Guide to Self Prep for the USMLE Step 1: Learn All About the USMLE Step 1

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When I started my own prep for the USMLE, I knew almost nothing about this exam. I did not know how to prep for it. I had no idea how difficult it is or what I need to do in order to do well.

I decided that I needed to do something about it. The journey to discovery proved to be quite long and the process far from smooth. I started researching about the USMLE in the 1st quarter of 2004 with the objective of sitting for it in the last quarter of 2004. But the more I learned about it, the more I realized that given my situation, the more impossible it seems for me to do so. I wound up taking it in April of 2006.

Most forums seem to be telling me that 3 to 4 months is enough to prep for this exam with old grads taking one or two months longer, while fresh grads can finish the whole thing in one to two months. Later, I realize that this presupposes you know what you are doing and you just want to pass it. Early in my research I thought, just passing is good enough. It was much, much later that I began to realize that for most IMGs passing equals no interviews and you need at least an 85 to have a decent chance for an interview.

The more I learned about the USMLE and the matching process, the more I am thankful that I took the time to research everything about this exam instead of just plowing right into it and realizing too late that I have just botched any chance at an interview for the match.

I will relate the process I went through in my research, in case you want to do your own research about this exam. Of course, the faster way is to just buy my book on ‘How to Master the USMLE Step 1: Askdoc’s Method of USMLE Prep’ which covers everything I know about the USMLE Step 1 and how to prep for it. This is not only the result of my research into the exam before and during my prep, but also my experience in teaching hundreds of students to pass this exam.

After going through the various forums, I realize that a good starting point would be the book First Aid for the USMLE Step 1. But unlike what some people would like me to believe, it is not THE BOOK for the USMLE Step 1. Because there isn’t one. Nevertheless it’s a good book to start. I used it to learn more about the USMLE and as a guide to what books I needed. I did not trust it’s ranking of the books much because it’s just counter-intuitive that the best books (according to First Aid) to study for an exam that tests how much you know about the USMLE are books that discuss so little about the topics covered. I researched the books it recommended individually, cross-reference it with recommendations from various blogs and bought the books that seem to be the best for each subject. Even then I wound up throwing away half the books I bought anyway (resold some of them through eBay)

The main problem came when I reached Kaplan Lecture Notes. People either loved it or hate it. But you can only get it either from joining Kaplan Prep Courses or buying it on eBay from people who took the course and the price was expensive. Anyway, although Kaplan Lecture notes are good, there are reviewers out there which are so much better, especially in Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology and Pharmacology.

I pored through hundreds of exam experience in the forums to get a gauge of what the exam was all about. What topics will be covered. How the questions look like. How hard the questions really were. To add to the confusion, the exam experiences contradicted each other. In the end, I had to use my own judgment on who is telling the truth or who is lying. Some, I was only able to confirm after I aced the exam.

You can learn more about this exam, by reading through my blog. But there are too many details for them to be discussed easily in a blog. Listed below are some of the posts that discusses the exam in more detail. But for a more complete and detailed coverage, I still recommend you get my book ‘How to Master the USMLE Step 1: Askdoc’s Method of USMLE Prep’ at US$ 12.95,  it’s a small price to pay compared to the amount of time and effort you have to spend to do the research on your own. Plus after spending ~ US$1000 for the exam, around the same amount for various review books and probably the same amount on coffee and cakes in Starbucks for the entire review process, it is really a small price to pay to insure you do it right the first time.

Posts about USMLE:

Related Posts:

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12 thoughts on “Guide to Self Prep for the USMLE Step 1: Learn All About the USMLE Step 1

  • June 24, 2012 at 8:11 am
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    Hey Mike,

    It’s incredible that you managed to write a book on giving the steps but I’m slightly confused about purchasing it. If I pay for it, I’ll only get to access it for 60 days? Don’t I get to keep it? If I get it from Amazon, then I’ll be able to keep it?

    When will the kindle version be out?

  • June 27, 2012 at 3:28 am
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    Hi Asim,
    It will probably come out in a month or so. If you get the one on my site, you have the option of printing it out. The reason it is 60 days because any new revision will be added to the site as they come up, while on the Kindle and hardcover edition, revisions will be slower in coming. Most probably yearly since the approval process by Amazon is at least 1 month for each revision.

    Askdoc

  • June 28, 2012 at 12:52 pm
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    Hey Mike,

    Looking forward to giving it a read! (Currently looking for someone with a paypal account since my country isn’t listed on paypal)

    Just out of curiosity, how many people have bought the book so far? Get any good reviews?

  • June 29, 2012 at 9:02 am
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    Hi Asim,

    Look at Burcu’s comment on How to Master the USMLE Step 1. He bought the book on June 7 and posted the comment on June 13. A total of 17 so far for about a month. I think it will go up once the kindle and hard copy versions are listed in Amazon. Of course the students of the full course were the first to use the book(they are not included in the 17 tally above, you have to add about 12 more if they are included). Before the book, Monday chat sessions use to be long discussions on how to study. Now, whenever I ask “any questions”, there are just a few and most of the session is spent on well socializing between the students. Plus one student enrolled in the full course after reading the book and two enrolled in the Review of Pathology online course. So I guess that can be considered good reviews. right?

    Askdoc

  • July 2, 2012 at 12:55 pm
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    Hey Mike,

    That sounds good but you should really get your students to promote the book a little. Post some details, some real reviews.

    If I like it, I’m definitely going to write a nice comment for you! Also, how long do you usually take to reply to emails sent via the question section?

  • July 9, 2012 at 12:30 pm
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    Help! I finally got hold of a paypal user but I can’t make the transaction!

    Something along the lines of paypal not accepting on basis of “donation” title plus the price boosting to $20 rather than $13.

    Please check this issue out admins.

  • July 11, 2012 at 1:09 am
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    Hi Asim,

    Please try it out again. We tried to enrol and we did not encounter any problems. Message me if you still encounter problem.

    Askdoc

  • July 12, 2012 at 12:47 pm
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    Hi again,

    I’m still having issues with the paypal transaction.

  • July 13, 2012 at 6:44 am
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    Hi,

    the issue is that paypal is not accepting any non-US accounts on based on donations. I also have noticed that it is payments@askdoc-usmle.com but am still getting an error.

    Help please =(

  • July 15, 2012 at 8:24 am
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    Hi Asim,

    Another way to do this is to use PayPal to send money to payments@askdoc-usmle.com. You can do this from within PayPal. Once that is done, we can manually enroll you into it.

    Askdoc

  • July 15, 2012 at 9:22 am
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    Hello Mike!

    I finally managed to enroll. One little question, you said I had the option of printing it, but I can’t find any print button. Will I manually need to copy paste everything onto a word document if I want to print all of it out?

    I hope there’s a print button, I was certainly under that impression.

  • July 16, 2012 at 12:43 am
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    Hi Asim,

    Just use the print button of your browser.

    Askdoc

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