Top Ten Tips to Succeed on Step 1 of the USMLE

Posted by David Guertin on Apr 21, 2015 11:08:02 AM

Top Ten Tips to Slay Step 1 from students who have done so successfully:

1. Stay consistent with doing questions. We have found that doing direct recall questions in Firecracker correlates significantly with success on USMLE Step 1. Just a half hour of doing questions daily is sufficient to cover all of Firecracker's direct recall questions for Step 1 in six months or less, and our adaptive spaced repetition-based scheduling will ensure that you review material at optimal intervals.

2. Review topics in Firecracker. This software covers all of the testable facts and concepts for all of the major exams, including USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 CK, COMLEX Level 1, MCAT, and NBME Shelf Exams. You can replace your review book with Firecracker to refresh on all relevant topics in an engaging digital interface both online and on mobile.

3. Start early! We hear more commonly than anything from Firecracker members that "I wish I had started on Day 1 of medical school." Spaced repetition is most effective in the long-term to maximize your total number of reviews for each question, and Firecracker's comprehensive breadth and depth of topic coverage is best digested gradually.

4. Use Firecracker alongside your classes. Firecracker is designed to complement your curriculum, and parallel what you're learning in every lecture and clerkship throughout all four years of medical school. Our members who use Firecracker to keep their relevant in-class material at the forefront of their attention tend to also perform best on standardized exams.

5. Review material learned in past semesters. One of the best times to study for Step 1 is the summer in between your first and second year of medical school. Firecracker's world-class team of authors and editors wrote this guide for how to use your summer effectively to catch up on material you learned during first year.

6. Be honest with yourself to gauge your comprehension. Firecracker's spaced repetition algorithm schedules your review material according to your self-reported recall ratings (1-5). You can be strategic with your ratings, but we've found that in general, students achieve most highly who are honest about how well they know the answer.

7. Have fun with Firecracker! Turn Firecracker into a video game, or start working in a study group with peers. Quiz each other on Firecracker questions and diagrams. Preparing for a major exam such as USMLE Step 1 can be very difficult if you're on your own. Let Firecracker be the study buddy you see every day!

8. Create a schedule to efficiently allocate your time. Step 1 preparation takes long hours, determination, and intensive focus. Creating a calendar or schedule will help you to find how many hours is appropriate for each resource, activity, and routine. Don't forget to sleep for seven hours per night!

9. Accelerate your pace during dedicated study for Step 1. Make sure you see some additional reviews before your exam, especially for topics that have proven historically troublesome for you. Some of Firecracker's most motivated members review our entire bank of questions for Step 1 leading up to their Step 1 exam dates, and these students perform exceptionally well.

10. Continue doing questions for Step 2 CK and Shelf Exams. Once you have a working routine with Firecracker, don't stop! Piggy-back on your momentum from studying for Step 1, and continue using Firecracker regularly for Clerkships, USMLE Step 2 CK, and NBME Shelf Exam preparation. This software is perfectly suited for these exams, and all of the Step 2 and Shelf Exams material is included in your subscription already! We believe you will be very pleased with the quality of our Step 2 content and questions; this has been a major focus for our team of authors and editors, and we would love to hear what you think. Unleash the cracken!

Topics: USMLE Step 1

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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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