to find out if you think I improved with your suggestions….. I was just wondering if you thought, in the long run it might help me bringing out critical info.

  • August 6, 2008 at 1:05 pm

    Hi Marlene,

    You did it right by not following any guides like BRS. Also the reason I did not give any guidelines is that I wanted to see how your actual though process goes. Now I’ve given you some guidelines on what to emphasize. I wrote somewhere in the comment section in one of my posts that textbooks tend not to distinguish between high-yield and low yield items, so you need to do that yourself. Reviewers emphasizes what the author believes are high-yield stuff and if you remember I talked about substituted judgment. If you are poor in judging critical information, you may need substituted judgment to distinguish one from the other.

    The problem of course is what basis the reviewer made their decision on what to emphasize or not. In case of BRS, it is a good reviewer and it does emphasize certain points, but my own take is that a lot of critical information, especially in General Pathology is missing, therefore, I had to revise it using information from Robbin’s directly. When you actually see my outline notes, you’ll see the difference.

    Next comparisons like what I did are not emphasized in Robbin’s nor in BRS. The hypoxia vs. ischemia thing is something you should have concluded from reading the text. Another example Chapter 2 will probably be the hypertrophy vs. hyperplasia thing. Both are responses to environmental stress that leads to increase production of cellular structures organelles (ie. DNA, mitochondria, etc) except in hyperplasia, no cell division eventually occur. And this lack of cell division is due to TGF-Beta. You can also conclude that since non-dividing cells undergo hypertrophy, then TGF-Beta may also be responsible for preventing non-dividing cells from dividing. However, if you read through either BRS or Robbins none of these are emphasized, just implied.

    Another example when we reach inflammation. All you’ll see on adhesion molecules are listing of selectins, ICAM and Integrins. Then you read in leukocyte section is about rolling, adhesion, transmigration and the adhesion molecules involved are listed in passing. If you only look at it one way that is rolling, adhesion and transmigration, you have a good chance of missing questions that emphasizes the adhesion molecules. For example, patients blood cells show deficiency in rolling but has no problem adhering to endothelial surface, what adhesion molecule is patient deficient on? A savvy test maker will not even ask what adhesion molecule is missing. He’ll just give you a list of defect associated with immune deficiency, leaving it up to you to conclude that a specific adhesion molecule is missing and in this case, it is Selectin.

    The reason textbooks and reviewers do not list information in different contexts is more of space-saving, but for high yield concepts, you need to list them in different contexts either in your head or in your notes. Why? because the questions can present the concepts in different contexts and in one minute or less, it’s hard to make that transition, making it ahead at the time when you are reviewing, makes it easier to come up with the answer at exam time. That’s also one reason, why for relatively lower yield stuff, you should just read it straight through so you have more time to emphasize the high yield stuff. You’ll learn more about how to do this in the prep course itself.

    Your actual review will start with outline notes, before you read Robbin’s not like the way you did it this time. You did it this way, so I can see how you process information on your own and suggest remedial measures. After probably the first 4 or 5 chapters, you will be using my outline notes rather than making your own, but I will encourage you to add or subtract from it using your own judgment. Why? because you need these skills in Step 2 CK and Step 3 also and the reviewers are really poorer in quality than Step 1, so a lot of time, you have to depend on yourself to come up with “critical concepts” to emphasize on.

    I could just make it easier for you and just drill you to pass Step 1, but then you’ll encounter the same problem when you hit Step 2 CK and Step 3. By learning to do a lot of this stuff yourself, you carry these skills to the next 2 steps and hopefully do well there too.

    Anyway, do the notes again. On your third time, yes there will be a third round, you can use BRS to help you organize your stuff. But you should make comparisons on differences between BRS and your own notes (BRS have one chapter for cell pathology while Robbins have 2). When you receive my outline notes in September, make comparisons too and note the difference.

    However, I’m curious. When you started this assignment did you
    1. Read through the whole chapter first to try to get the gist of what it was saying
    2. Thought through how you would organize the information you have read
    3. before rereading each section again while writing out your notes.


    Did you start out writing out the notes while reading it at the same time for the first time.

    You know which way I’d do it though, right? 🙂

  • August 6, 2008 at 1:23 pm

    Hi Askdoc,

    1.) I read through the text once. I didn’t feel that there was much I didn’t understand, but as I was reading through it (turns out I was wrong in at least one part, thanks for pointing it oxidative phosphorylation thing out…), if felt very disorganized. However, I wasn’t planning on restructuring the text so I started….
    2.) writing my notes while rereading each section. When I did that I realized, I felt lost along the way.
    3.) So I stopped that and skimmed the whole text again. Made mental and short notes on paper, where I would put some parts and then finished the outline, adding certain areas to where I thought they made more sense.

