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First of all, thank you to EVERYONE on this forum. Unfortunately for me, I found this site only a week before my test. But the exam experiences here gave me the confidence to go ahead and sit for my test, instead of pushing it back, which by the way, I did several times. I think the best part of this site for me was the bits explaining how you did on the various practice tests out there and how the final scores stacked up. So let me start with that. You will have to refer to my night after the exam posting "am I too worried" for actual numbers because I can't remember all the hard numbers now, but basically on the Kaplan CD I was getting low to mid 70's on average, with the highest being 80 and the lowest being 69. On the Kaplan question books (the books that come with the course) I was getting from low 70's to mid 80's depending on the subject. For the USMLE CD practice questions that come when you register for the test, I was getting above 40 (refer to my earlier posting for the actual scores). And the night after my exam, I took the NBME because I was so scared I had failed the test. I got a 570.

A bit about me, I am an IMG who graduated from India in 2000. I came to the US in 2002 to do a research post-doc in molecular virology and HIV. I was in the top 25% of my med school class, but was not one of the toppers by any means. I like to think I am bright, but then I haven't met a doctor who isn't. My point is, I am not one of the super intelligent people out there, but I was able to do quite well.

I started studying for step II in 2001, but got scared and ended up not taking it. I was supposed to sit for this test at the end of 2002, but I ended up not studying until I signed up for the Kaplan course in 2003. Again, I was supposed to start studying in July of 2003, but I procrastinated (this is a theme in my USMLE experience) until Oct of that year where I started watching the videos. Well, let me first say that I work a 60-70 hour work week and I was only able to watch the videos late in the evening for 2-4 hours a night. I ended up watching half the videos, but not having gone back and studied the material. So in Feb, I decided to just drop the videos as they took too much time and start studying the Kaplan notes. Everything in the videos was in the notes anyway. If you have the time, I think the videos are an excellent way to reinforce the material. But if you don't have the time, just read the notes. They are more than enough. At any rate, I studied on and off from Feb till the end of March. And then I started studying every day from 6pm till midnight Mon-Fri and basically all day on the weekends until three weeks before the test. Then I took all my vacation for the year and spent three weeks studying every day. I will say that fear kept making me push back the test. I was going to take it originally in mid-May, but pushed back my test date a number of time, usually for one or two weeks until I finally gave the test on June 25. So in summary, I studied in a kind of every other day manner for two months, and then studied as much as my job would allow for 2 months.

As for what I studied, only two things. First Aid (the 2001 edition by the way) and Kaplan notes. Let me say that First Aid is not sufficient to get a good score on the test. But like everyone says, you MUST know it cold. One of the reasons I wasted so much time before I finally sat down to study for this test was that I wanted to finish FA before I started Kaplan. Well, it was really hard to get through. FA is really just a list of essential facts. When I really found FA useful was AFTER I had read the Kaplan notes. Then it was a great review, if a bit basic. As for the Kaplan notes, they are all you will ever need. In fact, they are too much. But as one of my favorite anatomy professors used to say, it's always better to know too much for the exam than too little. I think I read the Kaplan notes 4 times through.

When I first saw Kaplan's anatomy book, I thought it was woefully inadequate. After all in India, we study anatomy for 1.5 years, and we do it hard core. But come to find out, it was way too much for the test. Read the Kaplan notes (they go quickly), but remember that you can probably answer all of the anatomy questions on the test by memory. The embryo charts in Kaplan and FA are enough. Histology was lightly tested. Again, I think you can answer most of those questions from memory. I thought the neuroscience section of Kaplan was very good, but it was not heavily tested on my test.

Pathology is the most important subject of the test, and Kaplan pathology was quite good. For path slides, I would flip through Robbin's as I was reading Kaplan notes to look at the histopath slides. For the test, focus less on microscopic structure, and more on the pathophysiology behind the disease. They do ask microscopic findings, but only for obvious things. Knowing pathology well will take you far on this exam..

Micro/immuno. What I did to study bacteriology and virology was to just study the charts at the end of the micro section in Kaplan notes and from FA. Once you memorize those, the rest is easy. Then I just read through the Kaplan notes and FA to know the buzz words. Immunology in Kaplan notes is superb, but I feel it was way too much info for the test. At any rate, read it and know it and I guarantee you will know all you need to know for the test.

Pharmac. Ugh, I hated pharmac in school and I hated studying it again now. Let me say that I found Kaplan notes bad for this subject. Not that all the important info wasn't in them, rather that they were hard to read/memorize from. I found FA much more useful for these. There is one table in FA where they list the drug and its adverse effects ... that table please PLEASE memorize verbatim. Extremely high yield. I think you do need to know the mechanisms of the drugs though. For that I used Kaplan's or Katzung's review.

