Surviving Step 1: Countdown – the Weeks Prior

By Walter Wiggins

3-4 weeks prior to Test Day

This is a great time to take a self-assessment. If you haven’t done a full-length simulation of the Step 1 exam, I recommend you do that now. Take special care to review your practice exam and identify any remaining weaknesses (e.g. antiarrhythmics, GI pathology). With 3-4 weeks left, you should have plenty of time to work in a little extra review in these areas.


Now is also the time to start focusing on your high-yield resources, if you’ve been studying for a couple of weeks already. You’ve got a lot of information to cover in the next few weeks, so, don’t get too focused on the details. You want to ensure that you have time to review everything before the test.

Finally, on the logistical side, make sure you have made accommodations close to your testing site for the night before the test (if you live more than 30-45 minutes away from that location). You don’t want to have to worry about travel delays the morning of the test.

2 weeks prior to Test Day

This is the time to start incorporating more generalized review into your schedule, if you haven’t already. You’ve probably covered many of the content areas that will appear on Step 1, but it may have been a week or two since you’ve thought about some of the earlier topics you covered. Take some time over the next few days to refresh your memory. A great way to do this is to go back over your notes/flashcards or the relevant sections in First Aid. If you’re using a question bank, you could go back over some of the questions that you missed on your first attempt or any you might have flagged because you guessed correctly but didn’t really have a good grasp of the material.

This is also the last point at which taking a self-assessment will be of any help. After this point, there will be little-to-no time for bolstering your weaknesses. When taken too close to test day, a practice test can only add to pretest anxiety.

Have any tips or suggestions for 2-4 weeks before Test Day? Post them in the Comments below.


2 thoughts on “Surviving Step 1: Countdown – the Weeks Prior”

  1. Should we be expecting a passing score on the assessments 4 weeks before taking the actual exam or is there still time for improvement?

  2. It really depends on how much preparation you’ve done. If you’re just starting or only a week or so into dedicated study, I might not expect a passing score. However, if you’ve been studying for 2 weeks or more, you should at least be close to a passing score, as you’ve had enough time to cover several topics in depth. However, if you’re not, you’ve still got plenty of time to get there.

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