How to Master the USMLE Step 1 – Askdoc’s Method of USMLE Prep

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Download Sample pdf here.
This post is about a book entitled ‘How to Master the USMLE Step 1’.  I wrote this in order to answer the most important questions about how to prep for the USMLE Step 1. If you feel you already know all you need to know about the USMLE Step 1, then skip this post and skip this book. However, if you feel you want to learn more about this exam and understand how you can prep better, then read on.In the 4 years that I have been writing this blog, thousands of people have asked me for help and advice on their prep. Usually, these are from people who are doing relatively well and just need some tips and encouragement. And I have no problem giving it.

However, occasionally I encounter people who needs substantial help and really the best way to help them is through a prep course and that’s what I suggested. They need hours of advise and continuous help over months and there is no way that could be done through the blog.

If you think you can do well in this exam on your own and without help, then this post is not for you. If you think you are doing so badly that you need long term help, join the full prep course. However, if you know you need help to do well or even get a 99 and are determined to prep on your own, or you are not sure you need a prep course yet and want to try and prep on your own first. Then I suggest you try this book.

It never fails to surprise me that there are a number of people who think that mentoring a person to pass the USMLE can be done in a matter of just a few minutes or one to two hours. If its that easy, everyone can do it themselves. Yet too often I have people who insists I should mentor them one on one through Skype or chat which would take probably 50 to 100 hours of one on one mentoring and even get offended when I advice them to join the prep course instead.

Anyway, I have been thinking that maybe something intermediate, that will teach them how to study for the USMLE but short of a full course is what they need. It took me over 6 months to write this book. The goal is to teach people everything they need to know in order to do well or even ace the USMLE Step 1.

One caveat however. This book is just a guide and you need to put the tips and techniques into practice for it to be effective. As one of my students put it, it’s just a roadmap and no matter how good the map is the only way to get to your destination is to drive through the road or plough through the jungle yourself. Reading the roadmap alone won’t magically get you there.

So what are the topics discussed in the book.

Part 1, the Introduction talks about what makes the USMLE the USMLE. How tough it is. What makes it tough and general things you need to do to prepare for it. If you want to slay a monster, know everything about it first.

Part 2, Scheduling Your Prep deals with making a realistic schedule and using it to guide your prep. Too many people just plow right into prepping without a schedule. It usually ends with them sitting for the exam unprepared to pass it. You also need to know about the USMLE or wind up creating an unrealistic schedule. Like trying to sit for Step 1 and Step 2 CK within days of each other. Even if you manage to pass both of them, your scores will be far from spectacular.

Part 3 is How to Study. It discusses all the different study methods and techniques you need to master the USMLE Step 1. Topics include how to memorize and retain massive amounts of information and be able to recall them fast. How to anticipate questions and study for them and a lot, lot more. This is the longest part of the book and the most important.

Part 4 to 10 covers how to study the 7 subjects that comprise Step 1 in detail. It discusses how to use the the general study methods you learned from part 3 and apply it to each subject. It also discusses specific study methods applicable for each subject. It lists down suggested study materials you can use for the best prep.

Part 11 is Test Preparation Strategies. It discusses everything you need to prepare for this particular type of exam. It teaches you how to diagnose clinical vignettes. Methods to break down a question so you have a better chance of getting the answer. How to train yourself to go through questions fast and finish all the blocks. Systematic methods and techniques of answering questions on exam day to raise your scores and many more.

Part 12 is What to Do the Last Two Weeks Before the Exam. You need to be at your peak on exam day and this section tells you how to achieve that. Remember, the only thing that counts as far as the USMLE is concerned is how you do on exam day. Everything else before that does not matter. Hence, being in peak condition is important.

You can read the book at my prep site at http://prep.askdoc-usmle.com. For a limited time, it’s available at a discounted price of US$ 12.95 from US$ 19.95.  A kindle edition is in the works and will be sold through Amazon probably by July. A video lecture is currently being recorded and will probably total at least 20 hours by the time it is finished. So far about 2 1/2 hours of video has been recorded but is only available through the complete prep course.

The first step to doing well in the USMLE is to know everything about it and how to prep for it correctly. This book is a step in that direction.

Download Sample pdf here.

