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UFAPS: The How and the Why You Should be Using these


You have heard of UFAPS before, and honestly its why you are on this page right? You are looking for the best way to prep for your USMLE and/or COMLEX, and you have heard that this is a great method.

Or maybe you have heard that the resources that make up UFAPS are the key to scoring good.

This article will teach you what these resources are, and how to use them.

Lets do it!

What does UFAPS Stand for

  • U: Uworld
  • FA: First Aid
  • P: Pathoma
  • S: Sketchy

These are the big board prep companies out there when it comes to prepping for the COMLEX and USMLE.

Each one is super useful in its own way, and honestly they combine to complete your prep, and by going through each one you are bound to get a great score on your tests.

Lets break down each one.

Uworld: The “U” in UFAPS

This is the cornerstone to board prep. Having a solid plan for using UWorld is what helped me get >250 on both the USMLE step 1 and step 2 CK, and >700 on both COMLEX exams.

UWorld is one of the leading question banks, and even the pre-meds know about the importance of this board prep resource. It has a great reputation and that is for good reason.


So, how should you use Uworld to get a great score?

Lets break that down a bit.

How many questions should you do every day?

This is a common question that most students have. It really depends on where you’re at in your prep. If you are early on in prepping then you can get away with less questions overall.

Lets say, you are early to mid second year. You can easily get away with doing around 10-15 questions per day.

This will start to get you used to the questions and even more important you start to understand the level of information and the detail that is needed to get questions right.

Now, as you get further in your prep, say about 4 months out from your testing date, then you need to ramp it up.

During the second half of second year you should be shooting for 20-25 qustions per day. Then, as you are 2 months out that should be bumped up to 40 questions per day.

The goal is to do more and more questions. The more you do, the better off you will be. Practice questions are hands down the best way to get ready for your exams.

A common question for you DO students out there, is if you should use a COMLEX specific Q-Bank. The answer is yes (but not in place of UWorld). And for more info, check out this article.

Random or subject specific?

This is also very dependent on where you are at in your testing prep. If you are early on then sometimes, doing subject specific questions can be helpful.

It is typically best for you to avoid subject specific, because it leads to knowing that a particular question will be about say, cardiology for example. So you are already in the mindset of answering that topic, which can make it easier to get questions right.

Early on in your prep, if you are studying a given topic, it may be helpful to do your questions in subject specific mode.

Later on in your prep, you should focus on doing questions in random mode. This simulates the test closer and ultimately will prepare you for test day a lot better than subject specific will.

That is the goal right? To get ready for test day.

So, with subject specific vs random, start with subject specific then change to random the closer your test gets.

Tutor or time/test mode?

You guessed it, this is going to depend on what point you are at in your prep as well.

Early on,  do our questions in tutor mode. This is really good for learning and will cement the ideas deep in your brain.

Then as you get closer to test day, move to timed/test mode. Once again,

This is in effort to always be getting ready for your test. Early on, you learn and later on the focus is on getting ready for the exam.

You see, using practice questions to mimic the real deal keeps you focused on the goal, and continually prepping.

Should you do UWorld twice?

If you have time. The value is still there in doing it twice even though you will have seen all the questions once.

By the time you go through the entire Q-Bank, you will have forgotten some of the questions for sure, so going through them again means you can treat it like a test.

You can use the second pass, since it will be close to test day to create 40 question blocks and treat those blocks like mini practice tests.

The entire second pass of UWorld that I did was focused on just that, doing them in 40 question blocks and doing 3 blocks in a row, to simulate testing day.

You can check out this full article on how to use questions to score high on the USMLE and COMLEX.

First Aid: The FA in UFAPS

No, not the act of first aid, this is the book called First Aid for the USMLE Step 1.

This is a book full of all of the high points and important topics that you will need to know for the USMLE Step 1 and COMLEX Level 1.

So, what are the best ways to use this book?

A lot of students say, read it cover to cover and just memorize it and you will be good to go.

Please, don’t do that.

Here is a simple and effective way to use First Aid for the USMLE Step 1.

Don’t just read it

Alright, lets squash this idea now. First Aid is a great book, but it is a bulletpoint list basically with very minimal explanations of the topics about the information that you need to know.

Have you ever tried to read and study from bullet points without any context? It can be tough to remember the details you need to know.

How you should use First Aid

When you do questions, after you finish one and are reading through the answer explanation that all questions have.

Pull out your copy of First Aid and flip to the page that has the same topic you just read in the answer explanation.

Read over that entire page in First Aid, then add any of the pertinent stuff from the question explanation right onto the page with the same topic, and read that page again with the new information on it.

Why do it this way?

Repetition is key to learning, but so is the context.

Just doing flashcards would help you memorize the small topic, but doing it the way I described above creates repetition, but it also places that topic into the context of a question.

Then, add on the fact that you are actively searching for information in the answer explanation that will add value to the topic and essentially fill in the gaps that First Aid has.

