Resources for Level 1/Step 1 Board Exams

August 6, 2017

Now that I've survived my board exams, I wanted to take some time to post about my experience and how I prepared. I've had quite a few people reach out to me asking me questions about board prep, and before I delve into exactly what I did, I want to say a few things.
  • I'm writing about MY experience. Everyone's experience will be different and there is no "best way" to prepare for these exams. I am writing to share another perspective and to share some honest thoughts about what did and did not work for me during my study period. 
  • Everyone will have an opinion about what you "must" do. Take all advice with a grain of salt and be sure to design a plan that works best for YOU. 
  • I will not be sharing my scores for either exam, but I will say that I am very happy with my results. These resources and the study plan I share worked for me to reach my goals, but again, everyone's successful board prep will look different. 
I wanted to start off with a post to explain each of the resources I used before I go on to explain my study schedule. These are not ranked in any particular order. None of the links are affiliated, but I hope that by providing links it will help you find the specific products I'm referring to without any hassle. 

  • I referred to this during my second year courses. I did not take extensive notes in my first aid during my second year, mostly because the coursework was more detailed than what I would need to know for boards. I used this to supplement my learning. 
  • The only time I added notes to First Aid during my second year was when I would watch Pathoma. Notes from pathoma were specific to board exams, so I did take extra notes on Pathoma throughout the year. More on that in my study plan blog post!
  • I cut the binding off my First Aid and had spiral binding added to it so that I could easily take notes in it. This service is commonly offered at FedEx Office locations. 
  • I would recommend getting the book as well as the video lectures for Pathoma. Pathoma reviews the most high yield pathology for each system and all of his explanations are extremely helpful. I did Pathoma throughout my second year and used it throughout my dedicated study period for board exams. 
  • I used both of these throughout my second year of medical school and I cannot imagine medical school without it! 
  • SketchyMicro videos are much shorter than SketchyPharm videos, so I would recommend using SketchyPharm early on in order to really benefit from it. 
  • Using DIT is a huge financial commitment, but I am still very happy that I used this resource. I've received so many questions about DIT that I will plan to write a separate post to address all of the specific questions. 
  • This resource really isn't necessary for success on your boards, but I did use this for Step 1. 
  • Second semester of my second year, I felt like I wanted to start using a Qbank for board prep. I wasn't ready to shell out money for UWORLD and I still didn't feel like I was at a point in my studies to really benefit from UWORLD. USMLE RX was a perfect solution for me! 
  • I paid for 3 months of USMLE RX to have additional questions to use. I used them along with my systems courses and slowly started doing multi system questions. 
  • One thing I really loved about USMLE RX was that each answer explanation had links to the relevant pages in First Aid. 
  • This is the only resource on the list that is an ABSOLUTE MUST. You just can't do board prep without it. 
  • If you attend an osteopathic medical school, you will need to take the COMLEX board exams. This book is incredibly helpful to learn and review osteopathic medicine. 
  • I used this book throughout my first and second years of medical school, as well as during my board prep. This book has very helpful information and some practice tests at the end of the book as well. 
  • I did not find this Qbank to be particularly useful, but the osteopathic medicine questions were nice to use. I did all of the OMT questions in this Qbank, as well as all of the questions pertaining to ethics and statistics. 
  • I absolutely loved having Cram Fighter (and I'm actually still using it during third year). This program allows you to create a schedule for board prep that is all online and synced with apps on your phone. The program has almost every board prep resource you can imagine and you can effortlessly put together a study plan that tells you what you need to do each day. 
  • The best part? You can always edit the schedule to add days off, push back tasks that you didn't get to, and recalculate your schedule in a click of a button. This is every planner's dream, and every procrastinators worst nightmare. There's no denying what you need to get done each day when you use this program. I. LOVE. IT.

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Alright! That's it. Those are the nine most important resources I used throughout my second year of medical school and throughout my dedicated study period for board exams. Keep your eyes open for the rest of my posts about my study schedule, finding balance, and some of my best advice for tackling board exams! 

Monthly Update : July 2017

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July was a much better month for me than June. I finished my board exams in June (thank goodness) and I had some time off in July. It was great to sleep, relax, see people I love, etc! It was still tough for me though, because I had to wait weeks to get my scores back from my board exams. Those weeks were filled with a lot of anxiety for me - but I'm absolutely thrilled that I passed my exams! I was so nervous I had M check my scores for me. But you guys, I did it! I don't ever have to retake my Step 1 or Level 1 exam EVER again. Phew!

