USMLE Step 1 Exam – Preparing For The Pathology Component Of The Exam

The USMLE Step 1 Exam is tough not only because the material is challenging, but because the sheer volume of information is mind-boggling. One of the most voluminous, if the most voluminous topic you have to master is Pathology. Pathology encompasses everything else you learn in medicine, so not only do you have to know the direct material you will learn in your path class, but you will have to remember every bit of Path from your other courses also.

Because the sheer volume makes mastering this topic challenging, I have outlined what I feel were the TOP 5 tips I was given when preparing for my own Step 1 exam as it relates to mastering the Pathology portion:

#1 – Use charts and diagrams

Charts that list major problems along with their features as well as diagrams doing the same thing are fantastic tools for turning a lot of information into more manageable chunks. Don’t be afraid to turn almost everything into a chart and/or diagram as long as it makes things more organized and easier for you to comprehend and master.

#2 – Start making notes from day 1 of class on all pathologies encountered

From the first day of medical school you will encounter pathologies, so figure out a way to make note of every single one. Whether you use a certain highlighting color or you jot it down into a separate book, make note of every pathology you see so that come USMLE prep time you’ll have it all in one convenient locations.

#3 – Link path and physio = pathophysiology

A large number of questions on the Step 1 exam will be related to pathophysiology processes, so do yourself a favor and be sure that you understand normal physiology very well, which will enable you to also understand any and all pathophysiology.

#4 – For similar pathologies, create a table noting major differences

Simply put, many things will present in a very similar fashion, so when it comes to these pathologies be sure you have a table that clearly states the major differences. This will enable you to quickly and easily identify the correct answers on your exam when they are thrown at you.

#5 – Find at least THREE pictures for all major pathologies

Whether it is an image of a cleft lip, a basal cell carcinoma, or a histological slide of Burkitt’s lymphoma, be sure to get at least three images of each pathology because often times they have slight differences, and if you have only seen it once then it can prove to be a major challenge for you to identify what you are looking at on your Step 1 exam.