I recently got done with Step 2 CK exam & I want to elaborate my experience and the mistakes that I made during my prep so that any of my colleagues who are preparing for this exam might benefit from them. I wont go much in detail about how to prepare and where to prepare from since it is already highly debated on the forum and in the previous posts but would focus more on my personal experience and the bad choices which I made during the preparation phase.
SELF-ASSESSMENTS AND QBANKS
Kaplan Qbank 69%
Kaplan diagnostics = 80% (70 days before exam)
Kaplan Simulation Exam 1 = 71% (50 days before exam)
Kaplan Simulation Exam 2 = 76% (40 days before exam)
Fred simulation for CK = 84% (39 days before exam)
NBME 2 (offline) 21 mistakes (30 days before exam)
NBME 4 = 263 (13 days before exam)
UWSA = 259 (2 days before exam)
Real exam = 254
I subscribed to Uworld on day 1. I used to read a unit of medicine from MTB2 and do the relevant questions from Uworld in subject-wise mode. I didn't read any book completely before starting Uworld and followed this pattern for the next 2 months doing medicine, surgery and the rest of subjects till I finished Uworld. From step 1 I had learnt how important questions were for preparation of usmle exams so I went waaay overboard this time by starting questions even before going through study materials properly.
After Uworld I had a break of around 20 days during which I studied nothing.
I subscribed for 1 month of KAPLAN QBANK after this break & started Kaplan Qbank (around 70 days before my exam) and finished it in a period of one month with its simulation exams
In the final month I did Uworld online once again and finally gave the exam.
WHAT I DID RIGHT:
1) DID UWORLD ONLINE: Unlike step 1, the step 2 criteria’s and guidelines keep changing regularly, so its vital to stay updated with the latest information and online uworld does that task really well, even more so then the CK books. So when in conflict of any information with the book, go with the UWORLD
2) DID UWORLD TWICE: You will hear people stressing so much on the vitality of Uworld for CK preparation, and trust me they are right. What first aid book is for step 1 is what UWORLD is for CK (Just to give you a perspective). The good thing about this qbank is that almost every high yield point is tested in it and has at least double the amount of information then any CK book out there. The CK books (I used MTB 2,3 and KAPLAN) give you a very good outline of topics but uworld is where everything makes proper sense and you realize how these things will be tested in real exam. Doing It twice at least is a must because of the sheer amount of knowledge it covers and you are bound to miss a lot of points during your first go. Annotate your books, take notes and do whatever pleases you, but just make sure uworld concepts should flow through your system.
3) GAVE MORE TIME TO UWORLD THEN BOOKS: Frankly books are very vital for your prep, but to a certain limit. Once that limit is crossed you are only skimming through the pages just to make yourself feel better about your prep but in reality you are just reading blindly. That’s why I recommend that don’t spend way too much time on them, they would bring nothing good to the table. Uworld on the other hand is hidden with so many pearls that each time you find a different concept hidden somewhere in a question. So keep moderation between both, but spend more time with uworld explanations.
4) Did Self-assessments regularly to pace my study: Unlike step 1, CK self-assessments are not that accurate when it comes to the real score, but they are really important to keep track of your weak subjects. They are also very important to give the morale boost required to write this exam. If it weren’t for NBMEs and UWSA, I would never have felt prepared for this exam. Self-assessments are there to tell you when you are ready to go through the grind of real CK exam, and they serve this purpose really well.
5) Started preparing for CK immediately after Step 1: Preparation of CK becomes so much easier if you do it after step 1. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of my colleagues gave step 2 CK before step 1 and got stellar scores, but that requires a little extra effort on their part. Not to mention some “step 1 type questions” often pop up in CK exam, so this way you don’t really have to worry about those odd questions if they do appear in your exam.
WHAT I LEARNT THROUGH MY MISTAKES:
1) DON’T START QUESTIONS TOO EARLY OR TOO LATE: Don’t be overambitious like I did, also don’t keep greasing the books and end up wasting a whole lot of time on them. Start the prep with a quick go of the books in around 20 days (for those who recently gave the step 1) and then start with the questions. REMEMBER to keep a balance between books and the questions (uworld). This balance is very important, with more focus on uworld
2) SAY A BIG NO TO KAPLAN QBANK FOR CK: Well here is the thing, Kaplan qbank for CK is a literal waste of time and energy. I know for step 1 a lot of people use Kaplan qbank and it’s a reasonable qbank for step 1 (if not the best), but the CK Kaplan qbank is pointless. It tests very low yield topics due to which you start focusing on low yield stuff and the important topics “tested in uworld” starts fading from your memory. THIS WAS THE BIGGEST MISTAKE I MADE. Look, the sole reason of my picking up Kaplan qbank was that I thought “MORE IS BETTER”, but in all honesty if you start doing Kaplan qbank you lose touch with the uworld concepts, and you start losing grip of all those high yield points tested in uworld. So all those enthusiastic fellas who really want to do Kaplan qbank , make sure you do it before starting uworld. Your uworld prep should be as close to exam as possible, without any gaps or any other qbank in between whatsoever.
