From the Editors: Preparing for the Step 1 (part 2)

Posted by Christian Wishka on Mar 29, 2016 4:36:51 PM

This is an example of how to study in the weeks before your Step 1 test from Christian Wishka, a Firecracker editor. Later this week, Firecracker will be releasing a new Dedicated Test Prep Mode for use in your final weeks of preparation.

Using Firecracker in The Run Up to your Test

What are the must-mark topics in Firecracker?

We try to cover only the most important stuff at Firecracker, so keep in mind we’re talking about a distillate of a distillate here. In general, the topics under “Organ Systems” are the most important ones, and among them, the pathology and physiology subjects per organ system are the highest-yield. Here is a page that lists and links to the highest-yield topics on Firecracker: High Yield Topics on Firecracker

I’m behind on my goal for % flagged. What should I do?

Don’t panic. You’ll be constantly tweaking your study schedule and habits throughout the entire study period, and this is just one of those adjustments. Try and make sure the time you spend with Firecracker is as efficient as possible. Do the following:

  • Flag the most high-yield topics (see above)
  • Try and tie your studies with Firecracker to your studies in class (e.g. do Cardiology topics if covering a Cardiology block)
  • Don’t be afraid to mark 5/5 topic ratings on questions that you really don’t need to study. Over time, this will thin out your question load and optimize it for efficiency.

These are all things that one should always try and do; they become more important if you’re behind.

What should I be using alongside Firecracker?

Firecracker polled over 200 students who scored better than 230 on the Step 1 to learn what resources they found most useful: Tools For Dedicated Prep

Your time, at this stage, is precious: be objective and honest with yourself whether Firecracker, like every resource you are using, is the most efficient use of your time.

USMLEWorld, Pathoma, and First Aid are the classically referenced study trio that I probably don’t need to tell you about. These are tried and true over several test years, and students have scored astronomically using just those three. Some students save these for their dedicated study period, while others have been using them for some time already. If you use them with Firecracker, try and do them in concordance with Firecracker, so that you learn each subject from multiple angles simultaneously.

Other favorites from students beyond UFAP are:

Be sure not to overload yourself with resources! Try and save subject-specific resources for your weak areas, when you need another perspective. It isn’t realistic to try and do Firecracker as well as more than a couple of these with your classes -- depending on how they use it, many students have their hands full with just Firecracker along alongside classes! Quality over quantity. Don’t let yourself feel guilty for using too few resources or saving them until late in your preparation if you truly think it is how you will learn best as an individual.

How should I be spending a typical day?

Curricula are wildly variant between schools, and student loads from classes and extracurriculars can be completely different across the board. Assuming you are still taking classes and aren’t involved in too much else, aim for something like 2 hours/day seven days a week. This can be grueling. If you can’t attain this due to classes, that’s fine; if you can’t due to extracurriculars, intensely scrutinize those commitments to see if they truly are a priority during this key time.

Some students opt for a daily calendar, while others paint in broader strokes with goals per week or month. A daily system is concrete but may be cumbersome and time-consuming to plan. A weekly/monthly system gives room for falling behind, but is more flexible for your study needs which will likely change as you go.

How should I be using Firecracker’s question bank?

The Product Team at Firecracker will have more information on this available in the next couple days. We're just about to launch a new feature set - Dedicated Test Prep Mode - that integrates our 2200 USMLE-style questions into the Firecracker MD/DO platform. Stay tuned!

Christian Wishka is a Firecracked editor, he is also a 2016 DO candidate at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine who matched into Radiology last week.

Topics: USMLE Step 1, Dedicated Prep

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