USMLE Step 2 CK (Before Step 1) Experience (Score: 256)

Taking USMLE Step 2 CK Before USMLE Step 1

 Ansab Abbas Haider - Class of 2012

I got my step 2 CK score 256 today and I would begin by thanking the Almighty without whose will, this would still be a dream.
I gave my step 2 ck before step 1 so this article might be useful for those usmle aspirants who plan to take step 2 ck before step 1 or others like me who started step 1 prep during college but couldn’t complete it and instead, might want to consider taking step 2 ck first right after final year.

During 3rd year I had made up my mind to do usmle and since the beginning of 3rd year I started using Kaplan books to help me orient myself with usmle exam. By the end of third year I started considering taking step 1 in my 4th year so in the beginning of my 4th year I continued the practice of studying step 1 books. Some where around the end of the year I had completed one read of all Kaplan step 1 books (except biochem and some of physio), high yield biostats and neuroanatomy, and whole of Goljan. But I couldn’t keep up with my pace and with 4th yr prof just around corner I stopped studying for step 1 except Goljan which I had done a few reads by the time the prof was over. My step 1 journey was over and I knew I would never be able to complete it without screwing up my final yr. I read Ayaz Mahmood’s article on step 2 which convinced me that I could do step 2 instead if I had a sound background knowledge of my basics, which I believed I had so I started my final year studying for Ck which covered most if not all of my prof curriculum as well.

I studied Ellis surgery to begin with which is a nice comprehensive book and gives you a decent outline of most of surgery topics. I studied Kaplan surgery with its lectures. The book seems ridiculous but it taught me some extremely high yield facts which only Kaplan provides particularly on trauma and orthopedics. This wasn’t enough to get me through the prof so I added Washington manual of surgery. I found it very extensive, and hard with most of things being very low yield for the ck exam but if you are looking to find a book that can get you through the prof and help you with your ck study in final year, it is this book. But for those who are done with final year, Kaplan or MTB 3 surgery section is all you need.

I would recommend Kaplan medicine with its lectures to all those studying medicine for the first time. It is a wonderful book and will cover most of your topics you need for step 2 ck. I used Harrison for the topics extensively taught in the wards and tested in the prof but for everything else Kaplan will get you through, rest assured. I read MTB 2, which in my opinion is even better than Kaplan since it excludes all the low yield mumbo jumbo Kaplan medicine is filled with. But if you are a new final year student, studying MTB 2 might be hard since it doesn’t do a lot of explanation that Kaplan does.
In short; study Kaplan in final year to get a hang of medicine, and switch to MTB2. If you are done with final year, MTB 2 is all you need.
Some people study MTB 3 or MTB Int Medicine, I had a look at them and didn’t find much difference from MTB2 except in the management of diseases, the stuff which I didn’t find high yied for ck.

Kaplan is the ultimate champion. The book is beautifully written and will get you through your final year and has all you need for step 2 ck. Just study some labor related topics for your prof some other book; I used Obs Illustrated which is I found to be extremely useful for the prof.
Once you have understood Gyne/Obs well, consider switching to MTB 3 Gyne/Obs section. It is a perfect 70 odd pages summary of Kaplan and will save a lot of time during revision.

I think this is the worse of all Kaplan books and yet I have to say it is a must do if you aim to score high in ck. MTB3 paeds covers the most high yield topics for the ck but leaves a lot of them. If you have absolutely no temperament to study this book, atleast study cardiology, growth & development, nutrition, development disorders, genetic disorders from Kaplan and rest of the topics from MTB3 paeds section.

Kaplan for step 2 ck is a horribly written book and despite doing it I wouldn’t advise anyone wasting his or her time on it.  Use first aid 1 to know all your DSM criteria for psych. For management use MTB 2 and MTB3 psych which explains management of psychiatric disorders very well.

I had done high yield biostats once so I had a sound understanding of biostats. I didn’t use it again, instead I did Kaplan biostats, which is quite okay. I also used the Uworld subject review subscription for biostats for 25$ and I think they proved to be the most useful money ever spent by me. Please everyone reading it, do it for step 2 ck.
During the last days I went through an article posted by Furqan Sherazi bhai on KE Usmle forum. I found it very useful and I think it helped me a lot in understanding an abstract. So please go through it once.

Despite doing it, this will prove to be the most frustrating section on exam. Nevertheless, it is very high yield and cannot be ignored. I used blueprints for family medicine to do the Vaccinations, which this book explains in great detail. For screening I downloaded the USPSTF handbook for the latest screening guidelines. Believe me, this is the most authentic source for screening guidelines and will save you from the confusion that MTB Kaplan create with their conflicting facts. Don’t freak out when you see its 150 pages long, you just have to do the screening for disorders that have a recommended screening schedule. Yet it mentions so many diseases that don’t require screening but explains the whole rationale behind it, just skip all of that.

Question Banks:
I used Kaplan Qbook during my final year. The questions are not high yield but I only found it useful to give me an orientation about questions in ck. So if you plan on using it, use it in the early part of your preparation and use it subject wise.

