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 My experiences on Step3  

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Hello friends,

I would first like to thank everybody here for their support through my exam prep. The journey started with Step1 and now finally culminated with this 2 day marathon.

This is my small way of returning the favour. Although I cannot say how well I did right now, I would like to make a few general observations that I hope will help the other test takers.

1. I used USMLE world as my primary MCQ resource. On the whole I feel it was useful, but, there are some cautionary notes:

a) Part 3 did not seem to test many intricate details such as those presented in UW. Rather it seemed to be more firmly grounded in understanding the basic principles of frequent cases from a primary physicians stand point.

b) UW severely lacks pictures and graphs, quite a few of which appeared in the exam. For example, there were cases from derm, ID, lots of xrays and a few EKG traces. I had 2 micro slides as well (STD and ID).

2. About prep, I felt there was no one book that was really helpful. I found the FA Step 2 CK book to be very helpful. In fact I really question the reason for having FA Step 3. It is just too small for this exam. Be careful friends, do not simply rely on FA Step 3 and be sure to go over the CK book.

For Gynae Obs, the CK book is enough if not better. Just need to repeat it a 1000 times.

For peads I studied a cartoon book called Haikais in Peds and it really helped me especially with those questions which required knowing the developmental milestones very well. It is a very good book that recently came out, you will learn most of Peads in 3-4 hours very fast. I felt Peads was VERY BIG in part 3.

For CCS UW is the best. No doubt about it. I feel all you really need to know is the key words for the software. I heard the Archers lectures by Dr Red and it really gave me a thorough orientation. For those who have problems with UW CCS I recommend hearing even 1-2 hours of Dr Reds lecture before you start solving the problems. 1-2 hours of orientation will save you lots of time. Most of my cases were over and done in 5 mins before time, even the emergency ones. Pay careful attention to the subtle clues in the cases, or you will miss the diagnosis. If you do the ROUTINE workup properly you will get it 100%. Some of my cases had 2 pathologies. I am afraid I cant discuss the actual cases bec I dont wanna get into the legal problems, but IMO UW cases is enough. Also FA cases at the back of the book are really not good. I found a couple of misleading info

For the emergency MCQ blocks, the cases are REALLY VERY long. Take a deep breath before you start those blocks and READ VERY FAST and try to glean out the most imp. info. I was short on 2 of those blocks eg. 1 min left and 2 questions to answer.

My total prep time was 1 month of serious study, but I was working full time. I just got off for 8 days when I was really studying all the time. That final burst really helped me with the CCS.

Finally folks, part 3 is all about focus and stamina while taking the exams. Try to pace yourself properly because you have 2 days to take the exam. Keep well hydrated. Taking a large dose of black coffee before the emergency blocks really helped me on Day 2. I wish I had done the same on day 1. sad

Well I am relocating to start my internship and I hope my advice is of help. I will post more once I remember and reach my new destination.

Wish everybody all the best. Hang tough and help each other.

Good luck

Edited by dkmj13 on Jun 10, 2011 - 2:07 PM


Oh forgot to mention, just took the exam yesterday nod

Also, a special thanks to Arlete. Although I do not know her personally, I would like to thank her for selflessly motivating a lot of folks here by sharing.

If anyone has any questions I will gladly answer, but, please forgive me if it takes me a few days (because of travel etc.).

Edited by dkmj13 on Jun 10, 2011 - 1:53 PM




Thanks Zam99.

Another bit of info: While taking the CCS exam I noticed that although the software logic etc. was very similar to UW, there were some subtle differences which should not matter, but might surprise you a bit. For example the graphical user interface was a bit different.

Also, be careful about not stopping a long list of orders. There will be popup saying something like if you click "stop" now, this will cancel all your orders. Please read it carefully grin I did not and twice cancelled a long list to retype all over again. I will explain in detail if you didnt get it. UW software does not do it.

I wonder if anybody is reading this or finding it useful. shocked


i amsmiling face thanks. did you read the UW CCS notes? the 52 cases print outs?



Yes. IMO every bit of the UW CCS material is very useful.


thanks, dkmj13!


dkmj, congratulations and thank you for sharing your experience, I find it very helpful. Just starting my step 3 prep, so......what should be my first step? reading CK books? watching step3 videos? reading step 3 kaplan books? reading MTB? any advice is much appreciated,

thank you!



