How to study for USMLE step 1 Pharmacology

How to study for USMLE step 1 Pharmacology?

I did really well my USMLE Step 1, specially on the pharmacology portion. So I decided to share some of my experience with you.

First, like many of you, one of my biggest fears while preparing for USMLE step 1 exam was pharmacology. I am glad I prepared myself the way I did because USMLE step 1 pharmacology was a big chunk of the exam and I easily had total of about 35-40 questions (1 block) just on pharmacology. Like most of you guys who still have not taken your step 1, I hated pharmacology because of all the different mechanism of actions, side effects, contraindications and most importantly the confusion from the similar drug names.

So this is how I studied for USMLE step 1 pharmacology and I answered every single question right except for maybe 2-3 questions:

  • ONLY study/watch Kaplan pharmacology and First Aid for the USMLE Step 1. Do NOT waste your time on other resources.
  • I recommend watching Kaplan pharmacology videos only one time since it is too detailed for the actual exam. This will help you get a general idea and strengthen your basics. 
  • Next, take as many days as you think you need and go through all of First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 pharmacology sections.  It took 7 days for me to go through it all. I recommend that every morning to review what you have already studied a day before plus everything prior to that. This review should not take you more than 1 to 2 hours the most and it will eventually require less time as you do this every morning.

After you are done reviewing the entire First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 pharmacology  you can return to your normal study routine. Make sure that every week you take at least half a day to review the entire First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 pharmacology.

By the time you are close to your exam date,  you will be able to review the entire First Aid pharmacology within just a few hours.

The questions that most of my friends and I had on the pharmacology section of our  USMLE step 1 were all straightforward and there was really nothing beyond First Aid for the USMLE Step 1.

Drug’s mechanism of action and their side effects are huge on the exam and covers approximately 70% of all the pharmacology questions.

Make sure to you fully understand pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics and are able to read and differentiate between all the different graphs.

Last but not least, do as many questions as you can. Some of my friends used Kaplan Question Bank to study pharmacology and myself and some of my other friends used USMLE World Question Bank. In comparison, all of us who used USMLE World Question Bank scored much better on our pharmacology portion.

My biggest advice to you is NOT listen to those who have  negative attitude and tell you that the exam is super hard or impossible. We’re all not the same and each of us perform differently under pressure. You will do great as long as you put all of you stay focus and positive and put all of your effort into studying and preparation. It will not be easy but the end result is definitely worth it.

Good luck to you all

Ali Feili M.B.A, M.D.

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