The Method to My Madness: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love USMLE Step 2 CK

Okay, so you now know my story (awful college student who climbed to the top of his medical school class by using odd but effective tactics); you know why the USMLE Step 2 CK should be treated as just as important as the USMLE Step 1 exam for residency (has greatest correlation with board pass rate); you understand the importance of making a schedule and sticking to it (because time is your most important resource); you know how to use UWorld correctly (Tutor, by section, taking one minute to do the questions then 2.5 minutes for review after every 10 – 15 questions completed); you know how spaced repetition can make even the biggest scholastic disasters into model medical students (because you retain information so well); and you even know how to train your brain into becoming a good test taker (through doing UWorld 1 minute per question, asking what you could have known to get an answer correct when you review, then going in super confident on NBME’s to ensure that exam-taking sixth sense is being fine-tuned correctly); but you want it all in one nicely edited piece.

Well, after the most epic run-on sentence in blog history (hopefully it served its purpose), I’m about to give it all to you. And I’ll even put it in bullet form!


Step by Step Plan:

  • Before you do anything take an NBME to see where you are, don’t get freaked by the result this will simply be used a marker to see how well you are improving and how good your fundamentals are.
    • If you are already at a pretty high score in all sections you may only need to read OnlineMedEd notes as your fundamentals are already pretty solid.
  • Go out and time yourself doing: OnlineMedEd (pre-read + video +notes), a section of UWorld (tutor by section, one minute per question then 2.5 – 3 minutes to review after every 10 – 15 questions) and reviewing a section of UWorld and record it.
  • Then extrapolate how long it would take you to complete UWorld Q+A once, OnlineMedEd 2 – 3 times, and Uworld review 1 -2 times (if only once, then include ¼ of the time to review marked questions).
  • Then calculate how much time free time you have before your test based on your individual schedule (rotations, weddings, GoT finale etc)
  • You know have a mathematical estimate of how much you can get done in that time and you need to stick to it.
  • Do OnlineMedEd high-yield sections (ones with algorithms or ones that correlate with frequently taught sections in UWorld) and complete that section. Don’t worry about knowing everything, simply get through it at a comfortable pace.
  • Then do the corresponding UWorld section on tutor, at a pace of one minute to answer each question, then reviewing after every 10 – 15 minutes.
    • When you get an answer incorrect, ask yourself why you got it incorrect and what you could have known (in the question or in the answer) that could have made it correct and make sure to highlight it.
    • If it is taking you too long to review questions, then review the learning objective first, then bolded worlds/images, then wrong answers.
    • Make sure to actively highlight (meaning highlighting important parts of sentences, NOT entire paragraphs) to keep focused and shorten review time significantly. This will take a while at first, but eventually you’ll be able to simultaneously read and highlight.
  • Before the bio stats sections, briefly read FA Step 1 biostats, then re-read before re-reviewing that section as well.
  • After completing a section, review OnlineMedEd high-yield notes (focusing on algorithms and bolded words) and UWorld questions 5 – 9 days later to maximize retention of that material (you should be spending about 4 – 5 minutes per OnlineMedEd page and about 1 minute per A to read UWorld question highlights).
  • After complete with everything (should be about 2 – 3 weeks before test) re-review everything as above.
  • Take 3 – 5 full length nine hour NBMEs in the same fashion as the real exam to both build mental fortitude and ensure you are properly building a sixth sense for questions.
  • Go into the practice exam just like you would the real thing — assuming everything you feel is 100% correct and that there is no need to check. Otherwise you will run out of time on test day.
  • In total, OnlineMedEd ( pre-read notes + videos + notes), UWorld ( Q + As first pass) + OnlineMedEd (second and 3rd pass) and UWorld Answers ( 1 – 2x) + Three – five full length nine hour NBMEs.
  • This should take you approximately 300 – 350 hours if done at the above pace.

So there you have it, the keys to your USMLE and medical residency destiny. It now comes down to how badly you want it. This is a compilation of years of research, knowledge and trial and error. This will not be easy nor will it be fun all the time, however in the end it’s about learning medicine, getting a great score, then getting the residency, and eventual career you want. It’s within reach, go out and grab it.