    So I guess, to answer the question I did a little bit of both…..

  • August 7, 2008 at 6:47 am

    Hi everyone,
    Update on the applications.

    6 people who have failed at least once have filed their application and 5 have submitted their score report as proof of failure. The number of first timers is still at 5 currently. So it seems unless somebody backs out, all positions might be filled already. However, the deadline for submission is still on August 10 and I will wait for applicants until then. Applicants who are accepted will be informed privately and will not have their names announced here.

    Thank you.

  • August 7, 2008 at 6:14 pm

    hi askdoc
    i still have some questions to ask u . If i continue doing UW for half of my study time and follow ur guideline as one of ur applicant for half of my studying time , am i eligible?
    and also i want to sit at the start of oct for last date if my condition is not bad and so i m trying my best to do so. So if i would , m i still eligible to apply?
    I also want to know how will be ur course, i mean will it be guided personally ,i.e., one by one or by group, i.e., e.g 2-3 chap for all 6 persons.
    Thank you.

  • August 7, 2008 at 11:07 pm

    I am glad I read the blogs it kind of turned on a bulb in my old head ,my problem is that when Iam reading, I understand most of the material what ever I do not understand Itry to find some other resourses for it to make some sense ,unfortunately I have been blaming my retention power ,but its not that , my problem which I have suddenly realised is that I do not ask myself questions concerning the material &most critically I do not repeat the material in my head or make my own notes so there you go my study techniques are faulty. I basically knew it but I did not want to face it .GOD bless you. Sincerely . Naghma .

  • August 8, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    Hi askdoc, I just came across the link to u’r website from the usmle forum site, mins ago and infact still have’nt finished browsing in detail….wanted to apply before it’s too late( already am I’m sure). So here it goes…I’m an old grad(graduated in 1995)… attempted step 1 twice without success( I’ve got stories too) and now have 2 little kids and just planning on starting for my third attempt (crucial one)…I’d really like guidance and support in this attempt as my level of confidence and faith in myself have hit the rock bottom…. I’m right now away from home, but will mail in all the necessary docs by 12noon Sunday the 10th of Aug. Have the 6 applicants already been filled/decided for u’r program? And does failing twice get a higher priority, by any chance( obviously I’m very desperate)? Hope to hear u’r response soon….Thanx in advance and also for whatever u’r doing to help medicos find their way to residencies and make thier lives, in a way.

  • August 8, 2008 at 8:12 pm

    Hi askdoc, I’m anxiously waiting for a response from u’r end :] just so I know u received my post/reply. I’m really hoping that u’r program is the light @ the end of my tunnel… me hopes to strike again this time, but with a better approach and much better prep. Let me know, Thanx.

  • August 9, 2008 at 6:26 am

    Hi Hebe,

    Actually the program will follow a curriculum, I have developed. It not only includes what to study but how to study them for maximum effect. The materials to be used have been pre-selected, some made by me, others are off the shelf books. Discussions and course instructions will primariy be done in a forum at which will be available to course participants starting on August 11 or 12 or thereabouts. Although board is still closed, they’ll be given special access. Quizzes, my outline notes, my special tables, my mnemonics collection and links to hundreds of high-yield images will be located at my prep website,

    There will be group sessions, one-on-one sessions and buddy system in place. Chat is available through and private messaging available through to discuss topics, questions in qbanks, etc.

    For the first batch, we will be covering only 3 subjects primarily, Pathology w/ pathophysiology, Microbiology/Immunology and Pharmacology. Guidelines will be given for the 4 other subjects, but the participants are expected to do their own review. Evaluation quizzes will be available for the first 3 subjects, but may or may not be available for the last 4 subjects. We will be using commercial online qBanks which participants are required to purchase when the time comes

    Now since you are planning to take examination earlier than my course allows, I don’t think you can join the course. Another reason is the course is currently full unless anyone who has applied first backs out before start of session in September 1. My policy is those who failed has priority after which it is first come, first served. If someone drops out or fails to meet requirement then the next available applicant takes his or her place.

