When the Time Comes for USMLE Step 1, I Want to be Ready

Photo Credit: By H.M. Dixon (Flickr: Ben Franklin) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Photo Credit: By H.M. Dixon (Flickr: Ben Franklin) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Preparing for the single most important exam of a medical student’s life can be a daunting and grueling task.  The USMLE Step 1 exam (and a few other factors) determine(s) what kind of doctor a medical student will or will not be. And, unlike the MCAT, whatever passing score a student makes on Step 1, they are stuck with the scores for life. Like it or not. No pressure here though right? Considering the aforementioned things, I have decided to start my USMLE Step 1 prep early.

Fortunately for me, my school (Caribbean Medical University) places emphasis on early Step 1 preparation. Essentially, from day one our curriculum focuses on two things – the patient and USMLE Step 1. We are not oblivious to the fact that we have to score a little higher on this exam to be considered competitive (by some) of the U.S. teaching hospitals’ residency programs. So, instead of trying to cram the first four semesters of medical school into a two month Step 1 prep (as many students attending U.S. medical schools do); or taking extended periods of time to study (as many students attending offshore medical schools do), I choose to decrease my stress and increase my potential by preparing early. After all, I was always told that slow and steady wins the race.

I do understand that keeping up with medical school classes often proves challenging without trying to include any additional studies. But, after speaking with many students who have successfully taken Step 1, the consensus seems to be – start prepping as early as possible and to do practice questions repeatedly. I am heeding the advice!

What works for me is incorporating Step 1 prep into the materials that are being covered in my classes. This way, I am confronting two needs without becoming too overwhelmed. On the weekends, specifically Saturdays, I try to devote more time to question banks and other Step 1 resources.

While I do not plan on taking my exam for at least another year, when the time comes I want to be ready. Likewise, I do not want to be limited to what kind of doctor I can be because I failed to prepare properly. As Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”


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All of the opinions expressed here are the author’s and his/hers alone, and do not represent necessarily those of Kaplan or its employees.

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Willie Carter

About Willie Carter

First year medical student at Caribbean Medical University (CMU) in Willemstad, Curacao -Netherland Antilles.
  • Shan Rose

    thanks for sharing information really it is very useful

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  • Concerned

    By going to a Carribean medical school – aren’t you already limiting yourself?
    Easier said than done to study for Step 1 while concurrently going through classes.