Besides my last systems course (finally!), Level 1 of boards is the only thing standing between me and third year clerkships. Passing an exam should be easy enough, right? If only it were that simple! This exam will be the hardest I will have ever studied for anything, and the longest I will have ever spent preparing for a single exam. The end of June seemed pretty far away in January, but now it is March and Level 1 is approaching quickly. My exam date is about 3 and a half months away, so what am I doing to prepare?
I’ve been using Cramfighter to help me stay on top of my study goals. My school purchased this for us to use, and it has been very helpful. It allows you to make separate study blocks leading up to your exam. For example, I have one study block from now through the end of April while I am still doing my regular coursework, another for the month of May when I am doing a clinical integration course, and another one for June when I have no other obligations. For each block, you can schedule days off so you won’t have any tasks to do on certain days. I have one day off per week as a catch-up day (this is essential… trust me!), and I also scheduled days off before each exam in my coursework. You choose what resources you plan on using for your studies during each study block, and Cramfighter will make a schedule for you based on those resources and the time you have scheduled. If you get too far behind, it even allows you to rebalance your schedule, which will redistribute tasks to other days. Check it out at www.cramfighter.com
Doctors in Training
I have heard mixed opinions about using DIT, but I ultimately decided to get it because I cannot stand the idea of simply reading the pages of First Aid. The program comes with primer videos that go over various high yield topics, as well as quizzes. It also comes with part 1 questions, which essentially make you recall information you have not dealt with in a while. These question sets are send out every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and there is an 8-minute video going over the answers. Honestly, I have not done much of these question sets, as I have been benefitting more from doing board-style questions in my question banks. The one advantage I have experienced is that the question sets have helped me become more familiar with my First Aid book. DIT will reference the pages of First Aid in the answer videos of the question sets, and I use that as an opportunity to make additional notes in my margins. I plan on using the part 2 videos in May/June, which will extensively go over topics covered in First Aid. I will let you know what I think about part 2 after level 1!
Am I the only person who isn’t a huge fan of First Aid?! I am still using it for my board prep, but I am not heavily relying on it for my review material as I study. It is basically like Sparknotes for medical school, and gives you the foundation of what you need to know for the exam. I take a lot of notes in the margins of the book as I go through my other review materials. First Aid helps me narrow down the concepts and facts I absolutely need to know for the exam. I definitely couldn’t do my board prep without it, but I refuse to sit there and simply read its pages every day without annotating and using other materials.
Pathology is one of my weaker areas, so I absolutely love Pathoma. I like to read/annotate the Fundamentals of Pathology book, then watch the videos related to the sections I read. Pathoma goes through high yield information, and will help you be able to identify distinguishing features of similar diseases. The videos will show you and explain exactly what you are identifying on gross images and histological slides, and also explain some of the physiology behind the disease process. I plan on using this during every one of my study blocks.
As a visual learner and a kid at heart, I love using Sketchy Medical as a resource. So many of the microorganisms and drugs can blur together, but Sketchy makes it so much easier for me to keep everything straight in my mind. Each microorganism or class of drugs comes with its own illustrated and narrated story. Sketchy will use recurrent images throughout their illustrations to represent a single concept. They even released a new workbook to go along with the pharmacology videos, so you can take notes and quiz yourself on the images.
I am using UWorld and COMBank. Even though I am only taking COMLEX Level 1 and not USMLE step 1 (future post on this!), UWorld has very thorough explanations and is by far the best question bank out there for both step 1 and level 1. I am using COMBank so I can become used to COMLEX-style questions, and also get practice with questions about OMM. I have been doing randomized questions in tutor mode for both question banks. I use the answer explanations to take notes in First Aid.
OMT Review 3rd Edition by Robert G. Savarese
I am using this book to study the material for the OMM questions on the COMLEX. It hasn’t appeared on my Cramfighter schedule yet for this block, but I will definitely be using it more and more as my exam date becomes closer. I’ll let you know what I think when I become more familiar with the text!
That’s the breakdown of my resources! What do you plan to do to prepare for boards? If you’ve already taken step 1/level 1, what advice do you have?