Med School Hell – Five USMLE Step 2 Study Methods That Work

This post is raw and holds nothing back. If you’re uncomfortable with vulgar language, please turn back.

March 27, 2007
By: Hoover


While not as intense as Step 1, studying for the Step 2 board exam can still get you worked up into a frenzy. Here are five sure-fire tips that will increase your score.

1. Take Your Time
You’ve probably heard the saying “2 months for Step 1, 2 weeks for Step 2, and a number two pencil for Step 3.” Take caution with this. You’ll need more than 2 weeks of studying if you expect to beat the mean on Step 2. I think it’s safe to start studying at least one month ahead of time. Give yourself more time if it has always taken you longer to digest the information. Not only will you not be rushed, but you’ll have more confidence going into the exam.

2. First Aid for Step 2
First Aid for Step 2 is one of the best resources available. You probably used the First Aid series for Step 1, and the Step 2 book is just as good. You’ll have all of the high-yield information at your fingertips, and learning all of the information presented in this book should be one of your first priorities. Consider going through book multiple times. For your first read through the book, focus on learning information that you haven’t yet mastered. Each subsequent time you go through the book, you’ll get faster. Just make sure to keep on top of all of the information and before you know it you’ll have the information down cold.

3. Crush Step 2
Having only one study resource is shooting yourself in the foot. Each book you read will emphasize different material, and this will be beneficial to you as you prepare for the test. After completing First Aid for Step 2, thoroughly read your Crush Step 2 resource. The information in Crush is presented more in a textbook format, so you’ll find it refreshing while reading through it. This will minimize study burnout.

4. Step 2 Secrets
As a final resource, pick up a copy of Step II Secrets. After completing First Aid for Step 2 and Crush Step 2, Secrets will be more of a review than anything else. And this is just what the book is designed to do. The information presented in Step 2 Secrets is in a basic question format. It asks a question in bold, and then has the answer right under it. Cover up the answers and see what you can answer on your own. If you get stuck, review the answer until you’ve got it. There’s also a Top 100 secrets chapter at the end of the book, perfect for last minute review days before the exam.

5. USMLE World vs. Kaplan QBank
There are pretty much two choices when it comes time to decide on which question database you’re going to use: Kaplan Q-Bank and USMLE World. After talking with many people who prepared for the Step 2 exam, most say that USMLE World is the better choice. Not only will a one month subscription save you $60 ($90 versus $150), but the questions in World are much more difficult than the Kaplan Q-Bank questions (based on feedback that I received). If you master these questions, you’ll be prepared for exam day and will more than likely be happy with your score. If money isn’t an issue, give yourself more time and complete both question databases.

While going through questions, set up blocks in sets of 46 in timed mode. This will create identical examination conditions. Do not go through blocks with less than 46 questions or in tutor mode. You need to be used to what you’ll experience on test day, and mimicking testing conditions is best way to do it. Try to complete the entire database, whether you do USMLE World alone or both World and Kaplan Q-Bank.

Immediately after finishing blocks, make sure to take this time to review not only the questions you got wrong, but also the questions you answered correctly. Some of your correct answers will be guesses, so you need to refresh your knowledge on what the question is asking. Reviewing right after you finish the block ensures that the information is still fresh, and you can reason more easily why you answered a question in a particular way.

Finally, take notes in the margins of your First Aid for Step II book as you review. Days or a week before your exam, go back through you First Aid and review major points in the margin as well as you own notes.

Follow these steps and I’m willing to bet that you’ll be pretty happy with your Step II score. You’ll be less stressed to boot.

Are you convinced to leave medicine? If so, you may feel like you are alone. You may feel clueless about what to do next. However, quitting medicine could turn out better than you have ever thought possible. And here is why you should get out …

This article is part of Hoover’s Med School Hell series. Med School Hell reveals the crazy truth about the crappiness of the US medical education and healthcare system … while making you laugh so hard, you’ll crap in your pants.

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