I am fortunate enough to have friends/classmates that are willing to share their study plans with you guys. While my classmate wants to remain anonymous, he did extremely well on Step 1 for USMLE and COMLEX. This will give all of you osteopathic medical students an insight on how a DO student was able to balance both exams!

B is a current third year medical student in the top quartile of his class. He began studying for boards January of the test year doing DIT Primers and COMBANK questions.

Boards are the time of year that everyone gets equally stressed out about the future of their careers. You’ve been studying hard for the entire first two years of medical school then it all comes down to this one or in my case two (USMLE and COMLEX) daunting exams. The exams are so hyped up mainly because they play a major role in the determination of the specialty you want to do which these exams were never intended to do, but with increased competition between specialties programs need a way to objectively determine the differences between prospective candidates. The most important thing to remember while board studying is that it is a marathon and not a sprint, burning out in the torturous 6-8 weeks of constant studying is real scenario. People will try to tell you what is the best method to study, but at the end of the day they aren’t you and likely learn different it is important to go at the speed you deem necessary to master the material.

Resources I used:
  • Doctors in Training Step 1
  • 2016 First Aid for USMLE Step 1
  • Sketchy Medical (I used both Pharm and Micro, but did not like Pharm as well.)
  • Pathoma
  • UWorld and COMBANK Question banks

Time for studying: Approximately 60 days of hardcore board studying April 1st – June 1st (USMLE) and June 9th (COMLEX).

Daily Schedule:
  • 7:30am-9:30am: 40 Uworld question sets/review.
  • 9:30am: Start DIT daily videos (I was on pace to finish in 27 days, I think that was 9 videos a day.)
  • 12:30pm: Lunch
  • 1pm-2pm: Gym session
  • 2pm-4pm: Finish up DIT videos of the day
  • 4-6pm: Pathoma Videos/Sketchy Micro videos
  • 6-8pm: Read chapters or sections that I struggled on with questions that day.
  • 8-9:30pm: Combank Questions

After I completed the DIT videos with about 3 weeks left of studying. I would complete the DIT videos on 1.5x or 2x and read chapters in First Aid that I was struggling in. I think this final push helped with the small details that I missed the first time through. I also completed 4 NBME practice tests 1.5months, 1 month, 2 weeks, and 1 week from my exam date.

About the exams themselves:
I was asked to talk a little bit about the differences between COMLEX and USMLE so I will do that now. The major difference between the USMLE and COMLEX is the level of detail. USMLE is very detail oriented, knowing the specific enzyme, pathophysiologic pathway, knowing exact mechanism of action of drugs, etc. Not to say that the COMLEX does not want this material, they do, but the USMLE takes it a step further most of the time. This took a lot of practice to master, but I feel as though Uworld did a great job replicating test questions and prepared me well. Overall, I thought the USMLE was a much better exam. The questions were clear in what they were asking and most of the time there was a clear correct answer choice. Compared to the COMLEX the USMLE questions are written better, the test layout with 270 questions and breaks is much better than 400 questions with no little to no breaks, and the video media/exhibits is much more user friendly with USMLE.

COMLEX was a very random test it felt like many of the questions were out of left field and I felt as though I could’ve studied for 6 more months and gotten the same score. It is essential to know the OPP material like the back of your hand, the questions are difficult and unlike anyway they have been presented on COMBANK and in the first 2 years of studying.

My goal for these exams was 240/650, USMLE and COMLEX respectively. I beat one goal and fell a little short on the other, but at the end of the day I was happy with what I had accomplished and glad it was over.

If I could redo: The one regret I do have is that I should have completed at least one more COMLEX practice test(COMSAE), I completed the one given to us by our school in which I did very well on it one month out from test day. At that point I focused most of my studying on to getting better at the USMLE, when I did this I kind of let some COMLEX material slip through the wayside. In the week I had between USMLE and COMLEX I should have taken one more practice test. 

Bottom line: I personally would recommend taking the USMLE as it gives DO students more options for residency and with the ongoing merger it can only help in my opinion. However, it is important to pass and if you are not confident in yourself you can always cancel the exam.


This is just my two sense and at the end of the day you may not agree with what I said on this at all, but if I helped out any or there is more content that you would like feel free to ask.

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