Study Timing: How Soon Is Too Soon?

By Tim Durso

Study Timing - How Soon Is Too SoonThere’s one age old question that inevitably creeps into the forefront of the (admittedly neurotic) mind of many medical students during the pre-clinical years:

“When should I start studying for Step 1?”

For a question that seems so universal, the answer is far from it. I’ll give you my perspective on the issue, and granted it it’s a sample size of one (great time to review study power in your handy-dandy copy of First Aid), but it’s a strategy that put me in a position to exceed even my own expectations on test day.

I did not touch any Step 1 review materials throughout my M1 year or the summer between M1 and M2. This hands-off approach so early on may scare a lot of folks who are used to planning more than a few steps (no pun intended) ahead. I’m a firm believer, though, that you need to walk before you can crawl. That is, your job as an M1 is to build a solid foundation in basic science and physiology that will allow you to make learning pathology as an M2 a worthwhile endeavor. And your job as a rising M2 is to enjoy your life before freedom as you know it becomes a distant memory akin to pizza lunchables before recess.

Seriously, don’t study or pre-read between M1 and M2. You’ll feel silly looking back on it as you learn what you were supposed to be taking away from the material as you progress through M2 year.

Now you’re an M2. Congrats! You made it through the initial assault and are exquisitely aware of the task ahead. This realization caused me to kick into high gear as far as preparation for Step 1 goes. If you remember a few key facts, not even the beast of Step 1 can keep you down.

Fact #1: First Aid is your friend. I took that book with me to every lecture and made sure what was being covered in class was within the pages of that sacred text. If I noticed something in First Aid not touched upon by the professor, I made sure to do some thorough textbook reading (cough Wikipedia cough) to get the basics down for review later.

Fact # 2: Every word of First Aid is important. I can’t tell you how many times I did a practice question with some minute fact that I skimmed over and dismissed as trivial (I’m looking at you, sporicidal protocol).

Fact #3: Questions, questions, questions. The sooner you develop a strategy to attack board style questions, the better off you’ll be. I promise.

As long as you supplement your coursework with First Aid and develop a question approach that works for you, I guarantee you don’t need to start Step 1 studying before your M2 year. After that, it’s up you.

Until next time.


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