Besides all the anxiety, I got to go to the Pacific Northwest to travel with M and celebrate our one year anniversary. Without any cell phone service, we had an amazing time camping, hiking, kayaking, and enjoying each other's company. After weeks of studying for boards, it was incredible to be able to give him my undivided attention and spend some quality time together.

I had one week of school in July to help prepare my class for clinical rotations and more than anything, it was great to spend time with my classmates after the stress of board exams were behind us. Then in the final week of July, I got all my stuff moved for clinical rotations, attended orientation at the hospital I will be working at, and said hello to the beginning of my clinical years of medical school!

I'm really looking forward to all the things I will be learning out on clinical rotations. It's beginning to feel like all my hard work is going to be worth it in the end!

Women in Medicine Series

July 12, 2017

I was having a conversation recently about how incredible it would be if we thought of ourselves as positively as others do. The way we view ourselves is often very different from the way others view us. We are our own worst critics, tend to be too harsh about our shortcomings, and discredit our achievements. I'll be the first to admit I'm guilty!

There will always be people who are better than you at XYZ, or worse than you at the same thing. Comparison is such a thief of joy! Social media can be a great source of inspiration and connection, or it can be really damaging. We all post about our best moments, leaving the tough parts of our lives tucked away in the dark. 

I noticed my instagram stories they other day - - full of strong, smart, women. Women that I know personally, women I've connected to via social media, and women that have thousands of followers but inspire me on a daily basis. 

I've been sitting on the idea for a while now, but I've finally decided to launch a women in medicine series on my blog. I am going to highlight the successes of other incredible women because they inspire me, and I'm pretty sure they will inspire you too. 

Women who are real. Women who are genuine. Women who have walked in your shoes before. Women who have worked endless amounts of hours to get where they are today. Women who want to reach out and inspire you to do the same. 

I have already contacted several amazing women who are ready to share their hearts and I am looking forward to launching these posts in the next few weeks! If you or anyone you know may be interested in participating in my women in medicine blog series - please reach out to me at tatedoesthings (at) gmail (dot) com or send me a message on instagram. 

Let's cheer for each other, support each other's dreams, and hold up a mirror to ourselves and others to see our true potential. I hope you'll join us! 

Photo credit: 
Morgan Sessions

My Favorite Kale Salad

I'm pretty sure the world can be divided into two populations: those who love kale and those who do not. I would like for this recipe to inspire both populations of people. If you love kale - try this recipe and maybe you'll discover this recipe will be added to your list of favorites too. If you don't love kale - try this recipe anyway. My husband used to frown at kale, and now he voluntarily eats kale salad (even when I'm not looking!). 

Grab yourself a nice bouquet of kale from a grocery store or farmer's market. I usually buy two bundles of kale for this recipe. 

Thoroughly wash your kale and de-stem your kale. The stem of kale is really firm and many people don't like to eat it - - although, if you're interested, you can keep the stems to use in stir fry, etc. If de-stemming your kale totally freaks you out, check out this simple video about how to quickly de-stem your kale

Once I have my kale washed and de-stemmed, I tear the kale into bite sized pieces, throw it into a salad spinner to spin off the extra water, and toss it into a bowl. 

Now for the dressing! I never use exact measurements - but here is a run down of what I do. 
  • Juice two lemons & remove the seeds 
  • Add about an equal amount of olive oil to the bowl
  • Add a few dashes of salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes 
  • Add about 1/2 spoonful minced garlic (or a few garlic cloves minced if you're doing it that way)
  • Mix it all together and dump on top of your prepped kale! 
I usually just use my hands to toss the dressing on all the kale - but feel free to be a normal human and use tools to do that if you wish. 

Once the kale is dressed, I put all of it in the fridge. The lemon helps soften the kale and make it less bitter.

I usually prep a huge batch and have kale ready to grab whenever I need it. It's super easy to grab this as a base for your salad and add anything else you want to top off your salad! A quick go to for me is chicken, strawberries & walnuts... but be creative! 

Do you have a favorite kale recipe? I'd love to hear about it!

The Power of Words

July 10, 2017

This poem resonates with me on so many levels. 
I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. 

by Max Ehrmann

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story. 

