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Incoming M1 Studying Method for Step 1/ COMLEX

Mar 25, 2020
  1. Medical Student
Through reading various SDN forums, I was able to learn that high Step 1 scorers tend to begin preparation as early as M1 year through utilizing resources such as BUFAPS. However, with the news of Step 1 becoming P/F, is it still suggested that students put in this extra work at this early of a time?

Since I will be attending an Osteopathic Medical School, I will also be taking the COMLEX (which is still a scored exam). Therefore, to the best of my knowledge, I believe it would be still important to utilize the various board exam review content to obtain a high COMLEX score. However, since I am nowhere near close to an expert on this topic, I was wondering if anybody on SDN could chime in and give any advice on how to go about things? I was also wondering if anybody knew whether or not D.O. students will be heavily evaluated on their COMLEX 1 score?

Although I have not decided on a specialty, I want to set my goals high so that I do not prematurely shut down any speciality options. So any tips of study resources and how to succeed as a medical student would be very helpful!

Thank you for all of your help!


Full Member
10+ Year Member
Aug 11, 2011
  1. Medical Student (Accepted)
M2, so my experience here is probably a little less than some others.

Do your own reading, plenty of other forums have hit this topic. But since I'm currently procrastinating, I'll summarize/provide my opinion:

Step may or may not be p/f, no one knows. Better to do too much work than too little. Plus, once you hit M2, you'll find that a lot of the step tools are just as good when studying for class (obviously you still need to address the lecture material, but step prep helps you organize things mentally). Also, a decent amount of Step 2 material is based on Step 1 (i'm told).

Comlex: from what I understand, much less heavily evaluated. A lot of MD program directors still have issues understanding how to interpret comlex scores. So in that sense, step 1 is more valuable. That being said, you still want to do decently on comlex.

Depends a bit on your curriculum structure. For the traditional M1 (no systems blocks yet), just focus on class material. Best thing for boards is to learn it well the first time. Plus given that so many boards resources are structured by organ system, I'd say stay away for now. Exceptions would be maaaybe B&B (really just as an accessory resource for when you really don't get something--use sparingly) and sketchy micro (bc bug are just hard to learn honestly). If you really want more resources, your best bets are probably Costanzo physio, Achlands or Netters for anatomy, or something of that ilk. From a video point of view, I felt like Ninja Nerd was pretty good (for overview, you'd need to add in details from lecture). But in general, main focus should deffffffinitely be on lecture material.

That starts to change once you hit systems blocks. Traditionally that's M2, but some schools (aka mine) start a little earlier. Once that hits, start going through FAPS. My strategy is (on the first day of each block) to map out all the lectures, sketchy videos, and pathoma videos by day so I know what I need to do each day. Basically just motor through that while keeping up with anki (anking) and doing a few board questions every day (Rx or amboss, save Uworld for late M2). Keep in mind that most of the stuff I'm reviewing for boards on any given block lines up with lecture, so its synergistic rather than additive.
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Full Member
5+ Year Member
Apr 23, 2016
  1. Medical Student
Focus on class first, especially in your first semester. Try not to think much about board prep yet (as you'll burn out easily and stress build up). Figure out and fine tune your study habit and correct your weakness throughout the semester
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The Real PG
Staff member
7+ Year Member
May 10, 2012
  1. Medical Student
Don’t be afraid to try new things in terms of studying during your first year. If something like Anki doesn’t work for you, don’t keep using it. Don’t try to conform to what everyone says they think you should do because it helps them, do what’s best for you. Old school methods work just fine as well.

Focus on learning the content well now rather than splicing it together because you will thank yourself in the long run.


Full Member
2+ Year Member
Apr 7, 2017
  1. Medical Student
if i were you i wouldnt worry about board STUDY, i would do 1-2 questions a night on the material you are seeing in your classes just to get familiar with the wording and type of questions that youll eventually see. Dont buy any resources other than a book or 2 you can get on amazon for 10$ itll be a waste. Dont study just get familiar if you have to do anything would be my advice


Full Member
2+ Year Member
Jan 25, 2017
  1. Medical Student
Everyone will give you different advice about the best tactic and the best study materials, because the same exact things don't work for everyone and we all have a slightly different board studying experience. Listen to the advice, but take it with a grain of salt and be honest with yourself about what you think will really help YOU succeed. You will think more about HOW you study in med school than you probably ever have before.

First year is a good time to try out a few different board materials and get a feel for what you like and don't like. I bought a few of the standards - First Aid, Pathoma, sketchy, etc. and checked them out first year, but did not use them heavily until board study time. This was helpful, because going into dedicated board study time I already knew which materials I wanted to use and which ones I didn't find helpful.

I was always told that GPA has a correlation with board scores, and so for first year it makes sense to just focus on classes. Don't forget that class rank can also be a factor that residencies look at, and this is based solely off your year 1 and 2 grades. I didn't start studying for boards until second year and didn't start seriously studying for them until January of 2nd year (with the schedule to take them in June). I did about average on usmle, and well above average on comlex. So, it's definitely possible to do well without starting board study as an M1.

Personally, I know I would have burnt out if I had been cramming Anki cards or qbanks for 2 years on top of my course load. I don't think I would have gained much, and my grades would likely have suffered.

"I was also wondering if anybody knew whether or not D.O. students will be heavily evaluated on their COMLEX 1 score?" - A lot of things are in flux/uncertain right now, but I would count on it mattering. It is hard to say how it will be viewed if comlex stays scored and usmle goes p/f, but it is better to err on the side of caution and work hard for a high score.


Full Member
5+ Year Member
Jan 4, 2016
  1. Medical Student
Its hard to explain why its silly to be cruising through boards resources during 1st year, but trust me you'll just be wasting them for later. You need the foundations in 1st year to be able to integrate the material in a way that allows you to answer boards questions. The only thing I would advise you to do is pick ONE Anki deck (Zanki, lightyear, etc) and stick to it every day. As you cover things in class, unlock those related cards and keep up with your reviews. You'll be happy you did later.
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Full Member
2+ Year Member
Jun 24, 2019
  1. Medical Student
No reason to start any board prep until m2 unless you’re paranoid af. Plenty of people score well Starting m2 or dedicated... if you can bear doing anki everyday and in the summer when m1 starts then more power to you.


Full Member
5+ Year Member
Jul 12, 2016
  1. Medical Student
Regardless if it's scored or P/F, I don't think you need to start studying for boards day 1 of medical school. The way our curriculum is set up, there's no way I could have done board-style questions and have it benefit me at all during first year. I used some board prep materials (Zanki, First Aid, Boards and Beyond) but not with the intention of study for my board exam, but for solidifying concepts for my classes. Second year, or even summer before second year, is when you can start building off of your foundations from first year and exploring board prep services and Q banks and it will serve a better purpose.

As far as evaluating D.O. students based on COMLEX, I personally don't think much will change there. Although Step 1 will be P/F, Step 2 is still scored (as of right now) so the focus will just shift to that exam. For now, learn how to do well in your classes and the time to prep for boards will come later.


Full Member
2+ Year Member
Apr 18, 2019
  1. Medical Student
You can "start studying for boards" simply by using boards resources to supplement class powerpoints, etc.
Get a copy of FA and annotate it thru the first year using those same sources.

Just don't start heavy on anki decks, step/comlex questions banks, etc.
Save that for second year.

Honestly now with P/F I wouldn't start heavy studyng with questions until around Xmas.
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