And then came the never-ending final prof. I could not finalize my ck exam prep but I continued studying my Kaplan and MTB books with extensive referencing from Goljan and Kaplan pharma (extensively tested on ck too in one way or the other) during my prof so still it really helped me in consolidating my ck knowledge.
Immediately after my final year I had to go to US for my electives and then I did my CS there; I ended up spending 5 months in US staying away from my ck books most of the time.

I restarted my prep in August after I returned and planned to do it in 3 4 months. I gave a quick review to my MTB and some parts of Kaplan, did images from google, EKGs from ECG made easy. I got hold of FA2 and made a list of all the topics that were not present in MTB or Kaplan but were in FA2 so I studied them from there, just to make sure I had covered all topics.

This is hands down the most high yield ck content on the planet. Most people advised me to do Uworld multiple times, do it offline first, all other sorts of tricks. But I sticked to what one of my friend, Masab, told me and did for his ck exam.
I got a 2-month subscription, and did all blocks in timed random mode. I scored very well on uworld, which continued improving and that helped me gain confidence. I did 2 blocks a day, went through the explanations of all questions and made notes.
Most people will advise on doing the marked and wrong questions again but I would go strongly against it. I started doing the same after my first go through Uworld but half way through the question stem I literally knew how I had done this answer wrong the first time and what the actual answer was. So I did a few blocks and then stopped doing it since I wasn’t finding it of any use.
So, in my opinion, do Uworld late in your study, do it once, only online, do it in timed random mode and do it only after you have exhausted all your text books and other study resources, and make notes out of them, which you can go over again and again.


Uworld cumulative percentage (first go): 83%

First of all, NEVER EVER DO AN OFFLINE FORM AND PREDICT UR SCORES FROM THE FORMULAS OR OTHER PERCENTAGE CORRELATIONS MENTIONED ON VARIOUS FORUMS. That is extremely inaccurate. If you really want to know how you would score, do it online ONLY.

NBME 2:  260
I would rate it 7/10
I did it right after my uworld finished.

NBME 3:  252
Pathetic form. Questions were nowhere close to the standard on uworld or the real exam. NO NEED TO DO IT. 5/10
I did it after studying my uworld explanations and the scores jolted me a little. I did work on my weak areas in the assessment and studied my uworld notes again

Here I just want to mention that my exam got delayed here for about 2 months because of my poor planning to apply for my degree in time, some frustrating delays on part of the college to issue my degree. I even had delay in my permit by ECFMG because of the December vacations etc. So all these delays did affect my concentration but I continued studying, that did get very frustrating by the end but there wasn’t much I could do, except wait for my degree and then the permit.

NBME 4:  260
I gave it about a month before the exam. I found it to be the best of all the forms. Highly recommended. 9/10.

I focused on my weak areas, studied my uworld notes for the third time, I did study the notes by Waqas bhai on the KEMU forum once during the last month, and here I want to mention that Uworld keeps on updating their qbank frequently so a lot of old questions are taken off. I found some of those old explanations in waqas bhai’s notes on the forum. Im not sure if they were tested or not but its always handy to know more and more of Uworld facts.

UWSA: 262
I took it 5 days before the exam and it really boosted my confidence.
Highly recommended. 9/10

Last 5 days were just scribbling through pages, heart sounds, EKGs, images and a lot of nervousness.

My mistakes:
-          Long gap after my final year because of the electives CS, etc
-          Poor planning to get my degree in time cause unnecessary delays in my exam
-          Taking NBME form 3 without having read its reviews. Always ask people which forms to take and which not.
-          Bad exam night sleep.

Exam experience:
Had a sleepless last night and slept for 3 hours may be. My exam began with the first block being smooth but as the exam progressed it got more and more difficult. I panicked after a difficult block but then took a good 10-minute break after this block and got my self composed again. From my exam experience I’d like to share some facts. I found the exam to be MUCH more tougher than any of the assessments or Uworld. It might not be the case with everyone but that’s what I felt. But no matter what, you just don’t have to let yourself panic, trust your instincts and have a belief that you know you’ve done it before on the assessments and you can do it now.
I felt the overall blocks to be lengthier than the uworld blocks so time was bit of an issue. What I did was, even if I didn’t know an answer or was confused between 2 options I always answered my closest hunch, marked it and then went on. I could only review my marked questions in 2 blocks so never leave it till the end to come back and answer a question, you might end up not answering it at all because of time.
Whenever you have an abstract on a block, always consider that block to be a 50 minutes block. Do your remaining questions of the block in 50 minutes and save last 10 minutes for the abstract. Trust me, at times you’ll even find those 10 min not enough.
That’s pretty much it about the exam. None of my assessments was more than 4 to 6 points off my real score so I guess they were all quite predictive. But I would still say, save NBME 4 and UWSA for the very end till you are fully prepared.

I found reading others exam experience very useful and hence I wanted to share mine too. I tried to put in all of my CK experience in this, I still might have missed a few things so if anyone of you has any questions, please let me know.


Ansab Abbas Haider.


  1. Hi
    Thanks for sharing your experience
    How long did it take you to prepare for the exam .. How many months? And how many hours a day ?


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