Best Step 1 Study Advice I Ever Received

Benjamin Massenburg is a MedSchoolCoach USMLE and medical subject tutor who shares with us the best Step 1 Advice he ever received.


The months leading up to Step 1 can be stressful. You are still in classes that you hope will be relevant to your upcoming national board examination, and doing dedicated Step 1 studying in your free time. There is a frenzy among all of your classmates, and competition is at an all-time high. Everyone is using different resources. The older students are full of advice, often unsolicited. In an era when most of the basic science classes in medical school are pass/fail, Step 1 assumes an even more powerful role in your future residency application.

You begin to wonder:

Am I using the right resources?

What is she using over there? I haven’t seen that before!

This happens to everyone. You are not alone.

At some point during my time studying for Step 1, an older medical student approached me and said,

“Don’t take anyone’s studying advice. You have made it this far, and you know what studying techniques work for you.”

What he meant was, we should put our time and effort into gaining the base of knowledge necessary for the exam and by doing practice questions, not into worrying about what everyone else may be doing. This couldn’t have been more true and helpful for me, and carried me to my success on that and future examinations.

This may sound strange, as this post about advice is urging you not to take any.

However, I am just encouraging you to stay focused and not to worry about what others may be doing. If flashcards work for you, use flashcards. If group studying works for you, study in groups. If tutoring works for you, find a strong tutor. If you don’t know what your weaknesses are, do practice questions and exams.

This exam is not testing your intelligence or your capabilities as a doctor, it is basically testing how much effort you are able to put into something. This score does not define who you are as a medical student, and does not mean that you are smarter or dumber than any of your classmates. However, with the proper amount of time and effort put into preparation and studying, you will earn a high score. Stay focused, and don’t worry.