Biochem. Another subject I dreaded trying to restudy. Let me say that the molecular bio sections in Kaplan are excellent. I really enjoyed studying them. The genetics section at the end was something totally new to me. But again, it was well written and all you needed to know. Do as FA says and only memorize key steps in pathways. But beware, I felt FA left out a lot of key steps. Kaplan, on the other hand, puts in the whole pathway. Just know the rate limiting steps, the regulated steps, and the steps where deficiency leads to disease.

Behavioral Science. What can I say? As you must know by now from other people's posts, this is another heavily emphasized section on the test. Doctor patient relationships .... I don't know how you can study for this. It is very culturally biased. Luckily for me, I grew up in the US until I was 12 so I know what Americans expect doctors to do. I think the best way to answer these questions, is to ask yourself in an ideal situation, what SHOULD you do. For people who already have clinical experience abroad or in the US, don't answer what would ACTUALLY be done. Try and think what the patient would like you to do. Kaplan notes tries to convey this info, but I am not sure it can. Try and do questions in those areas and carefully read the explanations. Those questions are not hard, but I can definitely see how they can give IMGs trouble. I think Kaplan notes did an excellent job covering statistics and DSM IV.

Physio. Kaplan's biggest book. It was during the physio lectures that I decided to stop watching the videos. Kaplan spends an inordinate amount of time explaining very fundamental concepts in physio, which I still remembered all these years later. Well, let me say, Kaplan is emphasizing concepts for a reason. When I took the test, I dearly wished I had paid closer attention to the fundamentals in physio. I would still say Kaplan gives too much info, but again, it is better to know more than to know less.

The actual test day. I couldn't sleep the night before, and I was not used to being up that early. I got to the Prometric center and my nightmare began. Block 1 was tough. Then block 2 was easy (finished with 20 min to spare). Went straight into block 3 and wasted so much time on one question that I barely had time to finish. Took a 5 min break and took block 4. Then ate lunch for 15 min and did block 5, took another 5 min break, and then did 6 and 7. Man, what a day that was. By the end of the day, I was so tired and drawn out. There are huge swaths of the exam where I really don't recall what was asked. The exam is not comprehensive in the sense that there were whole chapters from Kaplan that didn’t appear. But when you read other people’s experiences, they do get those questions. Everyone’s exam is different.. You have to prepare for everything. My exam was heavy in physio and molecular biology, with some very weird questions (and I know my mol bio). Like other people have said, weird hypothetical questions which you would have never seen before. Lots of them. When I took the practice CD, and the NBME test, I knew I was doing well. For the real USMLE, I just didn't know. And I found that very unnerving. Luckily, adrenaline keeps you going through the test and the inevitable fatigue. All questions with photos had clear photos, although I felt I would have liked to have been able to zoom in on some. The key with the photos is to realize that if you read the stem and the answers, you can figure it out. Either the photo is irrelevant (much like a lot of the vignette's are irrelevant to answering the question) or the questions give it away. Don't stress about the photos on the test. The CTs and MRIs do require a general knowledge of the anatomy, but nothing was hard. Lots of graphs for pathophysiology, some of them expected from Kaplan notes, and others I had never seen before. I would have to say that for this test, the three most important subjects are path, physio, and behavioral science (doctor-patient relations). But everything was tested. I got asked almost the same question several times. Some questions are so easy they are gimmes (like someone else said, you stop and think there must be some trick here, but there isn't). Some are so long and when you get to the end you realize you didn't need to read the whole clinical vignette. Many many are the so called two step questions where the questions leads you to the diagnosis, and you have to know the next bit of info beyond that. And then maybe 1/3 of the questions are really out there. You won't have a clue. You just have to make an educated guess and move on. Don't dwell on questions. Whenever I had left over time, I would go back and read my questions and find at least 2-3 stupid mistakes (misread the question, accidentally clicked the wrong answer, etc.)

When I walked out of the test, I was sure I had bombed it. I didn't think I would fail, but I was so scared that I would end up with a barely passing mark. I was so nervous I went home, slept for three hours, and then got up and took the NBME test (I had purchased it already but didn't get a chance to do it; 4 hours is a lot of time toward the end of your study period). That's when I got a 570, and realized I should do alright on the test. But I felt the NBME asked much more straightforward questions, where as the USMLE was harder. I have been so nervous until today when I opened the letter.

My mistakes. Not finding this forum until the last week of my studying. Not doing more questions to test myself. I kept wanting to read the notes again and again. The great thing about the questions is that it makes you think through the material in advance. 1 or 2 questions came from straight out of the Kaplan CD and the NBME. More importantly, several questions tested similar stuff. It makes a difference if you have already thought through a scenario. Pushing back my tests. Fear can be a powerful thing. Everyone tells you as an IMG, your score must be above the mean. There are always horror stories about IMGs who pass but don't get a residency. Well, let me tell you pushing back my exam initially was a good thing based of how prepared I was. But in the end, I could have taken this test two weeks earlier. I wished I had known about the NBME back then so I could see how I stacked up against other people. That information is vital to judging how you will do.

