How this Firecracker scored a 269 Step 1 of the USMLE

Posted by David Guertin on Oct 14, 2016 9:57:25 AM

Every medical student learns in a unique way, and you may not yet know which study strategies will work best for you. We've found some super-consistent trends that correlate with success; for example, individuals who do more questions for practice acheive the best results on their board exams. Firecracker's comprehensive content and built-in spaced repetition will ensure that you have all of the knowledge you need to succeed not only in medical school and on your major exams, but also in your future as a physician. Here are some detailed tips from a Firecracker member who slayed Step 1 this year:

"I attend the University of Arizona College of Medicine - Tucson. I'm currently a third year student on inpatient pediatrics (first rotation), and I took my Step 1 exam on June 10th. In my first year of med school, I mostly focused on acing my classes while spending relatively little time doing actual "dedicated" board review studying. I used First Aid from time to time throughout my blocks if I needed a good diagram to refer to, but essentially my first year of school was just me studying for my school exams. When the summer started, I knew I needed to start actually getting a board-review strategy formulated given that I wanted to go into a competitive residency program. A friend of mine recommended Firecracker in the first year, so I thought the summer was probably a good time to start. I was very casual about using it since I wanted to enjoy my "last summer vacation", so I flagged a bunch of topics I had learned in the first year and did probably ~50 questions per day. I slowly bumped that number up so that by the time second year started I was doing ~100 questions/day. I tried to stay consistent with it, but when the infection/immunity block started, my Firecracker usage plummeted since most of my energy was spent trying to memorize all the block details. 

When winter break started, I began using Firecracker in a non-traditional way that I thought worked out very well for me. Instead of using it how it was meant to be used (space time repetition by flagging things), I started reviewing all the cards by organ system by using the "study something specific" tab. I would go into that tab, click on an organ system (I started with cardio), then review all the anatomy cards. I would repeat the process for physiology, pathology, and pharmacology (in that order), and then when I did a first pass-through of all the cards in that organ system, I would go back and only do the cards I scored a 1-3 on. I repeated the process until I had about a 4 average, then I would move on to the next organ system. I think this worked out well for me because I was able to get through more cards quickly, and my space-time repetition came from doing randomized QBank questions (I did both Kaplan and UWorld). I think the Study Something Specific tab was a more powerful way of learning for me, but the one downside is you can't view your progress like you can for "today's tasks".

In terms of my goals, I knew from before medical school that I wanted to go into Hand and Upper Extremity Surgery (through Orthopaedic surgery), and I knew that scoring very highly on Step 1 was an essential part of that process. I generally did very well on class exams (usually scored ~98% on every exam); however, the board exams are different in that it's hard to know exactly what to study, and figuring out what to study is half the battle. I think Firecracker was perfect in that regard since it had all the high yield information to know for the exam. I studied very thoroughly in all of my school blocks, and Firecracker helped to fill in the gaps for all the things that were left out of my school's curriculum. Out of all the ways to study for Step 1, I felt like Firecracker had all of it. I almost didn't touch my First Aid book except for a few times to look at certain diagrams. My bread and butter material came from Firecracker, and then I supplemented my learning with QBank questions.

In summary: I am so excited to have gotten a 269 on my Step 1!! I believe Firecracker is the absolute best way to prepare for the exam! Thanks again!"

Your Firecracker study plan is totally personalized to suit your preferences, circumstances and goals. We strive to continually improve our data-validated recommendations to make sure you're hitting your goals, and ultimately surpassing them as well. You can always reach out to the Firecracker team for assistance with generating a review routine that works for you. Hit us up via email at or call us toll-free at (888) 470-8018. Let's get crackin!

Topics: Students, USMLE, USMLE Step 1, Testimonial

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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

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