Study Tips

How I Scored 262 on USMLE® Step 1 Using Videos, Flashcards, & Questions on Osmosis

Santiago Callegari
Published on Jun 17, 2020. Updated on Mar 22, 2021.

The USMLE® Step 1 exam is the first in a long line of exams throughout any medical student’s career. With thousands of resources out there to help you prepare for the exam, it’s difficult to figure out which one is the best. In this article, third-year medical student Santiago Callegari discusses how it’s not necessarily about finding the best resource but finding the right one for you.   

If you’re like me and intend to Match before 2022, the NRMP®’s announcement about USMLE Step 1 becoming pass/fail probably had little effect on you. For students in this camp, the Step 1 exam remains the same as before: one of the biggest steps in your path to residency (more about this here!) There are thousands of reviews of Step 1 prep tools and books out there, so today, I’m hoping to tackle this topic in a slightly different way. In this article, I’ll focus on how to survive Step 1 prep, talk a little about the resources out there, and show you how Osmosis connects all of them for an all-inclusive study experience that will help you score high on this critically important exam.


Study strategies

Know yourself and your study habits

There is no class or university exam that will be as demanding as Step 1, so the best approach is to figure out your overall study style and use that as the foundation for your boards prep. Knowing the best way for you to learn and retain information is vital for Step 1, and subsequent board exams. It’s also a skill that will serve you well in your career as a life-long learner in the continuously changing field of medicine. 

Identify how you learn and retain information most effectively. Is it by watching USMLE Step 1 videos? Reading texts? Making flashcards and testing yourself? Practice questions? All of the above? Knowing what tools to use is going to have an impact in every aspect of your exam prep.


The best way to study is the method that works for you

The second rule is very similar: the most impactful study tools and methods are the ones that are the right fit for you. 

For Step 1, you have to choose just a handful of resources from the hundreds out there, and it’s easy to fall into the trap of following along with every other medical student and just do what they do. The first thing you have to ask yourself is not, “Where can I get a cheap copy of First Aid?!” Instead, it should be, “How do I learn best?” 

It doesn't matter if everyone tells you the only way to pass the exam is using a specific resource. Don't stick to a resource that doesn't work for you just because everyone tells you! Use that critical, analytical mind you’ve been gifted with, and think for yourself!

Osmosis illustration of a medical student studying for USMLE Step 1 using Osmosis.

Managing your time

For IMGs, preparing for Step 1 is usually not a matter of weeks, but months—here are a few tips to keep your momentum going. 

Start building flashcards as soon as possible

Step 1 preparation should ideally begin with your first class, on day one. In my opinion, the best method is to make decks of flashcards that use space repetition (like the ones you can build on Osmosis) for each class. When it’s time for your dedicated Step 1 prep, you will already have your own flashcards and know which topics are hard for you, even before you start! 

Take time to yourself before you start dedicated boards prep

Second, because the dedicated prep period lasts for months and will take up a substantial amount of your time, you should try to have a long dedicated period of pre-board-study-time just for you! Use this period of “rest” to exercise, catch up on sleep, do some leisure reading: anything you want! No exams, no grades, no essays for months—you will rarely have such “freedom” again, so enjoy it. Do not use this period of time to learn about medicine. Focus on yourself instead!

Osmosis illustration of a medical student studying for USMLE Step 1 using Flashcards.

Build a Step 1 study schedule

No matter what resource you plan to use, you need a schedule to organize everything. The Osmosis Step 1 Study Schedule tool is just amazing at doing this. It helps you not only organize everything with a flexible, day-to-day schedule, but it also builds in relevant content from the Osmosis Question Bank and pre-made Step 1 flashcards, while also integrating First Aid and UWorld. Osmosis was my partner every day during my exam prep, and it helped me reach my everyday goals. Because I was alone throughout all of this process, this was very important!

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Next “Steps”

If you want more detail about how I used each resource, feel free to look at this Reddit post I wrote, or write directly to me. This post is very much focused on the mechanics of how I used each tool, and there isn’t much information about my mental health during the exam prep period, or how to organize a plan for an IMG. For that, I’d recommend Osmosis as a really good place to start in order to organize yourself and all your resources; it saved me a TON of headaches. 

To sign off, I want to emphasize once more how important it is to enjoy your last few weeks or months of (relative) freedom before you enter dedicated USMLE prep! So far, 2020 has been a tough year, but I’m hoping a good Step 1 score could be one of your highlights!

Osmosis illustration of a medical student relaxing with his pets.

About Santiago 

Santiago Callegari is a third-year medical student at the Universidad de los Andes in Bogotá, Colombia, where he was born and raised. He hopes to one day become an amazing anesthesiologist or internist. When Santiago is not studying or in the clinic, he’s spending time with his five dogs and three cats!

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The United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE®) is a joint program of the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB®) and National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME®). Osmosis is not affiliated with NBME nor FSMB.

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