It’s been a long time! I’ve been quite invested with medical school, and it’s been difficult leaving some brain power to write a blog post in the meantime, lol. Anyways, now that I have completed 3 semesters of coursework and am preparing to conquer my 4th semester followed by everyone’s “favorite” nightmare- USMLE Step 1, I thought I could write about how I have studied for my NBME’s- this time for Physiology, Pathology, and Microbiology.
For those not familiar with NBME- these are old, previously used USMLE questions that schools can buy and use for examination. My school’s curriculum is such that our final exams are cumulative NBME questions selected by the professors. Therefore, all the protocol and the software is exactly the same as the USMLE.
With that said, let me share how I decided to prepare for these exams. I decided to stick to the following resources:
- USMLE RX
- Goljan Rapid Review for Pathology
- Sketchy Miro
For professor written exams, I solely focus on class notes and flip through my First Aid to make sure I understand everything high yield. When finals roll around, I place my professors notes to the side because they are usually more detailed, and I don’t have enough brain space to go through all the detailed notes for my classes. Therefore, I first make a list of all the topics covered in each class throughout the semester, and split each topic into a few days of studying. Then, I watch the RX videos and annotate my first aid. I then do the flash facts related to the videos after covering all the material I wanted that day.
I watch Dr. Sattar’s videos that accompany the Pathoma textbook and annotate as I go. Once I complete the chapter, I read the blue indexed notes in Goljan Rapid Review. If I struggle grasping onto specific topics, I read the specific section in Goljan. Finally, I add all my notes into my pathoma textbook, for this will be my primary source. If I have time, I’ll watch some RX videos for pathology, but I usually just skim through the first aid for the specific topics.
SKETCHY MICRO. I can’t emphasize it enough, the creators of Sketchy are God-sent to all medical students. With all the information you need to remember for each of the microorganisms Sketchy does a fabulous job condensing it into a picture story line for each one! In all honestly, during my exam I would figure out the organism being questioned, think of the sketchy picture, and then look at the answer choices to see what matches the picture. I also plan on using sketchy pharm for my pharmacology course this semester!
I’m so thankful that I found Physeo before starting physiology, it’s like Pathoma for physiology, and they do a wonderful job explaining all the intricate details associated with system physiology, especially those graphs and tests! After watching the videos, I would skim through the BRS just to make sure I understand everything and finish off by doing the respective practice questions in BRS.
Week before exams:
A week before my exams, I focused on doing only practice questions from USMLE RX. I was able to finish all the Microbiology, Pathology, and most of the Physiology questions this time around. I usually create a test of 10 questions at a time, which is about 15 mins timed. Once I complete the ‘test’. I review all my correct and incorrect because sometimes I get something right but don’t actually understand how. What I love about USMLE RX is that it shows you the page in First Aid where that topic is covered so you can reference it while reviewing rather than wasting time flipping through pages. I created a word document where I started listing everything I was getting wrong. For example, I forgot Entamoeba histolytica engulfed red blood cells- so I wrote that on my document and attached a picture of how it looked under the microscope (P.S. This was a question on my exam, and I only knew it because of this method)! My document ended up being around 20 pages once I had completed the questions. I skimmed through it, and whatever information didn’t seem to stick even after reviewing it, I re-watched those specific videos for that topic.
I made it a goal to watch Pathoma and Sketchy at least 3 times (more for topics I was struggling with). I only did one pass of Physeo videos, but physiology just sticks quicker than other subjects for me. I’m not a fan of sharing my grades on social media because I want to avoid creating a competitive environment, but I will say I performed phenomenally on my NBME’s- better than my midterm averages! Even though I walked out of each exam thinking I bombed it, I was proven otherwise!
I would like to say that whatever studying method work for me may not work for others. I know some classmates that can’t understand Sketchy regardless of how many times they try watching it, and others studied only our class notes rather than board prep material. Everyone has their own method of studying that helps them become successful. I have shared my resources and my method but, by no means, am I saying this is the ONLY way to study. This semester was one of my most challenging ones yet. I had to move apartments the day before my first midterm due to mold growth, and then my washer decided to flood my apartment the weekend before my 2nd midterm. I was faced with a ton of organizational commitments and meetings, which I couldn’t put to the side because I signed up for it. Followed by several celebrations in my group of friends. It was a hectic schedule that required major time management skills, but I managed to pull through and figure out how to organize my commitments best. I hope this helps gives a good idea into studying for NBME’s, it’s kind of like studying for a mini step!
Stay tuned for more Med School related posts! I’ve been tossing around ideas for vlogging or writing. I tried vlogging during my studying, but I noticed I didn’t enjoy editing the clips afterwards. Therefore, I’ve decided to stick to my blogging and instagram because I enjoy sharing my stories on these platforms.