Do this with every single question you do. Overtime, the pages of First Aid will become filled with annotations from UWorld, which honestly will fill in all the gaps, make it so you read First Aid (cause everyone wants to for some reason), and then you have a high yield book that you can go over your weaknesses with in an efficient and effective way.

Pathoma: The “P” in UFAPS

What is Pathoma

This is a series of videos and there is a summary book available that is all about the highest yield pathology topics for your USMLE and COMLEX.

Why is Pathoma useful

Pathology is the meat of the COMLEX and USMLE exams. This is the disease process of the body. Basically, why happens when someone is sick or has a disease, so I am sure you can tell this is basically what being a doctor is made of.

Pathology is the most tested topic on your board exams, and for very good reason.

How to use Pathoma

Use it early and use it often. The best time to use Pathoma, and many other board prep resources is going to be during classes.

Using this early and often is important because:

It helps you get familiar with the resource

You learn the important topics during your schools curriculum

It is another person explaining the topic, that isn’t your professor

Getting familiar with Pathoma

Using this great resource early helps you know what is in the book and video series. This is such a high yield and useful resource and it will be so valuable to you in knowing what is in it and where it is at.

One great reason for getting familiar with it and using it early is to annotate the videos into the summary book you can purchase with the course.

The videos can be long, so annotating summary points and extra details from them into the book can make it so your studying can be done quicker and more efficiently by reviewing the book time and time again as opposed to the videos every single time.

The book is a very bare bones review of the videos, so follow along with the videos and make sure you annotate the extra details you need to know the topic in detail into your book.

Overall recommendation on Pathoma

This is a fantastic resource, and if you want to learn all you can to be a good doctor and score well on your exams, then you should be using Pathoma, early and often.

Go, get yourself some Pathoma.

Sketchy: The “S” in UFAPS

The last part of the UFAPS acronym.

Sketchy is a illustrative and narrative memory hook video series.

They initially started out as a way to remember microbiology, and were called Sketchy Micro. This was ground breaking becsue there are so many details to remember for microbiology, and these videos help you remember all the little details.

What is Sketchy

As briefly mentioned above, this is a video series that is animated and narrated to help you remember all the details about, pharmacology, microbiology, and pathology.

It initially started as just a resource for micro, but soon grew into pharmacology then most recently pathology.

Sketchy chooses certain topics and there is an artist that has drawn out a picture. They walk you through the drawing process and super impose a narrated story on top of the drawing process to explain the drawing.

It is an incredible way to help you remember all the details about certain topics.

Check out their website here.

How to use Sketchy

Using Sketchy, helps you to remember topics very well. The trouble is that it just leads to memorization of a funny story, and while that helps you get more test points right, it doesn’t make a huge difference when it come to your actuall medical knowledge.

Especially when it comes to pharmacology, I say learn first by reading and practice questions, then use sketchy to help you remember the finer details.

So, use it after you go through the learning process by reading and doing questions, this way you build a great foundation and then use the memory hooks that Sketchy built to own your tests.


Bonus section for the DO students

Many DO students want to know about OMM resources and if they need a COMLEX specific Q-Bank.

As far as OMM resources go here is a list:

You should absolutely use a COMLEX specific Q-bank, but not in place of UWorld, it should be used in addition to it.

I highly recommend COMQUEST, and you can get a 15% discount by using the code “SEAN15” at checkout.

Concluding this UFAPS discussion

When it comes to prepping for the COMLEX and USMLE, the UFAPS approach is by far the best. Using these resources will make all the difference in your board prep.

If you use them early and often as outline above, then you will be well on your way to owning your exams and more importantly, becoming a great physician.

Related FAQ’s

How do I study for Step 1 Dedicated?

There are so many components to studying during your dedicated period.

You should have a plan, a schedule, and most importantly make sure that includes doing questions.

Check out this write up on how I scored >250 on the USMLE Step 1.

How do you use Pathoma for Step 1?

A great method is to watch the videos and then annotate the extra details from the videos into the book.

The book is great, but it does lack a lot of the details. Annotating the details from the videos not only helps you pay attention to the videos, it puts the important details in the book, and that makes it so you can study faster the next time you do a pass of Pathoma.

Can you do well on Step without Anki?

Absolutely. I didn’t use Anki, and I scored >91st percentile on the Step 1 and Step 2 CK.

Is First Aid and Pathoma Enough?

No, these are the bare bones. You should be making questions the center of your board prep and then supplementing with FA and Pathoma to increase your fund of knowledge.

Make sure you do practice questions, and a lot of them.

Is Uworld harder than Usmle?

In all honesty, it is about the same in terms of difficulty. UWorld and Usmle have so many details in common, that you can bet if you are scoring well on UWorld and on USWA’s then you will be well equipped to do well on the Usmle as well.

I hope this has been helpful

Thanks for reading


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