UWorld is widely known to be the gold standard question bank for Step 1 studying. Here at MST, we see consistent and significant improvement from our students who spend the most time with it. However, there’s a lot of advice out there about when to start using UWorld for studying. Should it be used alongside classes or saved for a dedicated study period? We strongly recommend using this invaluable resource throughout your entire M2 year, and here’s why:
1. UWorld is a Textbook (in its own way)
UWorld contains a massive amount of information that is waiting to be tapped into for both class exams and board exams. Each individual question has explanations accompanying correct and incorrect answers that are unparalleled in both clarity and depth. This resource is essentially a textbook in question form- why would you ever leave a textbook unopened until your dedicated study period? While it may be time consuming to sift through all its contents, the students who do have reaped the rewards on Step 1. A first pass through UWorld during the school year gives plenty of time to annotate high yield points into the margins of First Aid. Annotations help to fill in the gaps in FA, which can often be sparse on explanations and context. This is also a great way to become familiar with FA during the school year and will be a major help when reviewing during dedicated Step 1 study time. In addition, it gives you extra exposure to the material found in UWorld and makes it easily accessible for future reference! UWorld is so effective because it helps to reinforce high yield information found in other resources, but it also exposes you to relevant board exam content not covered in First Aid, Pathoma, or Sketchy. The goal of a dedicated study period is to consolidate your knowledge base, not to overwhelm yourself by cramming in large amounts of new material. As such, it’s important to get exposure to the ‘UWorld Textbook’ early on in second year to avoid missing out on a huge amount of high yield information. Repeat exposure to the 2,400+ questions should be a priority on par with multiple passes through First Aid!
2. It Gives Context to High Yield Information
Another unique and invaluable strength of UWorld is its ability to take the massive amount of Step 1 material and contextualize it, both in a basic science and clinical setting. Far too often, students will come across high yield concepts in lectures or FA without a proper framework to put the information in. UWorld takes the most salient points in resources like FA and Pathoma and shows you how they will be tested on Step 1. It highlights the most important features of diagnosis, pathology, physiology, and management for commonly tested conditions. Without sufficient clinical experience, it can be very difficult to figure out what the most significant features of a disease are. And while FA often has a laundry list of common symptoms for a given diagnosis, UWorld helps focus the spotlight on higher yield points and provides memorable case presentations to tie them to. Even more important than memorizing the features of a disease is being able to recognize the disease itself when you are reading through a question stem with lots of extraneous information. For example, it may be easy to memorize the CRAB Criteria for multiple myeloma, but identifying this disease when the diagnostic signs, symptoms, and lab values are scattered throughout a long paragraph takes practice! This brings us to our final point…
3. Practice Makes Perfect
UWorld has a seemingly endless supply of multiple-choice questions that can be used alongside classes throughout M2. With 2,400+ questions come 2,400+ opportunities to perfect your test taking strategy. Step 1 is a difficult exam that requires a certain amount of rote memorization for success, but like all multiple-choice exams, it can be beat! Confidence in multiple-choice strategy is one of the most important things this question bank helps to develop, and it should not be left to the last minute. UWorld will test seemingly simple concepts in ways you have never seen before and it will challenge your test taking abilities, just as the real Step 1 will. It is extremely important to practice process of elimination and to be comfortable with making educated guesses. These are both skills that take time to acquire and can have a real impact on your score. Another important aspect of Step 1 strategy is time management, which can be difficult to master with the ever-increasing question stem length. However, after a year of consistent UWorld use we find that students are able to reliably and efficiently identify important signs, symptoms, and lab values without getting sidetracked by extra information included in the question stem.
As a final point, it is important to think of UWorld as a learning tool and not an assessment tool for Step 1. It is perfectly acceptable to get a second pass through UWorld during a dedicated study period, even though you may remember some of the answers. The most important point is that you don’t just remember which answer is correct, but you remember why that answer is correct. If you are able to demonstrate an understanding of the topic in question, you will be in a great position to succeed on the real exam!