I’ve written a previous advice post for how to survive third year of medical school, or the first clinical year, that has been well received. Please check it out here.
Please use this as a guide for your studying, and cater it to your own style!
I noticed that when I began to study for the USMLE Step 2, there was an absolute paucity of resources to be found online, especially when compared to Step 1. Everyone’s advice echoed with the same “just do what you did for Step 1, you’re guaranteed at least 10 points higher,” or worse, “it’s an easier exam, don’t worry about it and you’ll do fine.”
Then I realized: I was talking to the people who had done amazingly well on Step 1 and didn’t need to worry about their Step 2. You see, I was on the opposite end. I wasn’t aiming for a score similar to my step 1, I wanted a score at least 20 points higher. I wanted to be a competitive applicant, and while my step 1 may have opened the door, I needed my step 2 to lock it into place.
Thus, if you fall into a similar boat where you are trying to raise your step 2 score, within the allotted two weeks study time, then this post is for you.
I know, I hate numbers’ speak too! But I have to say this post would be especially helpful to those with sub 240 scores on their Step 1, especially in the 220-230+ range. If you are worried about your shelf scores – I also didn’t do too well on them, and may have had a star or two mixed in – so don’t let that stop you from aiming HIGH! For those of you who scored above 240 on Step 1, let me reassure you – you probably don’t need this post and will be fine. Your score reflects the fact that you know how to study, and if you apply those again – you will hit above 250.
You do NOT need to take an extra vacation month to increase your score!
My study plan focuses on first, relearning the necessary knowledge before the 2 weeks study period, and then using the 2 weeks to focus, memorize, and hammer in the details, rather than cramming both into 2 weeks.
I also focused primarily on studying medicine because it was important for me to perform one part (which is the majority of Step 2) extremely well, rather than all just mediocre.
Thus, if not already, purchase the Step 2 Q Bank (this will be your #1 resource) and start NOW with questions. I recommend tutor mode as well as beginning a notebook where you write down ALL incorrect question and answers.
Secondly, I recommend scheduling a lighter rotation (i.e. not surgery or ob-gyn if you can help it) during your last six week rotation. This is when you will hanker down on those Q bank questions as well as read your review books (listed below). Divide how many questions you have left by the days in your rotation (5-6 days/week), and that will determine how many questions you have to complete every night.
QBank is your best friend. Complete it before the 2 weeks of “study-cation.”
My biggest mistake when studying for Step 1 was spreading myself too thin. I owned and read every review book, front to back, but in doing so, I missed the most important part: application. Thus, our goal for step 2 is to complete the q bank before the “actual” study time – that way during your two weeks: 1) you will re-do ALL your incorrect questions (it is imperative you do this… I had around 500 to go through, so you are not alone!), and 2) you will have a chance to repeat the Q bank on random.
Less is more: Read Step up to Medicine and USMLE Step 2: Secrets.
If I had to select one book to recommend, it would be Step up to Medicine. I had taken medicine as my first rotation in third year, and forgotten mostly everything by the end, and used this to refresh my knowledge. Attempt to read and understand 0.5-1 chapter(s) a night during your last block with goal of completion before your two weeks study period.
I also really liked Step 2: Secrets. It’s written in an easy to read question and answer format and can be alternated with Step up to Medicine reading.
Additional books: First aid for Psych is hands down, the best review book for psych. Very quick and easy read, probably in less than a day if you focus on key sections, and will help a lot with the q bank questions.
Books I didn’t like: Master the boards for Step 2 – I heard high recommendations for this book, and have to say I was disappointed because it was more basic than I had expected. I could see one using this as a way to ease back into studying. However, on the plus side – it is also very quick read! I was able to read a few sections a couple nights before my exam to brush up on my ob & surgery knowledge.
I am also selling mine for $15 – contact me if you want it! (sold!)
Purchase and take the sample exam 1-2 weeks before your exam date (no closer).
Use this as motivation. I took mine perhaps 10 days before my exam, and scored more than 10 points lower than my desired score. So while your score may be discouraging, try to think: every week is worth a 10 point increase, and work towards it!
Take a break the day before your exam.
Honestly, you deserve it. Enjoy your last day off before your exam, and go rock it! You’re almost done!
Last but not least, schedule for Step 2 CS as early as you can get it. You will not regret it because it feels AMAZING to not have to study for anything at all during fourth year! The CS section will only require brief reading of First aid to Step 2 CS that can be done a day or two before. (The testing center will also provide lunch which was probably the only added bonus. If you are the AM section, you will also finish around 3-4pm which is another plus.)
1) Before the 2 weeks: Finish questions on Qbank and reading Step up to Medicine (and Secrets).
2) During the 2 weeks: Take a practice exam. Re-do all incorrect questions on Qbank. Re-read Step up to Medicine/Secrets. Brush up on the other specialties by at least re-reading Pestana for surgery, etc.
3) Enjoy 4th year! It will be tough initially with applications and interviews, but you can do it! Celebrate by planning an away rotation, or even a Euro-trip. ;)