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,
they are vexations to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain and bitter;
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. 

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs;
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals;
and everywhere life is full of heroism. 

Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love;
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment
it is as perennial as the grass. 

Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself. 

You are a child of the universe,
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. 

Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be,
and whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. 

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy. 

Monthly Update : June 2017

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June was a rough month. I felt challenged mentally and emotionally on a daily basis. Studying for my board exams consumed every moment of my day and really pushed my limits. I plan to write more detailed posts about how I studied for my board exams, how I attempted to stay sane, and how I made efforts to take care of myself during that time. Stay tuned for that.
I finished Level 1 and Step 1 board exams by June 28 and M & I left for our road trip the next morning (more details in another post). Our time spent in the North Cascades away from the pace of our normal lives was much needed - and we toasted to our one year anniversary surrounded by some pretty incredible scenery. 

I'm slowly beginning to feel like a normal person again. We've been cleaning like crazy - getting ready for new roommates and starting to pack up my stuff to move for clinical rotations. 

I'm catching up on emails, blog posts, etc. Sleeping in, drinking coffee, playing with my pets, catching up with friends. Hopefully July will have a more exciting update :) 

But here are a few things I'll leave you with... 
  • THIS. THIS. THIS. I'm absolutely obsessed with these words. 
  • the 80/20 rule. I absolutely love this. M & I are trying to get rid of a lot of things - and downsizing ALWAYS feels good. My closet is about to be so much more enjoyable once I drop off all the good will items! 

41 photos of studying for Step 1/Level 1

July 8, 2017

Monthly Update : May 2017

May 31, 2017

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Life this month = board studying.
No other real exciting updates. Or maybe I don't have the ability to think of things to write about... either way - - board studying. That's life lately.

1. Some super cool photography (and risky human beings).
2. Maybe you've heard about gravity lights - but if not... seriously, check it out. This is such an amazing idea! I used kerosine lamps throughout my service in the Peace Corps. This is a much better alternative for people who need light!

28 Trips Around The Sun

May 4, 2017

28 full trips around the sun.
That's wild.

Thank you to everyone who wished me a happy birthday and made my day so special. It filled my heart with joy to hear from everyone - in multiple languages, from all around the globe. My network of friends and family members across the globe continue to brighten my life.

As the globe keeps spinning and the lives around us keep moving, I wanted to take a few moments to reflect on some of the lessons I have learned, and continue to learn, with each journey around the sun.

  • Taking the time to truly just exist is one of the most difficult and rewarding things to do. Sitting & being a witness to my own thoughts during meditation has brought out some of the best and worst sides of me this year. Our minds are so powerful... choosing our thoughts and then acting accordingly can affect our lives in such profound ways. 
  • While I'm nowhere near perfect, I'm more and more aware of the respect my body deserves on a daily basis. The relationships I choose to maintain, the food I choose to eat, and the physical conditioning I choose to participate in all have a dramatic effect on my health. The foundation we begin to build now will have very direct effects on our health later down the road. I'm not making perfect decisions daily, but I am still proud of my efforts to stock our home with more whole foods, brew my own kombucha, and get my butt moving as much as a can.
  • Carving out time for self care is one of the greatest gifts I've found I can give myself. Snuggling with my pets or my mom's baby goats, taking the morning to ski with my husband, or calling an old friend to catch up is an easy remedy for burnout and exhaustion. The hardest part is stopping to slow down. Just a few minutes of self care can make all the difference in the world.
  • Chasing my dreams doesn't happen to be easy. Sometimes I think back to my life plan when I was in my early 20's... and I'm doing it. I graduated. I joined the Peace Corps. I went to medical school. I got married. It's easy to forget that I'm so lucky. I've worked so incredibly hard to fill my life with the things that make me the happiest - but there have been a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to go along with it. The life I've chosen is worth it. Despite the chaos, it's worth it to live life each day working toward something. I'm exactly where I should be
  • And on that note... I'm learning this lesson too. If the door doesn't open, it wasn't meant for you. 
  • My husband is genuinely my favorite person on the planet. I don't know how I got so lucky with him either, but he continues to amaze me with his unfaltering loyalty and support. It's such an adventure to be with someone who has dreams and aspirations as big as mine and to have to opportunity to cheer for each other along the way. 
  • Life gets ugly. And hard. The past two years have thrown a lot at me -- with many lessons in life and death and what I want my years of life to look like. I cherish every day I am given. 
Here's to the next trip around the sun - and all the adventures, lessons, and celebrations that will come with it. 

