The summer between MS1 and MS2 is a great opportunity to catch up on your Firecracker study plan and ensure that you enter MS2 with as much material from MS1 banked as possible. Right off the bat, I’d suggest that if you’re feeling burnt out/exhausted after MS1, take some time (whatever is necessary) to relax and recuperate. Perhaps the worst thing you could do is to enter MS2 feeling burnt out. That being said, if you find that you have some extra time this summer and are itching to review some of the material you’ve learned, this plan may help. This plan is going to assume that your goal is to consolidate the information you learned in MS1 for the purpose of STEP 1, that you have 6 weeks off for summer break, and that you are planning on taking 2 weeks as a true vacation (I highly recommend this).
Ideally (with the possible exception of anatomy), you would have every topic within each subject that your curriculum covered during MS1 marked. If this isn’t realistic given your MS1 marking and/or summer commitments, focus your efforts on the topics detailed in this high-yield list of topics. The timeline outlined below will vary depending on how diligent you have been about marking topics as you learned them.
Begin marking/reviewing topics within subject(s) that were taught most recently prior to your summer break. For example, if you finished your MS1 year with a cardiology module, this is the first subject that I’d recommend marking. The rationale for this approach is that marking and reviewing these subjects now will allow you to more easily consolidate the material long-term since it is relatively “fresh” in your brain. This will allow you to avoid having to completely re-learn the material from these subjects. If you haven’t been using Firecracker during your most recent module(s), I would recommend marking these topics as “Current” and transitioning them to “Past” after this ~2 week window.
Dedicate 2 weeks on marking and reviewing topics in microbiology. This subject is tested extensively on STEP 1, it is detail-oriented, and it requires a substantial amount of memorization. In my opinion, it is relatively less difficult to review/re-learn an organ system than it is to memorize the thousands of disparate facts required to do well on this portion of the exam. If you are strong in microbiology, I’d recommend dedicating this period to another subject that you consider an area of weakness and turning it into a strength. For this ~2 week window, mark these topics as “Urgent” and transition them to “Past” at the end of your summer.
At the end of the summer/beginning of your MS2 year, all of these reviewed cards can be transitioned to “Past”. I strongly urge you not to unmark them once the school year begins. Having these marked will allow you to periodically review this material as part of your study plan throughout the academic year so that you have mastered this information when you enter your dedicated STEP 1 study period.
We will be holding webinars reviewing how to set up your Firecracker account for summer study at the following times; we hope you'll join us!
Jeff Cooney is a Firecracker Editor and an MD candidate at University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Like all Firecracker editors, he scored >240 on his Step 1.