My USMLE STEP 1 Logbook

In the Name of God I start…

Due to the increased questions about STEP 1; study material, time-line, and others; I will write down my plans in advance. I will also keep updating this article regularly, as to add in my new experience on the go.

I have gathered info from various people and links, so this is a cumulative knowledge, not my own. However, I will add my personal taste especially when it comes to conflicting opinions.

Teenage Student Studying Hard

STEP 1 is not an easy trip, and definitely not short; but it’s not as scary as some might think. In fact, I think it is quite cool, in it’s own twisted kind of way.

And keep in mind: “Whatever you do, you will NEVER master USMLE STEP 1 !!!” So just Tawakal, pray to Allah, and do your best.

It is ESSENTIAL to have a very specific plan before starting. I will use the “Three Phases” of the Damascus university traditional plan, which will take about 8-9 months.


First Phase:  4 Months

For each block, study from the references mentioned below in the same order, plus an additional 3 days at the end of each for First Aid & USMLE World. First Aid Q&A might be a good option if you have time, but it is low on priority. Kaplan Q-bank can help you memorize, but it is basically just a waste of time. 

  • Physiology: 9 days
    It seems that both Kaplan & BRS have their downsides, and I will use both as following:
    Kaplan Physio: Cardio, Pulmonary, Blood.
    BRS: The rest ! 🙂
    It seems that “cardiac and vascular function curves” -Page 79- and “integrated responses of the resp system” -Page 134- are mentioned in a good way in BRS as well.
    Physio is actually pretty hard in the exam and needs extra care.
  • Anatomy:  11 Days
    Neuro from High Yield, the rest from Kaplan.
  • Biochemistry: 18 Days
    Kaplan ONLY!
  • Pharmacology: 9 Days
    Kaplan ONLY!
  • Behavioral: 6 Days
    High Yield behavioral sciences + Kaplan videos + 100 cases of Conrad Fischer
  • Microbiology: 10 Days
    High Yield + Immunology from Kaplan + help from “Ridiculously simple” pictures
    NO Kaplan Videos!
    This is a tough and easy to forget block, and needs an additional read plus finding your own way of memorizing, like self-made drawings and tables.
  • Pathology: 15 Days
    Usually Goljan’s lectures is recommended, but it has become outdates, and Pathoma is a new substitute… or so I heard.
    NO Kaplan Videos!
  • Doctors in Training: 20 Days
    I recommend taking this course.


Second Phase: 3 months

75 Days to reread everything, except for watching Kaplan videos!

You should have finished any translating, additional reading, unimportant Q-banks, and inquiries about unclear ideas in the first phase.

First Aid is the MOST IMPORTANT book of all, you should be studying from it everyday, and at the end of each block.

And at the end of the phase, you need another week to study First Aid all over again ALONE.

Regarding “Tanzeel”, which is writing every additional important info you find on your First Aid book. I don’t like the idea one bit, it distracts you from actually studying. You may try highlighting additions in a unified color. Or you could do it in the first phase instead of the second, although it won’t be easy since you still can’t really tell the difference between what is important for the exam and which is just a huge waste of time. It seems that Physiology, Pharmacology, & Pathology are the most important blocks that need tanzeel.

I left 10 days here unspecified, these are intended as days to fill any lost days within the past 7 months.

Take an NMBE exam here to make sure you’re ready to choose your exact date for the exam, or if you need more time.  USMLE CD might be helpful as well, but less precise.


Third Phase: 40 Days

25 Days for a compressed reading of everything

8 Days for any important Q-banks & NMBE

7 Days fora final review of First Aid.


Some general advice…

  • Everyone has weak points in different topics, find yours and give it extra time and/or repeat it more than once.
  • Do not postpone anything to the 3rd phase, it will be a disaster!
  • Don’t make a super tight schedule, and leave some empty days just in case. You shouldn’t postpone the date of the exam you decided on when you started preparing, unless you get a bad score on NBME.
  • DON’T change or add a lot of material, especially larger books. It will haunt you in the final phase.
  • Training yourself by answering question banks is VERY IMPORTANT!
  • Try to sit for the exam as soon as possible, the longer you spend, the more bored and impatient you will get, but not too soon that your performance is effected.
  • Try finding a study partner, but only one that does not pull you down.
  • Don’t listen to what other people have to say after you have started. People will confuse you with new advice about their timeline and study material.
  • Don’t worry if you weren’t as good at studying as you would’ve hoped during the past years in med school. The studying material will be sufficient to cover any mistakes and weak points you have.



Jan 19, 2014

  • The price of the material mentioned is approximately 4,350 $ .
  • There is no ‘Blood’ section in Kaplan, I think it’s meant to be the first chapter in Kaplan: Fluid distribution and Edema.
  • “100 cases of Conrad Fischer” is the old name, I’ve been told. The new name is “USMLE Medical Ethics”.
  • “Pathoma” is actually called “Fundamentals of Pathology; Medical Course and Step 1 Review”.

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Angel Anas

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