Kinana Abu Rayyan (Step 1 Score 257) — Step 1 Experience

My name is Kinana Aburayyan, a fresh graduate from Al-Quds University, Palestine.

Preparation duration: 6 months.
NBME 15 (6 weeks before exam): 261.
NBME 17 (2 weeks before exam): 255.
Real deal: 257.
I haven’t done Step 2 yet.

I graduated from medical college in June 2016, after which I started my internship. I used to stay at the hospital till 3:00 pm. every day I start studying at 6:00 pm for 6–8 hours. I tried to study at work as much as I can.

I started preparing for the USMLE step 1 in late July 2016 by reading FA. I wanted to get an idea of what I am going through. I finished section 2 in around a week. I then decided to watch Pathoma videos. I covered an average of 2 chapters a day from both the videos and the notebook. the videos were really helpful and helped me with not only pathology but also with immunology, microbiology, and other subjects .it took me around 20 days to finish the whole thing + FA pathology. I then read BRS physiology + FA physiology for a week or so. Moved to high yield neuroanatomy + FA neurology, went fast through it in 3–4 days. then started to read Kaplan videos for biochemistry + Kaplan biochemistry book. I used to cover 2 4-hour videos per day and took me around 12 days to get done with biochemistry. over the subsequent 9 days, I read the first 100 pages of “microbiology made ridiculously simple” and had a second reading of FA microbiology (I didn’t continue with “microbiology made ridiculously simple” because I felt FA was more than enough!) . I watched immunology videos and FA immunology in 3 days. I finally studied Kaplan videos and book along with FA pharmacology over 10 days.

By October, I was almost done with FA. at least twice for section 2, and at least once for section 3.

On October 4th, I subscribed for online UWorld for 3 months. I did it subject-wise. in the first few blocks I did it in a timed manner, but then I decided to do it in the tutorial mood because it was faster for me this way. at the beginning, I barely did a block/day but then I became faster doing around 70 questions/day. It took me 2 months to finish the whole thing with an average score of 86%, on the 95th percentile. during this period, I didn’t take a lot of notes into my FA because it was really huge as it is and I didn’t want to overwhelm myself. I made around 1000 ANKI cards covering mostly pharmacology and pathology, and I used to review them every now and then. For biostatistics, I studied the first 30 pages from Kaplan behavioral book, it was very simple. for anatomy, I just did UWorld + FA, you feel a little bit weak in it, but you do just fine in the exam. for psychiatry, I watched some of Kaplan videos along with FA which I revised at least 3 times.

Once I finished UWorld (Dec,10th), I did NBME 16 online in which I got 261. it was such a relief for me that I’m on the right track. I then did 100 cases by Conrad Fischer for ethics in 2 days. for the next month, I decided to go through UWorld for the second time. I completed around 95% of it over one month. at this point, around 18 days were left before my exam date. now I started with FA right from the beginning. I was able to finish it just 2 days before the exam. 2 weeks before the exam, I did NBME 17 online and I got 255. In the last 3 weeks, I used to solve an average of 2 blocks of NBME offline with my friend, we timed ourselves. we didn’t care about the score but we used them as a learning tool. we covered NBME-10,11,12,13, and 7.

The exam day:

I had 7 blocks, each with 40 questions and I had an hour for each block. I was very time conscious and I made sure that I had an extra 10 min for each block to review tagged questions. I had around 4–5 questions per block which were confusing a bit and around 2–3 WTH type of questions. FA helped a lot, but many questions were dependent on your background. the questions were the same length as UWorld questions. I had a break after each block through which I ate some chocolate and had some coffee. it was a long tiring day, but I was able to stay focused till the end. after I finished, I had this feeling that the exam was harder than I expected and thanked God I didn’t do it right after my third year because it was largely clinically based.

There were no particular subjects I felt weak at. indeed, in my exam analysis, all fields were in the high-performance side.

Bottom lines:

My target was 250 +.

My ultimate sources were first aid and UWorld. all the other sources helped me to master FA which would’ve otherwise been impossible. FA is very complicated and without the other books, I would’ve been memorizing without understanding.

My study duration was around 6 months which I think is more than enough for an average student.

Studied FA twice with some subjects like microbiology more than 4 times.

Studied UWorld twice.

NBMEs were helpful in that you get an idea of what the exam going to look like. you get used to seeing difficult questions and you get trained how to think logically about them; also, they help you to better manage your time.

Anki cards are helpful but you need to keep revising them. make your own cards! I had days off whenever I felt tired. I used to sleep and go out to see friends.

I studied an average of 6–8 hours a day in the first 3 months and up to 15 hours a day in the last 2 months.

It was a really hard and stressful journey, I challenged myself every day. some days I stayed awake till the morning, I tried to give my maximum. I felt burnt and wanted to give up at some points, but every time I felt down, I was able to hold on. I kept thinking that if anyone could do it, this means that I can do it!

Finally, all thanks go to my family and friends who believed in me and supported me till the end.

My word to you my friends:

Don’t ever give up on your dreams. Work hard and always give your best. and as what a friend once said, ALWAYS BE ALLERGIC TO AVERAGE!



Kinana .M. Aburayyan


This article was first posted on Facebook. It was later edited and published here with permission from the author.


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Originally published at on May 14, 2017.