3) DON’T HAVE ANY BREAKS DURING THE PREPARATION: Everybody says that time and again and I cant stress it enough myself too that even a break of 2,3 weeks can be a big blow to your study temperament, so make sure to avoid them as much as you can.
4) DON’T FREAK OUT BEFORE OR ON THE DAY OF EXAM: Lets face it, it’s a nerve wrecking exam. I was extremely panicked in the last 10 days before exam and started doubting my preparation & hardly studied anything and due to that I suffered a huge blow. My self-assessment scores started dropping, but I managed to cope that anxiety by indulging myself in other activities. All I wanted at that time was to get done with this exam ASAP. On the exam day I had the same old story of not being able to sleep and hardly slept 2 hours but panadol tablets came in handy to keep me active through that tiring exam. But the lesson stays the same that if you have prepared well beforehand with good assessment scores you should stay calm and stay confident about your preparation and should believe in yourself.
As I already mentioned that I wont go much into detail about how to prepare since that is very subjective thing, I would still like to elaborate a little bit about what books to follow.
Medicine: MTB2 is enough to get you started with uworld, which has everything you would need. Please don’t pick up Kaplan book or use its lectures (Unless you are giving CK first, in which case by all means pick up the Kaplan book and supplement with lectures)
Pediatrics + Surgery + Gynae/Obs: For all three of these subjects the Kaplan books are really great for a first read, you don’t need to know everything written in them. Just read the books once really well, start with uworld and summarize the topics from MTB3 (which is also another great book for these minor subjects)
Psychiatry: I just did uworld without reading any book whatsoever. If you know psychiatry well from step 1 you wont have much trouble learning the extra pieces of knowledge from uworld. If you feel deficient then Kaplan book or MTB3 can be used to polish your concepts.
Biostatistics: Just go through the books you used for step 1 and the uworld subject review of biostatistics.
DRUG ADS/ABSTRACTS: Do the ones in uworld and in the Fred simulation exam really well and try to make a habit of going through all that text quickly and sorting out the relevant materials in a short period of time. This would be the most challenging or I should say annoying part of your preparation and really there is nothing you can do to be very well prepared about them. Just keep your knowledge of biostatistics handy to solve weird abstracts. Drug ads can be really easy sometimes.
Kaplan diagnostics: I gave it 70 days before my exam when I started the Kaplan qbank and scored 80%. Poor questions, not structured like the real exam.
Kaplan Simulation Exam 1: It was a simulation of the real exam (with complete 8 blocks), very exhausting. I gave it 50 days before exam when I was midway through Kaplan qbank and scored 71% in it. Very low yield topics tested (Like the Kaplan qbank), poorly structured questions.
Kaplan Simulation Exam 2: I gave it 40 days before my exam after finishing the Kaplan qbank and scored 76% in it. Just like simulation exam 1, it was a full 8 hour-long exam full of low yield topics tested.
Kaplan simulation exams and Kaplan qbank serve the purpose of teaching you time management and giving you the exhausting feel of real exam. But as far as knowledge and assessment is concerned, they are not great tools for that.
Fred simulation for CK: I gave it the next day after Kaplan simulation exam 2 and scored 84% in it. During this exam I realized how different it was from Kaplan qbank and so many topics and concepts tested in it were actually from uworld, which I had already started to forget.
NBME 2: The Fred exam gave me a reality check and I realized that I had been focusing too much on very low yield stuff since a month now due to Kaplan qbank, so I studied my old uworld notes and MTB 2 book for the next 9 days and gave NBME 2 offline and did 21 mistakes in it, 30 days before the real exam.
Then I started doing uworld online again and kept studying my notes and books for the next 15 days really well.
NBME 4: 13 days before the real exam I wrote NBME 4. It’s a really good self-assessment exam, although you might find the real exam very different from the questions in this NBME. I scored 263 (620) in this NBME.
After NBME 4 I studied well for few more days, but then I started doubting my preparation and didn’t studied properly for the next 6,7 days.
UWSA: 2 days before my scheduled exam date I planned to take UWSA. Questions were a little tougher then NBME and more like the real exam. I scored 259 in it.
I didn't slept well the night before exam, but I was quite calm when I reached pro-metric center. Exam was very tough, at least I felt that way. I was not sure about many questions and in a lot of others the choices were just too difficult or similar to choose from. But I trusted my instincts and kept choosing whatever felt right. Time management wasn't an issue for me since I had a habit of choosing an option within a minute and moving on no matter what. Time management is very vital because if you lag behind few questions at the start of the block, you will struggle throughout that block to get done in time and a lot of easy questions will suffer. I always did abstracts and drug ads at the end (usually saved around 8-9 mins for them). Exam was tough, it will try to demoralize you but the key is to hold your ground and for every punch the exam gives you, you give two in return. It’s a continuous battle throughout those 9 hours and at the end of it you will never be sure what result to expect, but hard work never goes unrewarded so stay positive and hope for a great result.
I hope my experience might help those studying for this exam to gauge their preparation in an intelligent manner and hopefully they wont repeat the same mistakes, which I did. Best of luck and stay blessed.