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7+ Year Member
Sep 7, 2007
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For those of you guys and gals that use firecracker, how do you schedule your questions? How many questions do you do per day? Do you read the topic review before you flag a topic or do you just dive right into the questions? I just started and would appreciate any feedback you may have.


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Aug 22, 2014
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The adaptive system takes care of scheduling questions. I do as many questions per the topics I covered that day in class. Definitely read the topic review before you flag because there are certain ways and extra info in questions that FC gets from other FA sources like step up and cases that they think you should know. It helps you understand what they are looking for when you are prompted on a question.
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7+ Year Member
Dec 5, 2012
Rishi Maze
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Here's my thoughts on using FC for anyone interested:

When to start FC:
A lot of people say "get Firecracker from day 1." In hindsight, I wish I would have done this (I started Jan of MS1). However, I never would have made that choice until I knew I was doing well on my actual class exams at the time. I firmly believe the earlier the better because it makes it a lot easier to get the content banked and you're not killing too much time banking MS1 content during MS2 when you should be spending time with the daily recall questions, FA, and qbanks. FC is NOT just a resource for boards. Once things start integrating 2nd year, recalling physio, general path, micro, immuno, etc will seriously help with in-class exams and solidifying concepts across subject.

Banking method:
FC is designed for you to read the content on the card and then flag the questions, complete those questions, and then move on to the next topic. The reason I think this works well is that you get 3 passes on the material: one pass with your in-class content, once while reading the card, and once using direct recall. While a lot of the FC content is deeper than what you'd get in FA, I think it's best as a secondary source and works optimally after you've had in-depth exposure via your school content already.

Legendary mode is the default way to use FC. The normal mode is actually a lite mode and does not have questions on every topic. If you are using normal mode, you will not be covering everything you would even find in First Aid - it is a skeleton of what you would be required to know. For those that don't want to spend a lot of time with FC, this could be a reasonable option. Personally, I would plan to use Legendary the whole way and work on just getting quick with questions.

Spacing and Calendar:
The two different settings are adaptive and and fixed. I highly recommend using adaptive spacing - this is a huge asset of the program. When you are rating questions between 1 and 5 (1 being completely unfamiliar and 5 got it instantly), the score you give questions is reflected in your calendar scheduling. Lower scores appear sooner and higher scored questions are spaced out farther. Adaptive mode "adapts" to how you rank the questions over time and spaces them out accordingly. If you rate a question 4,5,5 over a period of time, FC will space that question out so you don't see it for a long time - it is in your longterm memory. The fixed spacing will give you a question every 10 days if you rate it a 4 for example. It will not adapt and start spreading the easy questions farther out. This leads to serious congestion of questions once you have a lot of content.

Questions per day:
This is completely dependent on the percentage of content you have banked and how you are rating your questions. If you rate everything 2s and 3s, you will get a TON of questions starting to pile up. In contrast, giving yourself 4s and 5s starts to spread questions out and decreases your per day content. I think it's good to be starting in the 50-100 range when you're slow and working up to the 150-200 range, which can easily be done in 2hrs once you are efficient. Learn the keyboard shortcuts! These can be found by clicking the little computer screen looking icon below the box where you rate questions. Things move very fast on the mobile apps too - Android versions recently got updated and an iOS update is coming soon.

What FC is not:
While the qbank on FC is rapidly expanding and increasing in quality, it is not a substitute for a gold standard qbank (whether that's Gray's anatomy MS1 or UWorld MS2, whatever). I hear a lot of people saying, "well I read First Aid or I do Rx questions, so I don't need Firecracker." These things are unrelated to Firecracker usage and you can do them all if you so chose. Simply, FC is a program to promote longterm retention of concepts so you arrive upon Step 1 or your dedicated period with a very solid foundation.

Random Pearls:
You can do questions by specific subjects only - many people don't seem to understand this. If you have a GI test coming up, for the week leading up to it, you can select "more options" under the "do today's questions" bar. From there, you can select GI only and do only those questions in one sitting. If you're banking the material leading up to the test and rating it appropriately as new material, you could be getting 100 pure GI questions a day that week. Reschedule your questions over a week to 30 days! Don't sit there and get intimidated if you take a weekend off and have 750 questions to do in one day. Reschedule them over the month and keep your calendar manageable. You can play "catch up" in the catch up option if you eventually have a light schedule or down time. Don't mass unflag content after an exam - the point is to keep seeing this info over months and months to keep it fresh. Even if it's a 5 now, it may not be in 8 weeks after you've taken a few more exams. Use the insights bar to track your progress, see where you need to improve, and compare yourself to your school and all FC users to see if you feel like you should be doing more or less material. There's a great Firecracker blog post about high yield anatomy subjects if you're apprehensive about keeping the section flagged or flagging all of it. For DO students, there's an OMM section now as well.

Most importantly, this is a quick flashcard style program! Don't dwell forever on answers - link to the card, read it over, use the corresponding pages in FA provided if needed, and move on.
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American Hero
7+ Year Member
Sep 19, 2012
Trump Tower
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  1. Medical Student
I think FC is great to get a general overview of the systems and you may go into a block with a stronger knowledge base than your peers. However, after a couple of weeks it is low yield to your actual exam, as the minutiae in class will often be different than what's in FC.
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10+ Year Member
Jul 29, 2007
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  1. Attending Physician
I think FC is great to get a general overview of the systems and you may go into a block with a stronger knowledge base than your peers. However, after a couple of weeks it is low yield to your actual exam, as the minutiae in class will often be different than what's in FC.
True, but the real value of FC is when you come to your dedicated Step I study period and you look around at your peers freaking out for 2 months straight in part because they couldn't remember much of anything from M1 and very little from earlier in the year in path. You won't have this problem, and it will give you a lot more time to just simply do practice questions instead of combing through first aid or doing some large review class (i.e. DIT) because it will simply not be necessary for you. But that being said, its much better to start FC in M1 year and stick with it even through the summer break (ensuring you've flagged all the M1 subjects).
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