Muhammad Umar Bilal (Step 1 Score 261) — Exam Experience

FIRST of all “Thanks to Allah for this Blessing. I never felt I deserve it.”

Exam score



Everyone is different with different strengths and weaknesses make your own experience but do learn from others.

Study Time

5 months

STUDY MATERIAL (Subject wise)

Anatomy — Kaplan + FA + Uworld + Snell review for pelvic anatomy (only blood supply, nerve supply and lymphatic drainage of pelvic organs and muscles)

Physiology — BRS + FA + Uworld

Pathology — Pathoma videos (excellent)+ Pathoma book + FA + Uworld

Biochemistry — Kaplan videos + Kaplan book + FA and Uworld

Genetics — Kaplan Videos + Kaplan book + Kaplan Q bank questions + FA + Uworld

Microbiology — only FA and Uworld

Pharmacology — only FA + uworld

Immunology — Kaplan + FA + Uworld

Behavioral science — only FA + uworld + NBME questions

Biostatistics — Uworld biostatistics subject review

THE BEST THING I DID was using NBMEs as a study material in addition to assessment purpose. I made their notes as well. I even pondered on my correct questions in NBMEs if I was confused during solving them.


WHAT IS MOST important thing about USMLE is the understanding about the High yield Things and leaving behind low yield. Stuffing your mind with too much info makes you forget high yield things. That is the reason most people with much hard work can’t score very good.

Kaplan books have too much knowledge and they don’t differentiate between very high yield and very Low yield material and we give equal time to the knowledge of no importance for the exam. Actually, I didn’t like Kaplan too much Except for BIOCHEMISTRY and GENETICS. They take a lot of time in preparation as well. My method was to study Kaplan once and did the same part from FA, and then did same topic questions from Uworld and added important Points to my FA. Another example is I did Pathoma chapter of CVS and then read pathology of CVS from FA and then solved Uworld questions on the pathology of CVS and noted important points on FA. This helped me know that what was High yield. I didn’t revise Kaplan again except for Biochemistry and genetics and I don’t think there is any need.

Last month before exam (it is the most important part of your preparation you can lose score or gain it) –

I read FA twice just kept on screening through pages. Didn’t worry that I am remembering things or not.
 I solved the whole uworld once in last 10 days only reading the explanations of wrong questions that helped me build the tempo. 7 blocks a day.
 I solved all the NBMEs and read their explanations made their notes, especially the mistakes. I also gave a thought on questions even if I was correct.

Scores in NBMEs and what I realized from them

Uworld — 1st go timed mode subject wise — 81%
 2nd go — 96%
NBME 15 1 month before exam — 249 (many silly mistakes because of not reading questions properly)
same day UWSA 1–254
then I did NBMEs at a gap of 1 day
fred 150–122/132
NBME 7–186/200
UWSA 2 (online) — 261
NBME 13(online) — 254
NBME 11 offline 183/200
NBME 17 ( 15 days b4 exam ) 251 — I made 9 mistakes the answer. Of which I knew very well because I didn’t read the question stem properly and just rushed up, didn’t review my question. I closed some blocks more than 25 min. Remaining. Was depressed here. Felt I didn’t improve in 15 days but I was determined that will read questions properly next time. I performed borderline in behavior. Read a comment on this forum that BRS is good for behavior. What I realized that USMLE examiners like open-ended questions and they like to ask more about the “most appropriate response”. I just gave 2 hours on examples of the open-ended questions in BRS book nothing else and that helped in the exam.

NBME 16–5 days before the exam — 256 (same careless mistakes, could easily score 260+ in it). (closest to exam in difficulty).

Real exam

The brain wasn’t working in the first few questions (anxiety maybe) and they were all genetics and psychiatry left them until I found an easy question to build some confidence.

Finished every block in 40- 48 min. Max. And then looked at almost all the questions I thought I can get wrong. Found out a lot of silly mistakes I was making in a rush. (this helped me improve my score from NBMEs in which I wasn’t revising the questions).

Took a break after every block.

Last 2 blocks I had 27 minutes of break left. Took lunch and said my zuhar prayers.

The last block I was exhausted I didn’t use any stimulant maybe that’s why. But Allah helped me finish the last block. I was too tired in it.

Some of the questions come from nowhere ( 4–6 question in every block you will have no idea just answer. Them and don’t worry). What matters most is doable questions. Don’t worry I didn’t get most of the “very tough questions” right. Even in the exam I made some silly mistakes, was worried about them till the result.

Some tips

Don’t waste too much time on Kaplan. Fa and uworld cover almost all of the exam.
NBMEs are very important. Some questions are directly repeated from NBMEs and some pics are used directly from NBMEs.
Use question stem of uworld as a source of knowledge for e.g. there is a question in which 5 symptoms of a disease are given in Uworld, ponder on all 5 because only 1 of those symptoms might be given in the exam. Go thru uworld properly even if you get questions right. Many times information given in option e, which is not an answer to a uworld question, helps us answer a question in the real exam.
I shall like to help you as much as I can. But please give me time. I shall try to answer all of your questions but it might take some time.

Special thanks to some of the members whose experience helped me a lot.


Muhammad Umar Bilal


Published with permission from the author.

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Originally published at on June 9, 2017.

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