USMLE: Week 2

After multiple half-hearted attempts at writing this update, it looks like I’m kidding myself if I think it’s going to be coherent   I give up.  Just consider the lack of editing a testament to what studying is doing to me, please.  I am bleary-eyed and anergic to caffeine.


1.  My Step 2 CK score came in!  And I got my goal score: 200-and-Not-Outrightly-Memorable-In-A-Bad-Way points.

Seriously, I was dead-average and thrilled about it.  (Though – to be fair – I originally thought ~220 was average, which is why I was probably so thrilled to see that I got a 237.  Took me a second to parse that 237 was written twice because it was also the current Step 2 average.)

(By the way, did I just make up the “220 = roughly average” thing?  Was it ever true?  Is it something a med student told me years ago that I just internalized as the gospel truth?  Or are med students getting smarter?)

But, okay, DONE.  Nothing more to say on the subject.  No more speculation.  Back to Step 1.

never look back

2.  “The best step 1 prep is to study hard for the pre-clinical tests.”  I can’t believe this saying actually turned out to be true.  I mean, sure, it makes sense, but I still thought it was mostly just a clever way for M3s and M4s to sound haughty when asked for advice.

All I know is that as an M1, I literally studied myself into an injury during Microbiology – probably the hardest I’ve ever studied in my life – and.. holy crap, I retained that information!  Even though it was all just random association.  It was amazing.

And I’m not saying that having a near-mental-and-physical-breakdown was “worth it”, exactly, but –  I scheduled myself 48 hours to review micro and only had to use 6.  So, time-wise, I guess overstudying for M1 Microbiology was as “worth it” as a near-breakdown is ever gonna get.

I just wish I could say that about the rest of the Step 1 subjects. Looking at my QBank breakdowns, it’s patently obvious that I barely passed M1 Embryology.  At the time, I just didn’t feel motivated to learn, and now I’m paying for it.

Actually, not only did I not feel motivated to study Embryo, but I distinctly remember explaining to someone that “You know what?  It doesn’t matter.  The only people who need to learn Embryology are future pediatricians.”  (Yeah, you tell them, M1 Action Potential!  … those.. future.. pediatricians…)

that's a wonderful attitude sarcasm

NO.  BAD.  Stop that RIGHT NOW, Former Me.

NO. BAD. Stop that RIGHT NOW, Former Me.  I am from the future and I am here to tell you are wrong.

But, too bad, I don’t have the time machine necessary to knock on my former self’s door and forcibly cancel her Netflix subscription, so instead I’m bitterly studying embryology 4-5 hours a day just to break even.

(Yes, I know it’s not “high-yield” for Step 1, but if I don’t learn about the embryonic origin of cleft palate anomalies now, when will I?  I made my bed and now I have to lie in it, etc.)  (Besides – for all I know, Future Pediatric Resident Me does have access to a time machine – and I really don’t want her to knock down my door to cancel my Netflix subscription.)

3.  Immunology: is, however, still stupid. 

4.  Stuff That Doesn’t Fit Anywhere Else:

  • First Aid 2013 is a huge improvement from 2012.
  • USMLERx “Flash Facts” has, by far, the worst interface and programming of anything I’ve ever regretted paid money for.
  • That said, the USMLERx QBank is actually shockingly good – memorization-wise, it’s unbelievably helpful to have a picture from First Aid and page number for every answer explanation.
  • I bought an extremely comfortable pillow and it was a major time-management mistake.
  • Picmonic is new and brilliant.  I bet it’ll catch on as fast as Pathoma did.
  • I am forcing myself to limit my prep books to 2 per subject, and it’s a daily battle.  This had better be good for me.
  • I should have quit caffeine 3 weeks ago.

11 thoughts on “USMLE: Week 2

  1. I’ve never heard of Picmonic — I’m in the process of gearing up to start studying for Step, but given the steep price, how highly would you recommend it?

    Good luck in your studies!!

    • Oh, good point: don’t buy the full thing – start with a single deck! Pick a subject that you have trouble memorizing, like immunodeficiencies, storage disorders, leukemias, enzyme deficiencies – something like that. A single deck costs $10-20, and THAT’S worth it by any measure.

      I was on the fence about it, so I bought the immunodeficiencies deck – and I was really impressed. Took less than an hour to go through the cards twice – and since then I’ve had an easy time getting immunodeficiency minutiae questions correct because I can recall the cards so well in my head. I’m really impressed with how well it worked for me, and I will likely be buying another deck soon.

  2. Congratulations on your Step 2 CK score! 🙂 You probably got the 220 = average idea from Step 1, where the average is usually in the 220-225 range. Anyway, good luck with Step 1! It sounds like you’ll do well.

  3. Limiting prep books is a VERY wise choice… it’s way too easy to get bogged down in reading all the possible texts, and the next thing you know you’ve only studied 12 topics for the whole day.

    Unsolicited advice? I focused on doing subject-based blocks on Qbank on tutor, making notes into my First Aid for each question, and a supplement text ONLY as needed… and came out at 200-and-just-a-handful-above-average.

    Congrats on CK and best of luck with the rest of your studying… just remember to stay sane!!

  4. Pingback: epigenetics | Ah yes, plans

    • Haha, fair! I don’t know what brand it is, but it’s just a regular full body pillow. I’ve never had a full body pillow before, so maybe I’m late to this discovery – but if you wrap it around your shoulders while you sleep it’s like you’re sleeping in a soft nest of awesome. SO comforting and warm!

  5. Just stumbled on your blog – good stuff. Currently prepping for Step 1 and after reviewing FA 2013, I realize I want flash cards for a lot of topics (esp bugs & drugs) but lord is that painful writing them out. Heard about USMLERx Flash Facts but few personal opinions which alone scares me. I accept that the interface will be godawful, but what did you think of the content? Can you comment a little more on it? Or a lot more? Or perhaps something in-between?

    BTW, *strong* use of gifs on your blog. Gifs may be my favorite part of the internet.

    • Thanks dude!

      Sure! So the content is the same as First Aid – which is to say, A+. That said, the problem with USMLE Flash Facts is that you cannot shuffle them.

      And when you think about it, that’s… fairly major. It cripples it beyond use. Can you imagine? You always have to go through hundreds of cards in the same order (within each section, which is fairly broad) – with ZERO ability to star/save/favorite any you actually want to learn, which seriously impairs the learning value.

      So now you have a situation where you have flashcards with solid content, but no better than you could create by spending the $30 on an electronic copy of First Aid and print-screening it.

      I would argue this: Buy the $30 electronic copy of First Aid and a six-pack of good beer. Make a fun, last-chance-to-be-irresponsible evening out of mindlessly print-screening the pages. Save them to quizlet, flashcardexchange, anki, or some other program, and congratulate yourself on being smarter than the Flash Facts programmers.

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