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Let me just start by saying that you should take a deep breath! As someone who struggled with STEP 1, I promise you that STEP 2 is so much better!! Whereas I was nervous that I failed STEP 1, I walked out of my STEP 2 exam KNOWING I PASSED and felt much more confident than I did a year before.

I hope you are reading this sometime during your third year, but it’s okay if you are done the third year and about to enter your dedicated study period. You have made it through all of the required clerkships and you’ve made it to another major major board examination. Think about it, you studied so hard for your shelf exams and learned so much from each of your patients! YOU KNOW SO MUCH MORE THAN YOU THINK YOU DO.

The most important resources are the ones I used throughout the 3rd year: UWORLD as my primary question bank and OnlineMedEd videos. These two resources stayed constant for all of my rotations. so if it ain’t broke don’t fix it right??

One thing I wished I did was used the AMBOSS question bank first to learn more for each rotation and then closer to my shelf exam did UWORLD. In the beginning, I spent a little too much time trying to read textbooks and I’m not here to tell you not to read but unfortunately, as a 3rd-year med student, we don’t have that much time to study. I had a friend that could speed read the textbook the first week of the rotation AND RETAIN THE INFOMATION and then start doing questions when that was done. Most of us are not geniuses like this! We have other talents. LOL

I thought I was going to use more of the notes I made during the year, but that ended up not being the case. I started fresh after learning how to take my notes more efficiently and made sure I could review them. I made my own ANKI cards to remember minute facts and added photos to help me remember things. Similar to when you write a flashcard or note- just the process of creating the card can help you remember the fact. BUT the key to success with this is to do your cards (almost) every day! That was how things became ingrained in my brain. This may not work for you. Whatever way you can review your notes and practice spaced repetition is the best method.

Just wanted to remind you that you have already done one full pass of UWORLD. You’re probably so stressed about doing 3000+ questions in such a short amount of time, but you’ve already done them! You can go so much faster this second time around.

I set my dedicated period in the order that I had my clerkships. I end on internal medicine so that was ideal for me as I had just been through a great deal of the questions. I spent the first 2.5 weeks studying OB/GYN, Surgery, and Psych. and then I did Peds, IM/Neuro. I have a youtube video showing what a typical day of STEP 2 studying was like you can find that here.

Summary of a typical day:

  • Wake up make breakfast and watch a random youtube video (this took about 15-20 mins)

  • Start watching the OME videos for the specialties for less than one hour. I would only take minimal notes on these! This was just a review (because remember I have seen these videos before even if it was earlier in the year)

  • The bulk of my day was doing 2 question blocks

  • At the end of the day, I would review my notes/Anki cards

I took one-half day or even a full day off in the beginning because I learned from my mistake during step 1. This let me have some time to rest and spend time with my family or boyfriend. I should also note that I was studying for this exam right at the beginning of the pandemic and when the social uprising was occurring for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery. It was more emotional and exhausting than just a regular dedicated study period. Happy I survived, but it was a lot to deal with.

Similar to STEP 1, please don’t use your UWORLD percentages as a predictor of how well you are going to do on the exam- especially in the beginning. I started caring more about my percentages in the last half of dedicated.

Practice exams:

I did UWSA1, NMBE 7, NMBE 8, UWSA2, Free 120 the day before my exam. WARNING: NBME 7 is no joke and I’m convinced it was created to crush your spirit. If you are going to take it, just do it to work on your timing and see more NBME style questions

People say that UWSA2 is the most accurate predictor of your real score but I, unfortunately, did not find that to be true- I scored 13 points lower on the real thing. Still happy with my score tho! I had other friends say it was within +/- 5-10 points or even spot on!

I had 379 UWORLD questions left before my exam, but I did not feel like that was a make or break. Try to finish, but if you have 500 questions left and you still haven’t reviewed your weak areas you should focus on that instead. It’s definitely quality over quantity.


  1. The best way to do this dedicated period is to keep it simple.

  2. Use one or two resources and the question bank of your choice.

  3. Review your notes and weak points with spaced repetition- flashcards or reading your notes.

All of this is just to remind you that so many of us have completed this exam and you will too! Eat, sleep, don’t sit all day, and you will do fine!

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