    However, I plan to create a forum in my prep forum entitled What to do in Step 1. It is a rewrite of my original post in prep4usmle forum. Since my original post in prep4usmle is literally slowly sinking into oblivion, I deem it necessary to provide it a permanent home. It will also contain a step by step instruction covering basically the same methods as in my prep course curriculum including the exact materials to be used. What will be missing will be study materials I have prepared and regular one-on-one sessions with me. There will be a support forum where you can ask questions about the study methods outlined. Though I’ll try to answer them, there might be some delay once in a while since time is really short for me. You can opt to buddy up with other people who may be using the same forum. There will be provisions for members to open a private discussion forum so study groups can form and have some privacy. The forum is visible to all but posting will be limited to the group members concerned. (reason for visibility is to prevent abuse or allegations of abuse)

    This section is for people who was not able to join the original prep group. You can try out the same study methods of the prep people and if it works out then well and good. If it doesn’t then you might need more personal couching, but will have to wait for the next available prep course.

    Hi Naghma

    Glad my blog helped you. That is the main purpose of writing this blog, to open people’s eyes on what they need to do to conquer this examination. To help people who keep underestimating themselves aspire for a higher goal and to keep people who keep underestimating the exam before they meet disaster.

  • August 9, 2008 at 9:19 am

    Hi Appu,

    If you read what I wrote to Hebe, positions are filled. However, you should file your application before deadline, since if anyone backs out or gets disqualified for any reason, then the next eligible applicants gets the position. I also talked about creating a What to do section in the prep forum where the actual study methods in the prep course will be posted. So you can try that out too, in case you don’t get in.

    Chances for a second prep course is very slim as of now. Currently, I think I’ve overstretched myself doing the blog, the wiki and this prep course. My original intent was just ot have this blog. Then people started asking for personal couching although not directly, but it still turned out that way. Anyway all this additional things I’m doing have reduced my social life to almost zero. You can ask my GF, my friends and my family. It has also eaten into my professional life. My friends and family has asked me to hire an assistant, but that costs money, which my day job cannot afford. Although I can sustain this for a month or 2 maybe 3, I can’t do it forever. I thought of charging for future prep courses keeping the blog and USMLE wiki free, but I am two minds about charging people and have not decided if I will do that. Anyway so the future is either I continue the prep course and charge tuition or subscription fees, or I revert to just blogging, period and refuse any personal couching even if couched in the form of questions and only answer general questions about my post. I guess time will tell, but I need my professional, social and family life back so probably one or the other will eventually occur.

    Please send in your application. There is still a chance that someone will back out in last minute, OK.

  • August 9, 2008 at 5:04 pm

    hi askdoc,
    Though i thought i might not be eligible to join, i still had little hope about it.I know that’s my problem making me unable to join, but you know, still feeling uneasy… Thanx millions for wasting your time answering my questions and suggestions in this forum.I hope next time i wont miss this kind of chance.
    Best regards,

  • August 11, 2008 at 8:12 am

    Hi hebe,

    No you did not waste my time. Glad to help you anyway I can. My advise is still not to take the examination if your q Bank and NBME score is bad. Feel free to come back anytime for advice if you feel you need them. Good luck on your prep.

  • August 12, 2008 at 1:38 pm


    Good afternoon! I’m leaving a brief comment to acknowledge receipt of your e-mail today. Although I was not one of the candidates selected outright to your USMLE Step 1 Prep Course, I wish to thank you for your time and attention. Your altruism, as evidenced by your blog, undertaking this Prep Course, and the generous amount of time devouted to assisting others in achieving their goals is most impressive.
    In closing, congratulations to the candidates that were selected and best wishes for a successful score.


  • August 12, 2008 at 5:49 pm

    Hi askdoc!
    I submitted my score report & hoping to join ur programme soon. I have been studying for a long time for step 1 & thought of joining kaplan or pass programme but they are all so expensive & I cannot simply afford it . I guess a little coaching from you would be really helpful cause my study technique is definately not working at all for me. I guess more people like you should come forward & help those who are stuck with this exam & feeling miserable about themselves.God bless you,it wud be a wonderful effort by you.

  • August 13, 2008 at 8:51 am

    Hi Mcqueen,

    I already emailed the six who were accepted outright to the course, please check your email box. You need to sign up at the prep forum on or before August 20, 2008. There are 4 people in the waiting list who will takeover the spots in case any of the six fail to register by that date. You may need to check your spam mailbox, too as some have reported to receive my message labelled as spam.

    Hi Sleepdoctorjoe,

    As I stated in my email, total positions may be expanded to 8 rather than 6. Rather than doing group sessions with a group of six, it would be easier to do group sessions with 2 groups of 4, so decided to expand the group to 8 right now. You’ll receive instructions in your email within 24 hours.

    For those 3 others in the waiting list, you know who you are, only one additional person will be accepted outright. The 2 others will have to wait, if anyone else will not register by the 20th of August.


