Using Firecracker During Your Dedicated Step 1 Prep

Posted by Trevor Rosenlof on Apr 2, 2015 9:50:13 PM

“I just wish I had started Firecracker earlier!”

We hear this so many times, and it’s why we encourage people to sign up and start using Firecracker as soon as they hear about us. But what about those who didn’t start using Firecracker right away? Is all hope lost? What can they do to effectively use Firecracker in a short period of time?

“What if I’m taking Step 1 in two months? How can I effectively use Firecracker during such a short period of time?”

As students of medicine, we sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that there is no use trying unless we can be perfect. Sometimes, students start using Firecracker and then get behind and give up because they feel there is just no point. But that’s simply not true! It’s all about being smart and strategic in your studying.

So here are 5 ways you can effectively incorporate Firecracker into your dedicated prep period, whether it’s a few weeks or a few months.

  1. Use the Firecracker app on your smartphone during “wasted time” throughout the day.
  2. Spend a small amount of time doing Firecracker questions first thing in the morning and/or last thing before going to bed.
  3. Focus on the questions you rated a 1 or 2.
  4. Focus on topics that are memorization heavy.
  5. Make use of Firecracker’s QBank clinical vignette questions - there are hundreds of them!

get started for free

#1: Use Firecracker during “wasted time”

Here’s another way to look at it. What if I told you that you could answer 100+ flashcard questions each day without taking time away from anything else you do? It’s like turning your day from 24 hours to 25. How is that possible?

Because you can use your smartphone to answer questions while you are doing just about anything. In any given day, there are pockets of wasted time:

  • standing in line at the store
  • filling up your car
  • during a commercial break
  • warming up a hot pocket in the microwave
  • and just about anything else you can think of

Add up the seconds and minutes of all these short periods of wasted time, and you might end up with an hour or two!

Most of the time, we just sit around and twiddle our thumbs during these moments. But you can pull out your phone and answer a handful of questions instead. Pound out 5-10 questions during a commercial break, 20 while eating lunch, 10 while you are waiting to meet a friend, a few dozen while on the treadmill at the gym. Before you know it, you’ve answered dozens of questions, maybe 100+, without setting aside study time.

Most of the recall questions on Firecracker are designed to be answered quickly. So even if you only have 60 seconds, you can still try to answer 2-5 questions.

#2: Do Firecracker recall questions first thing in the morning and last thing before bed

Why? Because not only are these questions designed to be answered quickly, they are fairly simple questions. They don’t involve the level of thinking that is required to answer one of our QBank questions. So you can do these as a warm up first thing in the morning, or as the last studying of the day when you’re winding down. Or both!

Say you average 3 questions/minute. If all you do is 20 minutes first thing in the morning and 30 minutes before going to bed, that’s 150 questions a day, just like that!

#3: Focus on questions you rated 1 or 2

Firecracker has a pretty sweet feature that lets you focus on your weaknesses. Did you know that you can select to only do questions that you rated a 1, or 2? If you only have weeks until Step 1, it makes sense to not use your valuable time reviewing material you know. So don’t spend time reviewing questions you have given a 4 or 5. You know that material. Focus on the questions you didn’t know as well, those you rated a 1 or 2. Doing this will make your time with Firecracker even more efficient. You’ll turn those weaknesses into strengths and get more questions right on the real deal.

#4: Focus on topics that are memorization heavy

So what topics should you focus on? If you’re already a seasoned Firecracker user, you probably have that figured out and can move on to the next tip. But if you’re new and don’t know where to start, we have a list of topics that are memorization heavy and are great to study on Firecracker’s platform when you’re within 8 weeks of test day. Check it out here.

#5: Make use of Firecracker’s QBank questions

Firecracker is much more than a bunch of flashcards on a world class adaptive platform. It also offers hundreds of real USMLE style questions that mirror the questions you are going to be asked on test day. And we’re adding more each week! So get the most out of Firecracker and visit our examsim app where you can unlock all of these questions, and add to your knowledge arsenal so you can dominate your test. Add a block of questions here and there throughout your study. Or if you’re super brave, string 7 blocks together to simulate the real deal.

Firecracker is a versatile app that you can use whether you have years or only weeks to study. The above suggestions are only a few. Do you have any? What have you done to make use of Firecracker during the 8 weeks leading up to Step 1? Post your thoughts below so others can benefit!

get started for free

Topics: Tales from the front line, USMLE Step 1, Firecracker

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