How/when did you study for Step 1?

This forum made possible through the generous support of SDN members, donors, and sponsors. Thank you.


Full Member
20+ Year Member
Aug 4, 2002
Reaction score
Hi guys-

I wanted to know what you guys did to study for Step 1. I don't know whether it would be helpful to start studying as soon as school starts (2.5 weeks) or later onl; if I study when school starts, how much time should I devote to it and what resources are helpful? We have the entire Kaplan training library in our library as well as the Kaplan books for Step 1. Besides this all I have purchased so far is the 4th edition Biochemistry review book by Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins.

I really want to do very well on the exam. I know that I would be able to get an average score, but to get above-average score would require a lot of planning and organizing, something that I always need help with.

Members don't see this ad.

I read earlier in a thread that it's a good idea to purchase First Aid and some BRS books (which ones?) and use them while studying for my classes... that way they become familiarized for Step 1 studying.
If I could do year 2 all over again (I'd probably sooner stab myself in the eye), I would have used Step-Up along with my course materials. I didn't find first aid very helpful, but it's probably worth the $40 to reduce your stress level when everyone else swears by it. I also would have purchased the Clinical Vignette books earlier and used these to review with my buddies throughout the year (we started it in the spring and wished we ahd done more). And that's about it. Other than going to classes, labs, reading, and just knowing your ****, I don't think there are any secrets. Then in the last 4 weeks or so, I just pounded, and it turned out great. That last month, I used some BRS (biochem, physio, path) and HY (embryo, gross, histo) and took about 50 pages of notes and tables and lists (you really just want to know how everything is similar to and different from every other thing; this tumor is never malignant, but THIS other tumor with almost the same name is always malignant, etc.) and just beat the crap out of myself with them until I couldn't take it anymore.
This is what I did:

I didn't start studying for the test until second year ended. I studied for about 4.5 weeks with a couple of days off somewhere in there. I used First-Aid, which sucks in some ways but is really helpful in others. I only did about 1400 Qbank questions. I know some people who did them all. I would do 50 question sets and then as I read the answer explanations, I would take notes in the appropriate section of First-Aid so that as time went by, all I had to do was read my First-Aid as it had slowly become a more comprehensive review. First-Aid has pretty good reviews of embryology, micro, and pharmacology.

I used these review books:

Read BRS path 1 time
Read BRS physio 2 times
Read selected sections of HY anatomy and neuroanatomy several times. (most of the gross anatomy focused on the upper and lower extremities)
Read small pieces of Lippincott's Biochem once and made notes in First Aid.
Read BRS Behavioral Science once
Used Micro made ridiculously simple as a reference as needed.
Looked at the EMs in HY histology twice.
Read First-Aid 3 times and some parts, I read 4 times.
Did 1400 qbank questions.

I couldn't sleep the night before the test and ended up with about 3 hours of sleep.

I ended up doing really well. My two digit score was 99.
I did most of 3 of the hardcore subjects 3-4 weeks before school ended and then gave myself 5.5 weeks after school ended.

The 3 subjects I did before school ended (started on spring break) were microbiology and biochemistry and pharm. These are voluminous topics that would be too much to handle if I had to do them with PATH and PHYS which are the most heavily tested subjects. If you cant start all 3 of those before school ends, I'd do at least 2 of those 3.

I did pretty well, 246/99.

My biggest advice is to use BRS PATH throughout your 2nd year along with your PATH course. Use it to study for your exams and make little notes in the margins so that when you study for the boards you remember the context of the skeleton that BRS path gives you.