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11 thoughts on “How to Master the USMLE Step 1 – Askdoc’s Method of USMLE Prep

  • June 6, 2012 at 10:10 am
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    Hello
    I am an old IMG who’s been in the states for a couple of months.. I’m a pathologist and I’m here for research but decided to take the exams. I’ve tried to read your posts about “old IMGs”, “how to prepare”, “how we learn” which were/are/will be really useful. However not only being an old IMG (grad 2002) but I’m also a single parent with a 2,5 year-old!!! Plus, I am very bad at understanding what I read but better at what I’ve listened to! For the KA period, will it be more useful for me to study through video lectures? If so, how can I find the source of them? Would you recommend Kaplan for this?
    I will be sooo happy if you could have time to reply me…
    Thank you.

  • June 6, 2012 at 11:45 pm
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    Hi Burcu,
    This is going to be a long answer, so be prepared. First by your question, I think I need to clarify a few things first about how to review for the USMLE Step 1. Most of this is covered in the book of course.

    There are three phases to how you learn for this exam and it is different from the three phases of how you prep. The three phases of how you learn is divided into Knowledge Acquisition (KA), Knowledge Recall (KR) and Test and Psychological Preparation (TPP). KA is where you store knowledge into your Knowledge Bank or (KB) and KR is where you try to recall that knowledge from your KB. TPP is where you prepare for this test physically, mentally and psychologically. Anyway KA involves two steps. One you need to understand the concepts and two you need to memorize the concepts. This is discuss in more detail in the book.

    The three phase of prepping is divided into Learning Phase, Mastery Phase and Test Preparation phase. This differs from the first three because this is the steps you take in actual prepping to achieve the goals of the first three, namely KA, KR and TPP. For example, you learn and understand the concepts during learning phase. But you do memorization during mastery phase along with practicing recall. So technically, you do KA during Learning Phase and do KA and KR during mastery phase. This is again discuss in more detail in the book.

    Why because you use different study skill and different study materials for each phase. In learning phase, you are trying to understand concepts. Best material to use are lectures and textbooks. But it is impossible to memorize lectures and too tedious to memorize textbooks. Plus you go slow when understanding concepts and you expand your study materials to understand concepts, ie refer to other textbooks or materials in case you do not understand. In Mastery Phase, you use reviewers and notes which are composed of mostly bulleted lists, illustrations, etc. These are more compact representations of the same concepts discussed in textbooks. You want to memorize and recall information in compact form because you can store more information in your limited memory and you can recall them faster. You don’t want to memorize too many reviewers because you don’t want to clutter your memory with too much information, so unlike in the Learning Phase, you try not to expand your reading material. Again this is covered in detail in the book including a list of study materials that are very compact and yet very complete which is ideal for memorizing and recalling concepts for this exam.

    In Test Preparation Phase, you do both KR and TPP but almost no KA. The primary study materials you use are qbanks and flashcards. At this point, you are not doing any KA anymore. You are concentrating on being able to recall what you have studied very fast and use them to answer USMLE type questions or KR and TPP. Again these are all discuss in detail in the book including what materials to use, how to use them, how to train for speed and how to answer tough questions.

    Now to your main question on what videos to use for learning new concepts. First, you need to understand that using videos alone is not as effective as using videos and textbooks. If lectures alone will work, I think medical schools will stop asking us to use textbooks. They are best used in combination. Now which video do I recommend. It depends on your present situation. If you really need to learn the concepts in detail, because you have forgotten them, then Dr. Najeeb’s lecture is probably one of the better ones. If you still know most of the concepts and just require some review of key points then Kaplan’s video lecture will be a good choice. This is important because if you have forgotten most of the concepts, Kaplan lectures will not be enough. Again, using video lectures alone will not be enough if you really want to do well.

    Askdoc

  • June 13, 2012 at 7:00 am
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    It seems to be a looooong and tough way ahead of me!
    I would prefer Dr.Najeeb’s lectures at first…
    Would it be a good idea to review the questions first (at the very begining), so that I can pay more attention to the topics of the questions while studying?

    Thank you so much.. Now, I don’t feel that desperate (at least!).

    Burcu

  • June 13, 2012 at 7:38 am
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    Hi Burcu,

    Glad the book helped. Always refer to the book when you have questions on how to study or how to tackle any particular weak point. Try to choose the proper study materials as detailed in the book. Don’t review the questions, if you use the book as guide and pick the study materials as recommended in the book, you will cover the right topics needed.
    Good luck and keep me posted on your progress.

    Askdoc

  • July 24, 2012 at 10:52 pm
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    Hi, I am Derek Li, IMS in Shanghai. I am 48 year old. Graduated in 1987, PhD, MD in 2000. Practiced for more than 10 years as gastroenterologist. From 2001 to present, I work in different pharma and medical device company. I want my daugthter to be educated in US in about 5 to 6 years from now with my company. I have applied green card which is quite possible to pass next year. My question is, if I want to start a new career in US as a any kind of physician and want to take USMLE test, do you think I still have the chance ? Or it is too late to do the steps.