  • August 16, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    Hi Askdoc!
    I just came across this website. I would like to be on the waiting list and hope that I could be in your program. I really need help.
    Many thanks, Secan

  • August 19, 2008 at 7:30 am

    Hi secan,

    Actually, prep course is full as of now, since all 8 accepted. Now still with 2 in waiting list ahead of line and 5 other applicants which I did not put in waiting list since I didn’t expect many will back out. Anyway, will be posting actual course outline in my prep forums at sometime last week of August or 1st week of September and updated regularly as the prep course participants reach each segment of the prep course.

    Good Luck on your prep.

  • August 20, 2008 at 9:46 am

    Hi askdoc,

    I will visit your prep forums for the course outline and updated informations. Thanks a lot for being helpful.

    Best wishes.

  • August 20, 2008 at 11:10 am

    Reminding all applicants accepted to the prep course. Please sign in to the forum. Initial instructions have already been given, please read and follow.



  • August 31, 2008 at 7:05 am

    Hi askdoc,
    I’m a first time visitor of your blog and I really appreciate what you are doing! I would love your advice for my step 2 ck prep as I didn’t do too well the first time. Also, I haven’t given step 1 as yet so I would really appreciate any advice you can give me to help do well in both steps. If you plan to have a course in October for step 1, I would love to be a part of it.

  • September 2, 2008 at 8:18 am

    Hi Ask doc, do you still have any space in the step i course?

  • September 3, 2008 at 10:20 am

    Sorry, kisenyi. No it’s full. I’ll be posting a step-by-step guide on preparing for step 1 under Askdoc’s Method of USMLE Review for Step 1 in my forum. It will be the actual course curriculum and methodology of my prep course more or less. First installment is this week. It will be updated as the prep course itself reaches the corresponding section.

  • September 6, 2008 at 5:22 am

    You might find this tool helpful for your course if you plan to conduct it online:

  • September 6, 2008 at 7:22 am

    Hi prep4MD,

    Long time since I’ve heard from you. So how are things coming along. Great I hope.

    I’m currently using Moodle. It has a wiki and chat built-in. I haven’t installed the whiteboard module and Skype interface yet. It’s located in There is a demo course that can be accessed by guests without need to register. You’re welcome to check it out.

    Learning curve is steep. But consolation is it is completely extendable. Aside from the standard quiz modules, I have downloaded a module to produce online flashcards. Very handy for reviewing Micro organisms and Pharma. It can handle all types of media including video presentations. Audiovisual presentations with slideshows and mp3 audio files that can be coordinated. As I said steep learning curve but I think worth the trouble.

    Thank you for the suggestion. I am currently going through the features.

  • September 8, 2008 at 9:51 pm

    I’m not able to access the demo. It keeps taking me back to the read me first page.

    Also, I had emailed you and I understand that you are probably busy with your review course but could you recommend the books that would be best for studying for step 1 and not just reviewing? I am just starting my prep and I feel the forum’s information is more for those who have already finished their prep are just reviewing things, unless I am mistaken. Kindly guide me in this matter. Thanks. 🙂

  • September 9, 2008 at 12:28 am

    Hi SK,

    Sorry about the demo. I usually deactivate the course when I edit it. To avoid problems of editing it while someone is using it. However, this time I forgot to turn in back on. As Admin, I can see inactive courses (so I can edit them) so didn’t notice that it was turned off. It’s now OK, I’ve turned it back on. Thank you for telling me about it.

    You are, right. It’s for fresh graduates where concepts are still fresh, or for people who have relearned the concepts and are just revising for mastery. I took 4 months to relearn all the concepts and 3 months to revise and master them to make sure I can remember them when I actually sit for the exam.

    If you need to start from scratch, you can read what I wrote 2 years ago in prep4usmle forum. By the way, they will eventually be hosted in my prep forum so they can have a permanent home. Anyway, I will write a more comprehensive and exhaustive article on it in the future. I’ll provide a link to that post. It’s somewhere in the bottom. Use the texts for learning not the reviewers. Remember, my recommendation then is based on trying to get a high score, not just passing. IF you are not going for a high score. Go back to texts only for Patho, Micro/Immuno, Pharmacology. Then maybe physio and biochem for certain topics only.

  • September 12, 2008 at 5:02 pm

    Thanks alot askdoc. I’ve saved a copy of the post to refer to as I go about my preparation. Hope that’s ok. Also, when you mention Big Robbins do you mean Robbins Pathologic Basis of Disease or Robbins Basic Pathology?

    Thanks. 😀

  • September 18, 2008 at 9:53 am

    Hi SK,
    Big Robbins is the Pathologic Basis of Diseases. Good luck on your prep.

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