Monthly Update : April 2017

April 30, 2017


  • I finished up my second year of medical school. WHAT A WILD RIDE. I'll be writing an honest, in depth post about the first two years soon! I'm SO happy I made it. And I'm incredibly proud of myself. I'm quick to downplay things that I do, but these past two years have been the hardest so far. I'm seriously thrilled to say I made it through successfully! 
  • My blog got a new make over. I've been thinking about a new theme for my blog for quite some time, and this weekend, I finally got to do it! I used this blog theme from Etsy, and I can't recommend it enough! Eve (the Etsy owner) even offers a free installation of the theme. She was incredibly easy to work with and she helped me with everything I needed! 


  • The last three weeks of second year. WOOF. It was a lot of work finishing up all of my classes! BUT, I adore my classmates and great friends. Somehow we all got through it. 


  • Board prep. Time to finalize all the details of my study plan and start knocking out my studies! 


  • Even when you think you can't make it through the tough times, you just do. Sometimes you get through rough patches quite gracefully, and other times it's a struggle. Either way, I hope to remember that hard work and determination can get me through a lot. I remember starting medical school and not having a clue how I would ever get through it :) But you just do. 


Breakfast Quinoa

This is such a simple recipe! Make it at the beginning of the week and have your breakfast ready for the week.

Breakfast Quinoa
Rinse 1 cup of quinoa & strain
Add rinsed quinoa to crockpot
Add 2 cups of water
Add 1 can of coconut milk (full fat)
Add some spices (cinnamon or nutmeg are my fave choices)
Add a dash of salt

Turn crockpot on low for about 3 hours

When it's done, put all your quinoa in tupperware to eat throughout the week!
I like to add a splash of almond milk when I reheat it & then add some honey, fruit & walnuts.

Get creative- you can add any kind of toppings you like! Enjoy!

Terrible, (Thanks For Asking)

April 21, 2017

I had several hours of psychiatry lectures at school today. All very uplifting - ADHD, mood disorders, schizophrenia, suicide. You know, all the things we all love talking about as a society.

I left school thinking about one of my favorite podcasts that I discovered this year. It's called Terrible, (Thanks For Asking) and it is hosted by Nora McInerny. She brings people on the show to talk about awful, terrible, crazy life situations that make people uncomfortable to talk about... but yet, so many of us go through. 

Every time I tell someone about this podcast, they immediately look at me like my whole world is crumbling. "You listen to what?!" I get it. It's weird to admit that I enjoy listening to a podcast about terrible things people experience. But I enjoy it because it's real. It's genuine. And it's so incredible human. 

My life experiences, along with studying psychiatry, have made me realize that we tend to tip-toe around things that make us uncomfortable. Death makes people squeamish. Eating disorders cause people to whisper and change subjects. Depression and bipolar disorders are stigmatized and looked down upon. 

Can you imagine how uncomfortable it would make someone if you responded to their "how are you" with a "Terrible, thanks for asking... followed by whatever horrible, dark feelings you actually had!?".  No one actually wants to know. So we cover it all up with a "I'm good, how are you!?"

But here's what I believe. 

Some people don't want to know the truth. Some people really don't want to deal with the dark, twisty turns in life. And that's ok, I forgive them. 

But there are many of us who DO what to know the truth. We are interested in how other people are doing. We genuinely care. But what we lack is the ability to know how to respond to what they say. There's a fear of not knowing what to do with the information. 

My challenge to you is this: just listen. Listen to your friends, family members, and colleagues. Just sit still and listen. Embrace the silence. Realize that your words probably can't fix it anyway. Be a human and be there. 

If life hasn't slapped you in the face yet, it will. And if it has already, chances are it will again. Life is hard, guys. We need to stop pretending it isn't. There are incredibly beautiful moments and chapters in life, don't get me wrong. But I think it's wild that as a society, we prefer to neglect and ignore the hard parts. 

I think we need to start talking about the hard parts. We need to normalize problems people encounter. If someone is really not doing well, you're giving them a huge gift by just listening. 

Mental health issues exist all around us. Tough life stuff happens to all of us.
Isolating people and the issues they face certainly can't be the answer. 
Let's re-write our response to some of the ugly situations in life.

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