    Look forward to your reply.

    Sincerely

    Derek

  • August 3, 2012 at 8:44 am
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    Hi Derek,

    It depends on how badly you want to be a physician in the US. First, time is against you because of your age. And it is true, that program directors prefer younger candidates for residency. It has to do with the number of years you can be productive after training. The younger the longer years of medical practice ahead. That said, there are residents over 50 training in some hospitals. So its not impossible. Passing the USMLE is going to be hard, but again not impossible. However, you probably need a good score to be considered for interview. So if you are talking about having a chance, then yes you have. It’s going to be hard. There is no guarantee. But others older than you have made it. The question as always is how badly you want it and what you are willing to do to get it.

    Askdoc

  • August 4, 2012 at 1:40 am
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    Hello Askdoc,

    I am an orthopaedic surgeon from Belgium,35 years old, finished my residencies 2 years ago. worked in a trauma center for one year and now in a private clinic for knee and hip arthroplasty. Since my family lives quite a while in US I have finally decided to overcome my dread to do the USMLE’s. I have been reading a lot on forums and most discouraging of course, but I have a goal in my head and tend to achieve it. Since you’re so experienced with all this and know a lot of the so called “enemy” I ‘m going to face, I want to know more about the resources like FA and BRS’s. And I want to match a soon a possible since this is going to be the first time I am going to be out of the hospital and most important my beloved OR. I would like to have a respond to this o so general question.
    Kind regards,

    Neda

  • August 9, 2012 at 9:03 am
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    Hi Neda,

    Actually it is not easy to give you the advice you need since I don’t know where to start. But I will try. First is that you are aware that your chance of being an orthopedic surgeon in the US even with a double 99 is very low right. And if you apply for other specialty, your training gives you very little advantage versus other applicants. Next matching is to a certain extent a numbers game. You could get a 99 and don’t match because your interviewer gets up on the wrong side of bed on the day of your interview or worse you just rub each other the wrong way. So you increase the number of your interviews so you get a better chance of matching into one. However, the number of interviews you get are directly related to your scores but inversely related to your year of graduation. If you notice I don’t write about the match too much because there are too many variables involve to make sure you can match. And a lot of those variables you can do nothing about like your year of graduation for instance.

    The only variable in your control is how high your scores are and therefore that is where an old grad can really concentrate to get a higher chance of getting an interview and matching. Again, my whole blog is dedicated to teaching people how to prep properly for the USMLE and despite over a hundred of posts over 4 years it is far from complete. My book How to Master the USMLE Step 1 covers the same topics but in more detail and it took me six months to write. So you understand why the comment column is not where I can tell you how to prep for this exam. I suggest if you are truly determined to take the USMLE and do well, then purchase my book from Amazon and read it from cover to cover. If you still have any questions feel free to ask them here. As to matching and residency, unless you get a very good score on your steps, worrying about the match and residency at this stage will not help you get one.

    Askdoc

  • March 2, 2013 at 1:18 pm
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    hey … for a start i want to say all you blogs are just full of information and encouraging. i just want to know how long should i prepare with all the phases of learning before i can put a date for my step 1. i am a very slow learner and it takes time for me to get my concepts firm enough and to top it all my memory is not that great either. i finished my graduation in 2009 from India and working in hospital in the emergency. i have been doing kaplan lectures and notes wanted to know when should i start the qbanks and which one to start with usmleworld or kaplan i would like to do both if it helps. Once again thank you for taking the time and writing blogs which is so helpful

  • November 23, 2013 at 6:53 pm
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    Hi askdoc,

    When would be the best time (theoretically) to enroll in your course? I’ll be starting med school in January but I’m wondering if it’s possible to simultaneously do my courses and prep? I read through a few of your posts and do know that the best time to start would be during med school but I wouldn’t understand pathology since it would be the following semester until I learn it formally.

  • November 27, 2013 at 8:50 am
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    Hi Mohammed,

    You should enroll in my course when you are close to sitting for the USMLE step 1. Remember there is the learning phase and the mastery phase. You do the learning phase properly during med school. How? By covering the topics that will come out in the exam, not what is emphasized in your school. By understanding thoroughly what you are studying and not just to pass the quizzes. By integrating what you have studied. The mastery phase and the test preparation phase is what you do just a few months before sitting for the exam and that is when you enroll in the course. You can find out more by reading my book “How to Master the USMLE Step 1” available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

    Askdoc

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