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What’s the best way to start a study plan?

Activity Forums USMLE Step 1 Forum What’s the best way to start a study plan?

This topic contains 1 reply, has 2 voices, and was last updated by Avatar Dan S., MST USMLE Tutor 2 years, 3 months ago.

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    Step 1 is a wild, wild west with many different approaches, styles, and resources one can use. This is a good thing, as competition in the market has created some amazing products like Pathoma, UWorld, and all sorts of other things. However, it can be tough to sort through all the resources and put together a plan. Students can get lost trying to do too much. A few best practices:

    1. Many consider UW to be the gold standard from which all study plans are created.
    2. Some things are more important than others. Cardio Phys > Derm Phys. Make sure to hit your high yield systems hard and thorough.
    3. Practice questions are the best way to learn. Let review and reading supplement them, not the other way around.
    4. A good study plan spirals so that you see most material a couple of times over the course of the plan.
    5. Get organized. I use a spreadsheet, some use calendars. Whatever works for you.
    6. Make sure to schedule in breaks and fun activities. Days upon weeks straight of only studying breeds burnout.

    A lot of students ask me about unorthodox plans.

    My response is If:

    • You know how you learn.
    • You have evidence that it works.
    • You know that you are putting your best foot forward by doing it this way.

    Then I am certainly not one to disparage one from pursuing an unorthodox study plan. These kinds of study plans are kind of like AMA (Against Medical Advice) consent forms in the hospital, if you know and understand the risks and benefits of straying from the standard, then you should be able to do it your way. My only advice would be to have a low bar for seeking outside help, especially in the beginning. Otherwise, if you find you are hitting all your milestones, then ride the wave.

    If you have any follow up questions I can help you with on this front, please comment below. 

    Dan S., MST USMLE Tutor
    Reputation: 30
    USMLE ExpertMD or DOContributor

    Couldn’t agree more regarding building in breaks. The pattern I tend to see (and the one I followed myself) is that in the beginning of dedicated it feels like you have a good amount of time, and you are more willing to take a little time off, and then the first practice test comes around a little panic sets in and you think you can do nothing but study. But really there needs to be some middle ground, both in the day to day with meals and exercise and maintaining relationships with friends/family/partners, and in the week to week with whole days or whole mornings/afternoons off. One thing I noticed is that when I wasn’t building in actual downtime, I ended up taking more unscheduled breaks during the day, but when I knew that I was going to be done at 8:00pm, and then I was going to eat dinner and meet up with a friend, I was able to stay productive up until that time. I think in general expecting more than 12h of productive studying from yourself in a day is a recipe for being physically and emotionally unwell, and for being ineffective.

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