USMLE Step 1: Utilizing Picmonic and Kaplan’s High Yield

Now that I can breathe, look over my shoulder and see the behemoth otherwise known as STEP 1 behind me I think it is only fitting that I offer some advice to students on their own journey.

Just as with many other students I saw the monumental tower of information somewhat overshadowing any chance of happiness until after the exam. For STEP 1 review, my school provided online access to the Kaplan video series as well as Kaplan Qbank.

Day 1 of my review was a Monday. I opened the first Kaplan book and began watching the videos while following along, just as Kaplan had intended for student success.  As I worked through several videos, I would stop and open Picmonic. I would search and create a playlist with the Picmonics that were relevant to the Kaplan video I just viewed. When I felt like my brain needed to relax between videos I would sit back, learn, and review the playlist of relevant Picmonics.

Any Picmonics I added to the my playlist on day one ended up being called “Monday-Playlist.”

At the end of each day I would then review any notes from the Kaplan videos that I had made as well as review the Picmonic playlist I had created.

Kaplan and Picmonic

Each day of the week ended up getting its own Picmonic playlist and corresponding Kaplan notes. During the course of my 6 week Kaplan video review I reviewed these materials each day. Each Monday I reviewed my Picmonic “Monday-Playlist” and on Tuesday my “Tuesday-Playlist” and so on.

After finishing the Kaplan video series I began practicing questions with the same frame of mind. I continued watching my set of Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday Picmonic playlists but found myself skipping many of them because I was able to recall the information before the Picmonic even finished. I probably found this even easier due to the fact that I was using Picmonic during my regular coursework in school.

I still feel like I can sit down and draw Methimazole at a moment’s notice. Even though it would be a stick figure “Moth Missile” the images are solid in my memory.

As I would review practice blocks of questions, I was able to create a consolidated playlist of Picmonics in my final review stages which I dubbed “Needs Improvement.” I forced myself to watch this list of about 80 items as often as possible and removed them one by one as I mastered them.  I also found myself watching my “Day” Picmonic playlists but was able to go through them at a rapid pace because I could talk through the image faster than the audio track provided by Picmonic.

Overall I feel as if Kaplan gave me the most thorough review and understanding of my weakest points and then I was able to maximize my recall of information by using Picmonic.

Luckily, I was able to have early access to the “Create and Share” feature of Picmonic that let me pen my own creations to fill in any gaps on topic areas I was exceptionally weak in, like some of those embryological structures and their derivatives. I mean, who likes memorizing those anyway?

Create and Share

When I sat down on my exam day I felt like I had a bit of an edge. What’s the edge you ask? Firstly… Know the concepts. Know how things interact in the body. Kaplan helped me most with that. Secondly… Become a master at memorizing. Of course I was thrown tiny details and thanks to Picmonic I could keep the “Ant with Ties” (anti) and the “Nuns” (Non) categorized in my head.

Best of Luck,


Kendall Wyatt is currently a 3rd year Medical Student attending Avalon University SOM. He enjoys working on a multitude of projects integrating technology and medicine. Kendall aspires to be a serial entrepreneur using his past business experience as a Registered Nurse, Paramedic & technology consultant.

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