I would say it depends on your time constraints. I did not have much time so I could not watch videos (besides I bet they are pretty expensive). But I think if you have time then seeing the videos and taking notes is the best way if that method of learning works best for you. However, I dont know enough to comment on the quality of the content.

However, I did watch videos of Dr Reds old lecture and case demos for the CCS. It works out cheaper from the Archers website (instead of the live lecture). I found it very valuable to have an orientation for the CCS cases in UW.

I think the FA CK book is very good for the CCS exam, if you have already read it then you can stick with FA, esp. if you dont have much time. The FA step 3 book IMO is not too good. However, I did use it for learning some work-ups which were not present in the CK book.

UW MCQ's tutorial mode is a very good learning tool, basically you can use it to suppliment any book you read.

MTB is a good book too but it is difficult to choose between FA and MTB esp if you have read and marked FA extensively beforehand.

Before starting my prep, I read through various other discussions in this forum and others and I found that the main problem many people had was OBGYN and Peads.

I am not sure why folks had problem in OBGYN because I think the case senarios were pretty straightforward and there is very limited possibilities. For me reading the Step2 CK book worked well for OBGYN.

Peads is a bit tricky for me. There are a lot of facts and numbers. For me the problem was remembering the facts as fast as possible as the case scenario was presented. I read from a cartoon book Haikais in peds. The pictures helped me a lot especially the developmental milestones, questions from which can be 100% expected. Besides the cartoons made me very fast in assimilating the content of the case senarios. I found the book very easy to repeat.

BTW Psychiatry can be a bit tricky, again you will find that FA CK is almost exactly = FA step 3 in content. Main thing is to remember the exact definitions so that you can interpret the clinical scenarios. Again, if you have read the FA CK book and assimilated the content you will find that the cases will come from there.

Another tip, know the ACLS protocols inside out. You WILL get cases from it. If you have already done ACLS you will have no problem. Dont need to remember drug doses, but just need to know what next for those cases.


i have 2 months for step 3, so i need an aggressive plan....i think you are right, FA CK is good enough and i already know it by heart i will begin with it cause is very easy for me to follow and in parallel i will read MTB 3. For any difficulties in solving Qs in obg and peds i will go back to ck books. And of course, UW will be my bible, as for any other step.

wish you all the best dkmj smiling face


How is Haikais in Peds for Step 2 CK?


Sorry for the delay. Yes I would 100% recommend it for Step 2 CK


HI, how did u do on ur exam....i just have a little less than a month left for the exam n i started studying a week ago...i dont know what to do. i am doin mtb 3 and fa ck, coz i did it for ck. and uworld plus ccs cases at the end of step 3 fa.

Will this mush be enough to do well on step 3?? get atleast above a 220? please let me know thanks.


I am reading this forum since step1. It was very helpful for me since im FMG. Anyway, i just want to say that for step 3 i had no motivation at all. I am in the pathology residency and I DO NOT care about step 3, but i had to do what i had to do. Here is my advice....
I studied for little more than 3 weeks, mostly USMLE world, some kaplan book and FA. I think UW is great (about 60% in average). I heard the test is based on medicine....not true. I had a lot of peds, emergency and OBGYN. Also I underestimated cases...bad choice.
I finally took exam one month ago, it is horrible, long exam, but i was thinking i was doing well for everything except cases. Mistreated at least 3 patients, and on 1-2 more did not do great. At the time I was very upset, thinking that i had failed.
I got my scores last week (210), passed. I scored boderline to low pass on cases but did well on questions.
The deal is if you do questions well (i would say even average) and if you dont do anything crazy on cases (like autopsysmiling face) you will pass, maybe it will not feel that way after you are done but dont worry. Just get enough sleep before and during exem.
best luck to everybody.


211/80. I just wanted to pass, so I can get on with my life to moonlight.
study material. kaplan video and uw. that's it. I also signed up for which helped me a lot. i took time for all css cases and it did not end in 5 mins. i thought that i failed the ccs. i messed at least 3 cases. i actuallly did well on ccs. good luck. dont spend too much time on a question. click and go, baby!

NMBE 400


Does 211 correspond to 80. I think it is you meant 90.


congratulations! Can you please share your uw cumulative average for step 3?

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