Want to learn how to use First Aid for Step 1? That’s exactly what we’ll talk about in this post!
Studying for the USMLE Step 1 requires a lot of focus, concentration, and most of all, the right resources. Every student preparing for Step 1 needs some kind of material to aid them throughout their study timeline.
In this post, we’re going to talk about the most popular Step 1 review material – First Aid. Hopefully, after this post, you’re going to have an idea if it’s essential for you to use, and how to use it as an integral fraction of your study table.
What Is First Aid For Step 1?
First Aid serves as a complete framework for your preparation for Step 1. It is published by McGraw-Hill Education, with the latest published 30th edition composed of 832 pages – at least a hundred pages more than the typical page count of First Aid for the previous editions.
Authors TaoLe, MD, MHS, and Vikas Bhushan, MD, ensures that contents of the book are written by students who excelled on their Step 1 because these are the same people who lived and breathed in the exam.
It is updated on a yearly basis as they release a new edition. The team, composed of students who aced the exam, annually updates the material to guarantee all the content is relevant and aligned to the USMLE content outline.
First Aid features at least 50 high-yield topics that are heavily revised reflecting new and emerging trends in the Step 1 examination.
This year’s edition features more than 1,300 essential topics with mnemonics to help you easily absorb concepts. It is updated with more study tips placed on the opening page of each chapter.
It contains 1,200+ colored photos and illustrations visualizing disorders, clinical findings, and processes to help you better reinforce and learn key anatomic concepts.
The 30th edition of the First Aid is updated with 75 new revised diagrams. In addition, revised photos optimized the usage of labels to visually describe both normal anatomy and pathologic findings. The organization and integration of text with clinical images and tables throughout the material have been improved extensively.
Contents in the disciplines of Pathology, Endocrine, Hematology, Oncology, Pharmacology, Reproductive, and Neurology are reorganized for a more perceptive learning experience.
First Aid usually includes a section dedicated to providing you with high-quality review resources. The new edition has revised this with an expanded list of resources while laying out clear explanations of their relevance to your USMLE Step 1 review.
You are provided with a Rapid Review section which presents high-yield tables relating diseases with their respective clinical findings and treatments enabling you to conduct an efficient last-minute preparation.
The review material is acclaimed for its availability in high-yield prints and digital files available for download online. It includes bonus material and real-time updates available exclusively on their website.
Content Outline Of First Aid
Below is a detailed outline of contents in First Aid from the latest edition.
Section 1 – Guide to Efficient Exam Preparation
- Test-Taking Strategies
- USMLE Step 1-The Basics
- Clinical Vignette Strategies
- Defining Your Goal
- If You Think You Failed
- Learning Strategies
- Testing Agencies
- Timeline for Study
- Study Materials
Section 2 – High-Yield General Principles
- How to Use The Database
- Public Health Sciences
Section 3 – High-Yield Organ Systems
- Approaching The Organ Systems
- Hematology and Oncology
- Musculoskeletal, Skin and Connective Tissue
- Neurology and Special Senses
- Rapid Review
Section 4 – Top Rated Review Resources
- How To Use The Database
- Question banks
- Web and mobile apps
- Comprehensive review material for general
- Recommended textbooks for covered disciplines: Anatomy, Embryology, Neuroscience, Behavioral Science, Biochemistry, Cell Biology and Histology, Microbiology and Immunology, Pathology, Pharmacology, Physiology
Tips For Using First Aid For Step 1
Once you receive a copy of your First Aid, it is yours to use and it is up to you on how you want to utilize it. So, you already have an idea on the coverage of Step 1 and you already have your First Aid with you, but the thing is – you have no idea how to use it.
Do you just have to memorize it page by page and have confidence that you’re going to score 270? Do you just skim a few pages from the book and consider the deed done?
First Aid is composed of topics concerning high-yield disciplines and organ systems that are covered by the USMLE Step 1. It gives you a good starting point and a bird’s-eye view on the topics you should be studying.
So – what is the best way to use it?
The first approach you have to take is to not consider it as the USMLE Step 1 “Bible”.
Though First Aid is based on the content outline and the emerging trends of Step 1, the examination will not be outsourcing everything from First Aid. Remember, it is only an “aid”.
FYI: Studying for Step 1 with review materials like First Aid is great, you also need the right guide to accompany you through the process.
Writing Down Notes
You can use First Aid to supplement your lectures in class and readings from other sources. The material even provides a space for you to write notes.
Annotate the information from the material and other textbooks which you deem are the most significant details for you to remember. It is important for you to keep annotations at an adequate amount, not too much nor too little.
This keeps everything organized enabling you to effectively run overall content when the exam is fast approaching.