In closing, I am no genius. It’s been 8 years since I studied some of these subjects. I work full time. But even so, I was able to do quite well on the test. If I can do it, so can you!!!! And by the way, to all the IMGs who do just pass, I know many people who just passed … and all of them got residencies. So don't stress out (I know I know, much easier said than done). As everyone says, the test is very doable. It will be tough. Chances are you will feel as if you did quite poorly, but it is really not that bad. Again, thanks everyone ….


Congratulations retroviridae!!!!!!!
<:can_u_hear_me_now:> <:can_u_hear_me_now:> <:can_u_hear_me_now:>
:-({|= :-({|= :-({|=
Your experience will help me for sure!
can i ask you one must be in a mood of celebrations.
i was getting low scores in kaplan,was disheartened.Now i dont dare to assess myself.I am doing the cd now instead of my onlne qbank.i am just going through the answers of every question.
i have seen people scoring above 90 saying that they used to get 70's in qbank.
i am having tough time thinking about my 50's.....can i score high?
i want to score high........desperately!
now i am going for new strategy........more and more revisions!
will you give some words from ur experience?
congrats again!!!!!!!!!!!!


You know, the thing about Kaplan questions is they are too picky for the exam, and they are also too straight forward. Those damn Kaplan questions kept me from sitting for my test for so long. I kept thinking I needed to be getting at least >80% correct to do well on the test. That is just NOT true. Like I said, on most of the Kaplan CD sections I was getting 71 or 72. I didn't do the practice test until right before my test, so I don't know what I would have gotten earlier. But I can tell you, I knew nothing when I started studying. I do mol bio and immunology, but everything else .... I remembered having studied it, but I didn't know it anymore. That's why I had to read everything so many times. I finally got to the point where I could read each Kaplan book in about a day or a day and a half. Just revise from Kaplan or any other good review book. Don't fret that you can't retain all that info. The USMLE is much more about conceptual understanding that the Kaplan questions are. You can always postpone the test like I did, but you need to overcome your fear, assess how you are doing and then decide what your goals are. If you really want to do well, just read the notes one or two more times. It can be done. I have always been envious of those with a stellar memory. Those who can read something once or twice and retain most of it. That's not me. Hard work will pay off in the end. Keep at the material and you will master it! Good luck!!!


Awesome post. Very helpful. Thank you for your time and dilligence in doing me this great service. Bless you too, and congratulations on your well earned score (and please don't procrastinate Step 2!!)

:icon_king: :icon_king: :icon_king: =D> =D> =D>


you have done great retrosmiling face)) congratssmiling face)) when are you doing your part 2? what are your [plans?


=D> grin/ grin/ grin/ grin/ grin/
What a GREAT SCORE !!!!! Thanks for your lesson That: TO FIGHT FEAR ACT and to INCREASE FEAR WAIT,PUT OFF OR POSTPORN!!

:lol: :lol: :lol: :lol: Happy for you ....


congrats, retroviridae!!! see, what did i tell ya? and you were freaking out more than anyone else!!! best of luck for step 2 and in the future!


congrats for ur great score.i am expecting my score.can anyone correlate my step 1 score.i got nbme form 1 520 and kaplan simulated cd 71%.also qbank(60% done ) cumulative is much should i expect.i am anxious.please give a realistic suggestion.


:P :P :P :P
CONGRATULATIONS!!! and thank u for such a wonderful explanation! It'll help us future usmle takers. Thanx a bunch!!




congragulations,thats a great score and a very helpful post for all of us.


congratulations, by the way whats your name, r u from india, i am also from india. meet you soon.



I will hopefully not procrastinate too much. I still harbor dreams (hopefully not pipe dreams) for doing the 2005 match. So I need to get my Step II CK and CS done pronto. Anyway, will sit for Step II CK in 2-3 months (the Kaplan notes look so simple for step II) and the catch will be how soon I can register for the Step II CS. I am just hoping there will be a relatively early spot for me to get everything done in time. Wish me luck!


Congratulations retroviridae!!!!!!!

The best of luck in future =D>


thats is really wonderful post.thank you!u have really boosted morals of imgs.(esp india).god bless you.
i wanted to know that is kaplan patho sufficient?bcoz anytime i think of exam or study im very nervous that what im studying is it really sufficient??


Great job, congratulations and best of luck in the future! smiling face


Kaplan is sufficient for all the subjects. Heck, more than sufficient. Know Kaplan and you will do fine.


:icon_bounce: :icon_bounce: :icon_bounce:


Nice job!!


congratulations!!! retroviridae.your post is awesome and its so inspiring to everyone who is tensed up.congratulations once again.

-kiran. smiling face

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