USMLE Step 1: Start Early with Pastest’s Progressive System

Piyush Sharma, an MS3 from the Saint James University of Medicine, discusses the Pastest Progressive System and how it helps USMLE Step 1 candidates build on their foundation knowledge and start their revision prep early.

No matter how early you start studying for USMLE Step 1, I always hear students say they feel like they are running out of time during their dedicated (study period). There is always a notion of “I just wished I had an extra couple of days to get through something one more time.” Perhaps this is the true challenge of Step 1 — it is an exam that you never feel prepared for, and every answer is an educated guess.

With that being said, this is not an exam you can get lucky on. The predictive tests are accurate for a reason, the more work you put in, the higher the score. Students are beginning to study for the exam earlier these days and it’s a good strategy to apply to prepare for Step 1.

Pastest’s Progressive System helps students do just that. It is a system that focuses on learning fundamentals and then building your way up to being able to answer Step 1 questions, and the earlier you start, the quicker you will be able to master the concepts tested on Step 1.

Doing well in Step 1 requires an intricate balance of learning concepts, memorizing minute details and becoming familiar with the material.

How does Pastest’s Progressive System work?


Pastest Progressive System
Pyramid: Start with Basic Concepts and build knowledge to master Advanced USMLE style questions for each topic

Each topic comes with multiple patient cases forming a pyramid of questions that become increasingly more complex until you reach questions that are similar in difficulty to actual Step 1 questions. As you answer questions, you have an opportunity to make notes that you can later revise. The ability for students to start with basic science concepts and eventually master complex concepts through this pyramid of questions is what makes Pastest’s Progressive System a truly great resource to use.


The setup of the progressive system aids active learning — you can read a topic and answer related questions to the topic/disease. Often times students blindly go through Qbanks selecting the random mode and are being tested on concepts they have yet to learn. Building your way up from basic concepts and integrating other areas of medicine is a great way to master each topic.

Progressive System Cases

Learn content by specific topics that integrate many different subject areas

Given that Step 1 covers a wide variety of subjects, it’s great that the progressive system also covers many subjects — micro, anatomy and pharm are all incorporated into cases in addition to physiology and pathology. One added benefit of the progressive system, in addition to the fact that you can learn by disease/topic, is that you are integrating all relevant areas of medicine, providing an ability to constantly review areas such as micro or anatomy you have not been able to continuously revise — since Step 1 is so physio, pharm and path heavy and these areas take up most of our studying time.

The reason I find this most helpful is because, as you know, there are several different areas — anatomy, micro, pharm, immuno, physio, path, epidemiology, embryology covered on USMLE. I find most students dedicate time learning each area individually, and while we are reviewing pathology we often fail to focus on our anatomy or micro, as a result we are forced to revise each area over and over again until we are able to revise all subjects in a short amount of time.

Pastest USMLE Step 1 Qbank
Various different areas that can be integrated into the topic of Anemia


In addition to their Progressive System, Pastest has some great videos on YouTube and a USMLE Step 1 question bank. Referring to the topic videos reinforces concepts in each of the topic cases and is an excellent way to learn and reinforce concepts.

I used Pastest throughout my Step 1 prep before moving on to NBMES and USMLE WORLD. I found the explanations were solid and that it covered a wide range of topics. I especially think the questions on topics that are rare were beneficial. For instance, the explanation I got on Tyrosine Kinase Inhibitors and their resistance was a concept that I only found in Pastest’s Qbank.

If you’re looking to start preparing for Step 1 early and you are currently in Medical School, I think Pastest’s Progressive System is a great addition to your journey of becoming a gunner.

Study for USMLE Step 1 with Pastest subscriptions ranging from 3-24 months, or take our free 48-Hour trial of the entire resource now.





Piyush Sharma is a MS3 from the Saint James University of Medicine. She is originally from Toronto, Canada but living Chicago, Illinois. Piyush loves medicine and learning challenging concepts that keep her mind active. 

This blog is taken from an article that Piyush published on Medium.com.

Interested in finding out more about the USMLE Step 1 Exam? Check out our Step 1 Ultimate Guide for more information.
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