How this Firecracker scored a 266 on USMLE Step 1

Posted by David Guertin on Sep 22, 2014 5:26:38 AM

We frequently hear that Firecracker covers all of the medical material for the USMLE, MCAT, and COMLEX in greater depth than the most popular review books. Taylor, a third-year medical student at Case Western University, explains how Firecracker proved helpful for paralleling in-class material and simultaneously preparing for Step 1 of the USMLE:

"I began using Firecracker during the summer between first and second year. I originally started Firecracker because I thought it would be a good tool to learn microbiology. I figured I could finish the microbiology topics during the trial period and didn’t really plan to use it further. At the end of the trial period I kept using it and ended up using it as my main study material for Step 1 because I found it so effective. I didn’t open First Aid until the week before the test!

I used Firecracker for second-year classes and for Step 1 preparation. I added topics as they were covered in class and slowly chipped away at a fairly even pace. It became my goal to complete all of the topics and I finished a week into my dedicated study period. I was doing questions until the day before my test. This week I started using Firecracker for my clerkships as well.

In my experience, Step 1 is much more of a thinking test than most people give it credit for. You will encounter diseases/conditions you have never encountered in any review material. The examiner does not expect you to have encountered it and what they really want to see is if you can reason through the question. Firecracker puts you in a better position to answer these questions because its own topics require you to describe processes in more detail and form more associations than other review materials. It is this detail and comprehensiveness that was most useful to me when taking the exam.

Many of my classmates used Firecracker successfully using different pacing and covering different amounts of material. The strongest advice I would offer to a new user is to focus on topics that you have covered in class or have a general understanding about. You will find that you can add topics much faster with much greater recall if you have general understanding to begin with. This is especially true if your goal is to add all of the topics before the test (which also requires starting as early as possible). You will cover most topics at some point during first and second year, so be patient and add the topic when it is fresh in your memory. In my experience, the students who start Firecracker and encounter difficulty are those who try to learn material for the first time on Firecracker having never seen it before. If you don’t think you are going to cover something, pick up a review book and add the topic in Firecracker as you learn it. Don't frustrate yourself with the details that you need on the boards before you have a general scheme in which these details can be placed."

Topics: Medical Education

Welcome to Firecracker

Firecracker is an adaptive learning platform that uses amazing content coupled with spaced repetition to help medical students crush their exams. We offer programs for both individual students, and entire medical schools. If you'd like to learn more contact us at

Subscribe to Email Updates

Recent Posts