Substantiated Summer Study Strategies for Success

Posted by David Guertin on Apr 25, 2016 3:47:50 PM

"How should I use Firecracker over the summer?" 

It's a question we've started receiving quite a bit. Over time, we’ve compiled dozens of in-depth study plans, tens of thousands of verified score reports, and a few hundred million questions completed to provide accurate recommendations for best practices. Still, some of the most illustrative insights into effective study strategies are best directly provided by our valued users. Below are some personal experiences that some of the most successful Firecracker members have shared regarding how to use Firecracker over the summer:

“I was looking for a way to keep knowledge fresh, so that when the time came to study for the USMLE, I would be starting from a higher baseline without the need to “re-learn” older topics. During the second half of my first year, and in the summer between first and second years, I reviewed, marked, and completed questions on every subject covered during first year; I then used Firecracker to stay abreast of topics learned during second year. To reiterate, my goal with Firecracker was to stay fresh on content covered in the preclinical years of medical school. This helped me succeed in class and on the wards, but also (more importantly) allowed me to dive right into USMLE preparation without needing to cover things I had once learned but had since forgotten.” - Andrew, CWRU (scored 269 on USMLE Step 1)

“At first, I was just testing a lot of resources during first year to see what worked for me. Firecracker was the only resource that consistently prepared me for exams and allowed for immediate recall of information upon being asked questions by attendings in lecture or small group. I liked the program so much that I chose to continue Firecracker throughout the summer after first year, marking all the topics we had seen during MS1 and even a few that we had not officially learned yet. My goal was to enter second year knowing all first year classes cold so that I would not have to spend time re-learning things I should already have known. Firecracker served as my main foundation of knowledge entering second year and made both classes and Step 1 studying significantly easier. Second year is grueling and your time is limited between classes, research, and student groups. Firecracker makes studying more efficient and organized, as all of the most relevant information is presented in a concise way in one location, as opposed to trying to consolidate information from class power points, textbooks, question banks, and notes.

I started using Firecracker for microbiology and then proceeded to mark all topics learned in first year during the summer in between MS1 and MS2. Throughout second year, I marked topics as we learned them in our classes or sometimes worked ahead through the organ system we were focusing on. I did Firecracker throughout the summer before second year and during all of second year to continually reinforce all topics on Step 1. By starting early and using Firecracker alongside my coursework, when I started question banks, I could already predict the answer of many questions before even looking at the answer choices.” - a third-year at MSSM (scored 262 on USMLE Step 1)

“I had heard about Firecracker through medical students above me who had found it helpful so I decided to start it out the summer before 2nd year (roughly about a year out). At that point in time I added most of the basic science as a refresher before I started 2nd year as I thought it would give me a head start. My goal was to add each organ system as it coincided with classes in school and so as I moved forward throughout the year, Firecracker would constantly be quizzing me about previous organ systems/ basic science concepts so I wouldn’t have to refresh too much by the time intensive study period came around.” - Andrew (scored 260 on USMLE Step 1)

“After dominating first year, I decided that I was going to start including Step 1 studying in addition to coursework throughout all of second year for an April test date. Firecracker was going to be my foundation. Over the summer, I worked in a research lab. During down time, I would mark first year topics and do those questions, which ended up being about 100 per day.” - Alec, UMass (scored 266 on USMLE Step 1)

“I started using Firecracker during the summer between my M1 and M2 years. I figured it would be a good way not to forget the M1 material so I would not have to review it as much. A classmate mentioned it during the second half of my M1 year. My plan was to use it to regularly quiz myself on past information when I had a free moment (e.g. on the subway, waiting in line, in the morning while I drink some coffee).

There was a clear difference during group work after I started using Firecracker. I remember once we were discussing a case which related to heme metabolism - something we had covered 4-5 months ago. No one in the group remembered much about the specifics, but I had recently had some Firecracker questions on it so I volunteered to draw a diagram of it up on the board. I tried to do so humbly so I wouldn't come off like a gunner, but our professor was very, very impressed. During the summer between M1 and M2 year, I tried to do 100 Firecracker questions each morning.” - Eric, Northwestern (scored 258 on USMLE Step 1)


While one hundred questions may seem like a daunting number, we’ve found that most Firecracker members can breeze through this amount in a half hour or less. Please don’t be shy to reach out to me at if you’d like some tips on how to maximize your pacing and develop efficiency in your review routine. We would love to publish your words as well; if you’ve used Firecracker en route to success, then we know thousands of medical students who would love to hear just how you did! Sincerely,

David Guertin

Community Success Specialist at Firecracker

Topics: USMLE, Medical Education, How to Use Firecracker, COMLEX, Testimonial, Q-bank

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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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