USMLE step 1 personal experience sharing by Ethiopian IMG (International Medical Graduate) who scored 259 (before it became pass/ fail)
Hey everyone! I’m an IMG from Ethiopia, and I gave Step 1 in early December, after preparing for it for 7 months. Reading other peoples’ experiences on Reddit and facebook helped a lot, and I hope this helps out anyone who’s in the same boat. There is a shortage of experience sharing among us habeshas, and I would like to thank Dr.Abdu for creating this platform for us to discuss. I believe that most of us Ethiopian IMGs have the same background in terms of medical school foundations, and our strengths and weakness align overall. He helped in mentoring and guiding me during my preparation and test day accommodations. Hope this helps everyone, especially those of you taking the exam before pass/fail.
Preparation time: 7 months (6 weeks of dedicated) wasted a month reading Kaplan and doing Kaplan videos until Dr.Abdu set me up and shared his tips.
A) First Aid: As everyone says, it’s the Bible of Step 1. It does a beautiful job of condensing nearly all the high yield facts tested on USMLE into a single book. Instead of trying to rote-learn every fact, I think it’s more important to understand each line. The exam doesn’t have too many questions that will be directly test as an isolated fact from the book. It’s more important to be able to tie in all the concepts related to one topic, and understand the reasons behind them. First Aid does a great job of presenting all the relevant concepts in one place, but it’s hard to understand everything that’s written in it if you don’t already have some background knowledge (it’s meant to be a set of high-yield notes, not a resource to learn things to from scratch) Which brings me to:
B) Board and Beyond Videos: I believe that most of us Ethiopian IMGS take Step 1 after graduating, so there is a long gap between our basic sciences foundation and exam day. This is where Dr. Ryan comes in, B/B videos do an excellent job of explaining everything out there. The videos aren’t very long like Kaplan which is a major plus point. In addition ,they go hand in hand with first aid, and they are a major resource to go along with First Aid. So what I did, was to watch the videos, and then subsequently go over the corresponding FA. I didn’t take notes while watching the videos as I felt the slide notes were sufficient.
C) Pathoma: Excellent resource for understanding Pathology. Dr. Sattar explains and integrates concepts in a way that makes everything easy to understand and remember. The best resource for Pathology out there. However, for those with limited time, Pathoma takes a long time to do, and can be skipped if you think your baseline understanding of Pathology is strong. FA and UW have all the high-yield pathology facts needed for the exam (although I’d strongly recommend doing at least Chapter 1-3. (I didn’t watch the videos just did the book).
D) UWorld: By far the best resource that exists for Step 1. It’s superior to other QBanks in every way. The quality of questions and explanations is unparalleled, and the questions are closest to the real exam (maybe slightly tougher, which is good). I found UWorld to be the best learning resource to understand FA. The explanations are beautiful (better than almost any other resource out there), and it’ll explain nearly every line of FA. If used right, and with sufficient baseline knowledge, I think FA and UW are the only resources needed to do well in the exam. So basically I did 2 passes of uworld. I know finances are a major sticking point for most of us and I am glad to tell you that both passes were done offline. Yes it might not be perfect, but it worked for me. I was doing my percentage of in corrects and tracking everything by myself. I timed myself using my phone while doing blocks. So first pass was system wise and untimed while my second pass was done random and timed.
E) Amboss; I think Amboss played a crucial role for my score. Again some of you might be wondering how could I afford AMBOSS while doing UWORLD offline. Well here is a little secret , amboss has this scholarship program where you just write them this email explaining your financial difficulties and how it might help, and they generally give you a scholarship for the subscription. Got 6 months free from the Amboss scholarship. It’s a nice Bank to get some extra questions in, and the integrated library offers an excellent resource to refer things .Their questions are top notch. Crucially it helped me track my progress and do timed sets of question as well and also do multimedia questions like heart sounds that are difficult to do in an offline question format. I felt like my exam closely resembled AMBOSS, and I really can’t stress enough for all of you to give this question bank a try!!!!
F) Regarding ANKI, pixorize, sketchy, I don’t really have an experience so can’t comment on that. But I believe if you are a visual learner, sketchy would be a good resource for micro and pharm and anki flash cards could work if you are not a fan of the book FA.
How I studied:
I used to read each system from First Aid twice after first watching Board and Beyond, and try to understand and remember every concept. Following that, I did UWorld for that system, and read the explanations carefully. I’d either annotate the extra knowledge in First Aid. This process was very slow, but my understanding and retention was good, and I knew any time spent here would save me time during revision.During dedicated,I just did random UWORLD blocks with revising my FA.
Practice Tests; DID the New NBMES 25-30 AND UWSA1 AND 2. Cant really stress the importance of NBMES. I Believe They Are The Most Important resource out there.
Concepts do repeat and the exam is just another NBME with a longer question stem. Do revise them carefully, and try to point out why you made a mistake.is it lack of knowledge?,faulty thought process or just plain overtthinking and missing clues. And if you have time do the other NBMES as well do them,they would also help!!!!
NBME 30=227(4 MONTH OUT)
NBME 29=238(3 MONTH OUT)
NBME 28=240(2 MONTH OUT)
NBME 27=247(6 WEEKS OUT)
NBME 25=251(4 WEEKS OUT)
UWSA 1=264(3 WEEKS OUT)
NBME 26=250(2 WEEKS OUT)
UWSA 2=255(1 WEEK OUT)
FREE 120=92%(1 day out)
TEST DAY AND TEST TAKING TIPS
IF your exam is in NAIROBI, glad to share what I did, where I stayed and things to do and not to do about travel to Nairobi. So you can contact me at any time I read the rapid review from FA 2021 the day before and did the NBME IMAGES, also revised vitamins, substance of abuse and did pathoma chapter 1-3. and studied until the afternoon. Took the evening off, exercised and relaxed, and tried to ward off anxiety as much as possible. I managed to get 5-6 hours of sleep. I felt decently fresh during the exam, except in the last block, so I didn’t take long breaks. I took a 5 minute break after every block and marked 5-6 questions every block, tried not to overthink, mostly tried to figure out what they were asking and followed my gut. Communication questions seemed similar to UWorld, not too far out of the ordinary. The exam has its share of weird questions, just like the NBMEs, and I tried to guess the best I could and moved on. Post-exam, I relaxed, talked to my friends, and waited for the result. Best test taking strategy is reading the question first and then glance at the answers this will prime you for what you need to be looking for. Only do this though if you have had practice with it. If you test is next week it could hurt you if you are not used to this style. Any how the USMLE JOURNEY is a long arduous process and trust me when I say every one of us had doubts during our study period and during the exam, You can never be truly and fully prepared for this beast of an exam. 1st off this is just a test that gives us a 3 digit score. The score does not define how good of a doctor we will be. And I am jealous of those of you who will be taking it pass or fail. You saved yourself from a lot of anxiety and worry. Good Luck everyone on your journey and feel free to contact me with any questions you have.
Source: Match Ready
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