Highlighting using different colors is also highly advisable to help you differentiate which is which. For example, you can use the color yellow for concepts and terminologies, blue for definitions, or green for mnemonics. You have to utilize what you have to make sure things are on the right track.
Does Reading Come First Above Doing Question Banks?
Another tip First Aid gave is to read the chapter in the book then test your comprehension by using clinical cases, questions, and flashcards covering the same topic. I beg to differ on this one.
When I was reviewing for Step 1, I found doing question banks on USMLE World FIRST before reading on the subject matter a whole more effective. This way, I am able to assess my stock knowledge and understanding of the topic involved in the question.
If I feel like I don’t understand why my answer was wrong on a particular question, I could always consult my First Aid book and other resources then try to understand everything from thereon.
Not only am I already practicing myself for the day of the exam, but I also get to expand what I know. Thus, I get to improve on my weaknesses and read more on the topics I felt overconfident at first but ultimately got the questions wrong in the end.
Even if you feel frustrated with yourself for getting most of the answers wrong, it’s normal. I also wanted to punch myself in the face for being so inefficient. But believe me, you will want to beat yourself up, too.
Sure, reading is the primary window for knowledge to make its way to your brain, but doing question banks first holds the key in making you sure you apply what you learn on the USMLE Step 1 itself.
FYI: Question banks are the way to go for your Step 1. However, studying for Step 1 is all in vain if you don’t have a step-by-step walkthrough to guide you.
Organizing A Study Timeline
I can’t emphasize enough the importance of creating a fool-proof study timeline. You have to plan which topics you should be studying for this specific time span while also incorporating quality time for yourself to make sure you don’t burnout.
For example, you want to cover the gastrointestinal system for this week and the next. Then, you’d want to move on to the endocrine system for the proceeding two weeks. It’s up to you.
I’d even advise you to allot more time for the disciplines and organ systems you are having a hard time on. This doesn’t mean that you should completely disregard topics you are already confident with. Check out your resources and see if there may still be content you are not familiar with.
However, of course, you need to adjust accordingly if ever you don’t accomplish a topic for the timeframe you have allotted. You don’t have to feel guilty about it, nor do you have to beat yourself up for it.
Relax and breathe. Think about which adjustments would be the best for you to make without inflicting too much damage on your study calendar.
Mistakes Students Make When Using First Aid For Step 1
As I mentioned earlier – First Aid is fantastic for Step 1. But it’s not end all be all kind of resource.
With that being said, plenty of students still make mistakes when using First Aid. Here are a few you should avoid!
Memorization Over Mastery
Ask anyone who has lived and conquered Step 1 or anyone who is seriously studying for Step 1 for advice. You’re never going to hear someone in their sane mind tell you to just memorize the First Aid from cover to back. (If they do, then they are full of it)
A lot of people mistake the USMLE Step 1 as a contest of who has read more pages on their First Aid. They usually forget what Step 1 really is about. It’s about assessing whether you could apply the concepts, principles, and mechanisms of the basic sciences to the actual clinical setting.
Do you think the items on Step 1 would ask you to define pulmonary arterial hypertension?
No, they’re going to give you clinical findings and the medical history of a patient and ask you which of the following conditions would be the most specific indicator of pulmonary arterial hypertension.
They don’t want to assess what you know, rather, what are you going to do with what you know.
Memorizing everything on the First Aid will get you nowhere if you don’t have a mastery of the subject matter first. Knowing something is different and much easier than knowing what you do with it.
FYI: Studying for Step 1 is all in vain if you don’t have the right guide to walk you through the process.
Think about Mark and Johnny, for example. Mark has already read at least 150 pages on the First Aid in a span of 2 weeks. He is fast, but he crammed all of that information in such a short time. Mark just plans to go over it again when the exam date is fast approaching.
Johnny, on the other hand, has studied 5 topics in this same timeframe as Mark. He is slow compared to Mark, but everything he had learned in 2 weeks will stick with him for the long term because he completely understood everything. Johnny wouldn’t need to go over the subject matter extensively again in the near future, just a short skim would do.
Look at this situation above. Everything Mark learned will eventually get lost in the archives of his brain because he didn’t understand everything much, he just knows it. Johnny studied only 5 topics, but he had already mastered it.
Who do you think studied effectively? The answer is obvious. Mastery is the key to a high USMLE Step 1 score.
Want to learn more tips for Step 1? Check out our most popular YouTube video on the topic? Consider subscribing here!
Of course, knowing is important. What are you going to apply if you don’t know anything in the first place? Knowledge and application are equally important, always remember this. Neither of those is sufficient on their own.
Also, why do you think Step 1 requires mastery? It’s to make you a better doctor. Medical school is the foundation of any good doctor. If you manage to build yourself a bulletproof medical background, this will reflect inside the clinical setting.
