USMLE Step 2 CK experience as IMG

USMLE Step 2 CK experience as IMG

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Hello everyone,

I recently took USMLE step 2 CK. I scored 270 Alhumdulillah!

I am writing this article to share my USMLE step 2 CK experience.

I am an international medical graduate from Pakistan. I took USMLE Step 2 CK after step 1. Doing step 1 before CK was definitely helpful. I will try to cover all the resources and details I went through during my preparation. I hope you find this article helpful.

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  • Uworld First round- 79.5%
  • NBME 6 online- 271 (5 weeks left)
  • Uworld Second round (40 percent)- 94.5%
  • UWSA 1 online- 272 (4 weeks left)
  • NBME 8 online- 252 (2 weeks left)
  • NBME 7 online- 265 (1 week left)
  • UWSA 2 online- 265 (2 days left)

Real deal- 270 (November 26, 2019)


  • Uworld step 2 CK
  • Uworld step 3
  • NBME CMS forms
  • UpToDate
  • NBMEs
  • Online research
  • First aid step 1
  • Amboss biostats

I used UWORLD as a sole resource. I was skeptical of using only Uworld initially. So I tried Step up to medicine at the start but it was not worth it. I also used MTB3 for certain pediatrics and OB/GYN topics but in my opinion, it was not necessary. Uworld covers almost everything and if you have done step 1 already and you want to review anything from the book then use first aid step 1 it is better than using step 2 CK books.

I supplement everything that I could not understand by generous online research. I did use UpToDate during phase 2 of my preparation.

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I divided my preparation into three phases:-

  • Phase 1 ? UWorld first round and first review (8?10 weeks)

I started doing Uworld in a systematic and timed mode. I made my own Uworld notes during this time by taking flashcards screenshots. I did not like reading from someone else?s notes. I supplemented these notes with whatever I found new by online research. I used to give a quick review from First aid step 1 of whatever system I was doing.

Memorize Uworld properly. I cannot stress this enough. If you are making notes out of it do not forget to include the notes from wrong option explanations. Honestly speaking, I did a couple of questions right in the actual exam because I remembered some of the wrong options that had enough information to pick the disease.

Taking Uworld notes during this phase seemed to be very time consuming but it was totally worth it in the end. These notes were a lifesaver.

  • Phase 2 ? Second review and Uworld second round (8 weeks)

After I was done with one whole Uworld. I started reviewing Uworld flashcards that I saved during the first round. I did not start doing the second round of Uworld questions yet. This was the most score decisive phase in my preparation.

I supplemented UpToDate during this phase. You have to use UpToDate smartly cause it has too much information to absorb. I mainly read summaries, used algorithms. UpToDate algorithms are gold if you use them properly.

I did NBME CMS and Uworld step 3 with each corresponding system. I did not use them as a learning tool instead I used these two resources as a practice and assessment tool. I used to do 4 CMS forms back to back in 4 hours and then the next day I would do the Uworld step 3 all system questions in a row, for example:- 160 questions cardiology and then I would skim through the explanations after I was done with all the questions. I added new information in my notes from Uworld step 3.

I would suggest doing all CMS forms especially the newer ones. They have all the out of the blue questions that you will encounter in the real exam. I hadn?t money to buy the new forms but some people were nice enough to post the only out of the blue questions from newer CMS on facebook USMLE forum. I used to see these questions every now and then.

Doing Uwolrd step 3 opened my mind to think out of the box. Particularly it had high-end biostats drug ads and abstracts. These questions trained my mind to keep calm while encountering the difficult questions.

Uworld step 2 CK biostats is a poor resource since all the questions are repeated from UW bio-stats review and step 1 Uworld.

After reviewing all the systems from my notes I took NBME 6 and got 271. It was reassuring but over-predictive at the same time.

So, to summarize after I was done with Uworld notes, Uworld step 3, CMS, UpToDate and NBME 6

I started doing Uwolrd step 2 CK questions second round to what I call ?UWORLD Marathon?

I call it UWORLD marathon because I did it within a week i.e 10 blocks in a day to mock the real exam.

In my opinion, doing Uworld again, in the same manner, as you did it before is a waste of time. Use it as a pure assessment tool. Mimic it as you are doing the real exam. It will build your focus stamina and you will recognize lots of weaknesses like when to take a break, when do you lose your concentration, etc.

After the second round of Uworld I took UWSA 1 and got 272. I thought both UWSA1 and NBME 6 are the easier ones so both of them are over-predictive.

  • Phase 3 ? Third review and NBMEs (4 weeks)

I booked the exam date on November 26th and started reviewing everything again. Now I had my notes that were extracted from multiple sources i.e UW step 2, UW step 3, Online research, UpToDate algorithms. See at this point I did not have to worry about adding a new resource. The notes you make really pay off during the dedicated period.

The biggest concern for me during my second review was, how to retain all this information. So I found a new way to keep everything fresh in my mind. I made sticky notes of everything that was easy to forget and pasted on a wall in my room. I reviewed these sticky notes every day if not every note then at least one row of them. I made these sticky notes a ritual every morning the first thing I did was to review these notes.

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During this phase, I took NBME 8 and got 252. I was sleep-deprived and distracted. After getting a nosedive in the score I was devastated. But I did not lose hope. I used this low score as fuel to work harder.

I took NBME 7 a week before the exam and got 265 and then UWSA 2, two days before the exam and again got 265. I was concerned with getting stuck at one figure but I did not hang up in that thought since my exam was just 2 days away.

I reviewed EKGs, heart sounds, imaging, and genetic diseases during the last two days.

I shut down studying at 8 pm and relaxed. Slept at 10 pm and woke up at 6 am sharp. I was lucky to get a good night?s sleep since sleep is the most important thing for exam day performance.

Exam day experience

Well, I got the adrenaline rush during the exam. The real exam is long mentally tiring but as compared to mock exams, you know inside that this is the real thing so you get lots of energy even until the last block.

I was kind of worried about time management because you have to save some time for the drug ads and abstracts but the real exam questions are not that long. The question stems were moderate I would say a mix of UWORLD and NBME questions. They were not too long like Uworld and not too short like NBME.

I was able to save at least 2?3 minutes at the end to review the marked questions.

There were 6?7 out of the blue, silly vignettes that I did not know what to answer but I used my best judgment.

In the end, the outcome depends upon your hard work, exam day performance and luck.

But always remember you have the potential to do everything and go beyond your limits as the great Rumi says

You were born with wings, why prefer to crawl through life?

If you need to ask anything please do not hesitate to contact me. Maybe I can help you!Thanks and Good luck!

SAAD [email protected]


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