Biochemistry for Step 1

Biochemistry for Step 1 is always one of those subjects that students are unsure about and not quite certain how to approach. Some students report getting very few biochemistry questions on their exam and others find their exam very heavily weighted with biochemistry. Since there is no guarantee which type of exam students will get, biochemistry is an area they must master.

First, know that your biochemistry preparation for Step 1 should depend on: 1) How strong your school has prepared you in the subject, and 2) How well you did in biochemistry or how well you know biochemistry up to this point.

You probably have a general feeling for your level of knowledge – either you feel very insecure or secure – and this can determine how much preparation is needed. However, if you feel you need some additional information on how well you know biochemistry, try taking an NBME self-assessment (we suggest taking NBME # 1) to get an idea from your profile. This may not be the most comprehensive assessment, but it can give you some estimation of how you are doing. Using NBME assessment #1 will help you save the more predictive NBME practice exams that you will need for closer to your exam date.

If your school has prepared you well and you have a good foundation, then our suggestion would be to go through First Aid and use Lippincott’s Review Book (not textbook) or Pelly & Goljan’s Rapid Review Biochemistry as a reference for any biochemistry areas with which you are having trouble. In addition, as you complete all of the U World questions and study the explanations (and again use Lippincott’s Review or Pelly & Goljan’s Rapid Review as a reference for any areas you are unsure about), you will be increasing your biochemistry knowledge.  For students with a good foundation: (First Aid w/ Reference Text + U World + DIT Step 1 Course (biochem lectures) = success).

Many students begin their board prep study of biochemistry for Step 1 while their classes are still in session beginning in February or March using the above method if they are trying for a top score of 240 or above. This is where they lay their foundation and they have time to find a tutor if they need to. Shoot for getting through First Aid and adding notes from Lippincott’s before your actual Step 1 study period begins.

When your study period begins, add U World and go through the DIT videos and First Aid with your notes, solidifying your knowledge. Then add a last review of biochem again in the last week before your exam date since it helps to have a review right before the exam.


shutterstock_86928223 biochemIf however, you do not feel that your school is very strong in their academic presentation of biochemistry and that it is a subject in which you are weak, you may consider going through all of Lippincott’s Biochemistry Review Book. You will need to start this early on, a month or two before your study session begins, so you have time to complete the book and it does not compete with your review of other topics. Use First Aid as a companion to your Review Book such that you are adding notes to your First Aid as you go through your Biochem Review Book. This is much more active learning than merely reading biochemistry. (Note: If you have problems relating to the Lippincott’s Biochemistry Review Book, which is about 485 pages, but is not the longer textbook, you might also try using the Pelley and Goljan Rapid Review book as an alternate source to read when a topic is confusing. It is better to hear it from a tutor or a study group, but if this is not available, just reading a different source may be helpful. Pelley and Goljan is not as in depth, and the language may be more suited to your learning style. However, be aware that it may not be thorough enough to use as a foundational resource.)

If you can locate others that have an interest in reviewing biochemistry thoroughly, start a study group that meets 3 times a week to charge through it. One strategy that works great is when mentors, 3rd or 4th year students that have already taken Step 1, meet with 2nd year students 1-2 times a week to quiz them and assign biochem topics. If you stay on course, students can complete the topics in 3-6 weeks, depending on the curriculum component competing for their time and attention.

Following your initial foundational period, complete an NBME practice examination, as described above, to see how you are progressing in biochemistry and other subject areas. You may want to talk with an advisor to further discuss a study plan or daily calendar for your specific needs and how to incorporate other subject areas.

For students weak in biochemistry: (All of Reference Text + First Aid + Tutor or Study Group + NBME assessment + First Aid 2nd Review + DIT Step 1 course + UWorld = Success)

For students with a good biochemistry foundation: (First Aid w/ Reference Text + U World + DIT Step 1 Course (biochem lectures) = success)

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