FYI: Mastery of the topics to be covered by Step 1 requires time, focus, and the right resources such as our free step-by-step masterclass.
In contrast to the situation above involving Mark who solely relied on First Aid, it’s worse to not even take a look at the First Aid or other review materials. This is called being overconfident. You’re not being a jerk to anyone else but rather, you’re only going to be a jerk to yourself.
You could be the top student in your class and be considered as the smartest by your peers. So, you decide to just go with what you already know and disregard your review materials until 4 weeks before the exam date.
You open up First Aid for the first time ever and started to feel anxious because the topics you are already confident in seem to be written in another language. There is content you think you have already mastered, but some areas seem to be gray.
So what you do is try to cram everything for the remaining time. It’s a foolish thing to do. Listen, you can’t rush everything you have learned for 2 years in 1 month. Remember, mastery takes time.
Everyone who enters medical school is smart. The variation comes from the study habits of each student. A good doctor carries his study habits into the clinical setting and keeps on studying for as long as he is wearing his white coat.
Learning never stops. That’s why it’s important to develop good study habits as long as you can.
Setting Unrealistic Goals
You can’t force yourself to understand an entire organ system in a day. Sure, you can rush the material and retain some information then call it a day. If that’s your only goal, it’s fine.
However, that’s child’s play. Remember, Step 1 requires mastery. You don’t have to set some out of this world goals and expect yourself to strictly comply.
Doing so only pressures you to rush through your materials because you feel like you don’t have enough time to cover other topics. You stress yourself out extensively to comply with this impossible schedule just so you could say you have covered everything.
It takes a toll on your body due to burnout. Worse, your Step 1 score will take the hit for this ineffective study strategy.
You have to make sure the goals you set are feasible to reach and are outlined based on your pacing.
Is First Aid Enough For Step 1?
First Aid does not guarantee that you can get the highest Step 1 score. You should never consider it as the only review material in the world. It just serves as a supplement on top of everything you learned in class and your textbook resources.
Depending on the strength of your background in the basic medical sciences, First Aid could be enough or not. If you know for yourself that your foundation of the basic sciences is strong, First Aid as a supplemental review material would be enough to help you.
What if you feel that your solidity of the subject matters covered in Step 1 is weak and insufficient? It would be best if you take a look at multiple review materials and incorporate them into your study plans in addition to First Aid.
First Aid even provides you with a list of recommended review materials and textbooks for you to check out.
You would first have to analyze for yourself which are the disciplines and organ systems you are excelling in and struggling in, making sure that your additional review material blends in well with your weaknesses and strengths.
FYI: With the vastness of the Internet, there are tons of resources from which you can get a material to help you study for Step 1. We also provide you with our step-by-step masterclass here at TheMDJourney.com, but you know why it’s the best? It’s free.
When Should I Start Using First Aid For Step 1?
It’s important not to start too early, and not to start going over your review materials 2 months before the exam date. It’s all about hitting the right timing.
You don’t need to carry a First Aid book to school on your first day. What you need to do first is to build a strong foundation in the medical sciences.
All your initial efforts for Step 1 do not have any bearing if you don’t have a sturdy background on the basic disciplines and organ systems. The basics should come first.
Once you know the basics, only then could you start studying for Step 1. You have to assess how long you need to study the topics covered in the USMLE Step 1. Only you can know the pacing of your study timeline.
Starting too early might disable you to retain content about the topics. After all, the human brain can only remember so much information for such a relatively short amount of time.
Starting too late, on the other hand, will not be effective as you’re only cramming 2 years’ worth of information for the sake of doing so.
You have to allot a sufficient and efficient study timeline incorporating class notes, question banks, and First Aid, which should be enough for you to master the topics.
Where To Buy First Aid For Step 1?
First Aid is definitely a must-have in your early years in medical school to help you get a high score on your Step 1. It will be one of your most powerful tool in conquering Step 1 as long as you use it right.
I hope this post gave you an idea of how to properly utilize your First Aid. If you still don’t have a copy of First Aid, you can grab your own copy from Amazon now.
The information I have provided you regarding the contents of First Aid is based on the publisher’s message to the public as they released the 30th edition and the content outline from a preview of the book.
Found this post helpful? Take a look at our other posts on Step 1!
- How To Use UWORLD For Step 1 [Ultimate Guide]
- Acing The USMLE: Step 1 Tips and Tricks Guide
- The Best Step 1 Resources
- The Average Step 1 Score
- What Does USMLE Step 1 Cover
- What To Do If Your Step 1 Score Is Not Improving
Also, remember that rocking your USMLE Step 1 is possible and you can do just that by signing up for FREE Step 1 Masterclass here.
Or maybe you need a bit of help and support to push yourself up the ladder? If so, join Step 1 Academy now.