HealthOctober 13, 2017

How this Firecracker scored a 263 on USMLE Step 1

With a lot of dedication and the help of Firecracker, a member at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston recently scored a 263 on their USMLE Step 1 exam. The student began using Firecracker as a primary source of flashcard and Q bank-style question review during the beginning of their second year of medical school, and attribute their great score to the detail-oriented nature of Firecracker’s content.

During their first year, they began their studying by creating personal flashcards from materials found in First Aid and other study resources, but once they stumbled upon Firecracker, they dedicated most of their board preparation to the platform. Check out how this user went about their board preparation:

USMLE score explanation

”In my first year, I made flash cards for each week and used those to study. When I discovered FC, it was basically the same idea with 100x more functionality and pre-made cards for Step 1. . . My goal was singular: get a 260+ on Step1.

I did not use Firecracker during the basic science classes, but after I learned basic science topics during my dedicated study time I went back and flagged topics that needed review.

Firecracker was the backbone of my studying. I had a study pattern for each class: Anatomy, Physiology, Pathology, etc. I had books/resources I used for each. Every day I read or learned from my primary resources and flagged those topics on FC. I would do more than the recommended amount of questions because of the pace at which I was flagging topics. The week before my class exams, I’d double the amount of questions I was doing.

I did not use the dedicated study mode tool in Firecracker, and I actually did not do direct recall cards my last 2 weeks of studying because I hadn’t flagged new topics for a while and was comfortable with my level of knowledge from Firecracker. I basically considered Firecracker a ‘dedicated’ Step 1 prep resource from the beginning. Whereas my classmates would rue not remembering certain details when they came up months after that systems class, I had seen the card in a review session only the week before. As a result of using Firecracker I always felt as though I was studying for Step 1. In the 3 months prior to my exam (excluding the final 2 weeks) I greatly upped the number of cards I was doing.

As I said before, Firecracker was the backbone of my studying. When someone asks me how to study for Step1, I can’t give them an honest answer without Firecracker. Studying for Step 1 is such a huge task, and the first challenge is creating some kind of structure; having some way of knowing what to study, when to study it, and how/what to review. Firecracker gave me that structure. I used the same resources as everyone to learn material initially, things like Pathoma, USMLE Express, Costanzo’s Physiology—but I constantly flagged things on Firecracker so that my reading did not go to waste. I did not have to go back and review book a dozen times because I had already seen them on Firecracker and had them drilled into my brain. When I opened First Aid and began reviewing in it, it seemed familiar because I had already learned it in Firecracker.

One thing that people often criticize about Firecracker is that it’s too ‘detailed’ and doesn’t help you answer questions; I strongly disagree. When you do UWorld and other questions, you will realize that in order to reason out and infer answers, you need to know a basic set of facts for each question. Those facts come from Firecracker. The details to connect points A and B in the question stem to point C in the answer are found among the thousands of cards you memorize. I remember speaking to a close friend in my class the days before our test and we both echoed the same sentiment: ‘I wish I’d spent more time on Firecracker.’

For a new user I have a few pieces of advice. First, know that Firecracker is not your primary learning resource, but it is the place to memorize things once you have learned them. What I mean by that is that it’s hard to understand the pathophysiology of a disease course simply by flagging a topic; however, once you’ve learned the disease from a book, flagging the topic and doing cards daily will reinforce and cement the understanding you have in your brain. Secondly, learn how you study and how to implement Firecracker into your routine. Play around with flagging things as Urgent, Current, and Past, explore the difference between doing more [daily] questions and studying something specific. See what works for you. Lastly, I urge new users to trust that Firecracker will pay off for them. One for the hardest things for me was letting go of any doubt and committing fully to the resource, but I eventually did and am extremely grateful. No resource is perfect and no resource has everything you could possibly need, but Firecracker is the best resource I’ve found and used and I couldn’t have done well without it.”

This Firecracker member used the platform to supplement their lectures and other primary sources of knowledge with the timely delivery of relevant, detail-oriented flashcard and case-style questions. If you are interested in learning how to organize a Firecracker study plan similar to this member’s, I’d highly recommend you check out this demonstration. The video is relevant to both M1 and M2 students interested in integrating Firecracker with their coursework and board exam preparation. If you have questions about setting up your Firecracker study plan or anything whatsoever, reach out to us at [email protected] and someone on our team can help you out!


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