Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Are you smarter than a med student?

Since every allopathic med student in this country must pass Step 1 in order to advance in their medical training, it stands to reason that the information tested on this exam must be somehow useful for being a doctor. Today I'd like to test that hypothesis by taking a few sample Step 1 questions I found online.

Believe it or not, I actually got a very respectable score on Step 1. I won't divulge my score, but it was good enough to warrant an email of congratulations from our dean, who also referred to it as a "respectable" score. So since I could do the questions back then, if the information were actually useful, it seems like I should be able to do the questions now... right?

OK, here we go, starting with biochem:

How many ATP are required to transform pyruvate into glucose?

A. 5
B. 6
C. 7
D. 8


OK, no idea about that one. But biochemistry wasn't my best subject. I was really good at anatomy. Let's try anatomy:

Which of the following is not a muscle identified in the rotator cuff?

A. Teres Major
B. Teres Minor
C. Infraspinatus
D. Supraspinatus

YES! I totally know this one. It's A. But then again, as a physiatrist, I damn well better know what makes up the rotator cuff.

All right, let's try physiology:

Which of the following is not an anterior pituitary gland secretion?

C. Vasopressin
D. Prolactin


Physiology isn't really all that practical though. Let's try microbiology:

Which of the following is the most important structure related to microbial attachment to cells?

A. Flagellum
B. Plasmid
C. Peptidoglycan
D. Glycocalix


All right, one more:

What cell type secrets surfactant?

A. Plasma cell
B. Type I alveolar cell
C. Type II alveolar cell
D. Type III alveolar cell

All right, enough of this.

My name is Dr. Fizzy and I am NOT smarter than a med student.

(Questions obtained from Test Prep Review)


  1. Crap. I got like 2 of these.

    My name is Rick, and after Step 1, I may no longer BE a med student.

  2. Vasopressin (ADH) is posterior pituitary, along with oxytocin (I think).

    Type II alveolar cell (pneumocyte) produce surfactants.


    Always hated biochem so don't know those pathways very well so not sure about ATP.

    Rotator cuff muscles I'm at least aware exist and roughly where they are relative to scapula which I consider good enough for now.

  3. This is a great post - just goes to show how irrelevant step 1 is!! Smh.

  4. Mr. Mobius: Ironically, I don't think I knew the rotator cuff muscles as a med student.

    Dr. G: That's what I was going for. That or I've been watching too much Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader.

    Oh yes, I should post answers: B, A, C, D, C

  5. Woot! 3 out of 5.

    Biochem...mostly useless.

    Anatomy...useful but I don't need to know shoulder anatomy so I have forgotten it.

  6. 4/5

    Not bad for not having thought about this thing in 2.5 years. Obviously I'm going to be an AWESOME dr.


  7. 4/5

    Though, my thought process on the 1st one was just pathetic. ("2! It's 2! ... Where's 2? Oh, right, there's 2 of them so it's 4... err.. OH! Gluconeogenesis, not glycolysis!")

    Ergh. I need coffee.

  8. 5/5, but feel sheepish that I had to guess on the first one. I majored in biochem, graduated with highest honors. Can barely remember how to draw pyruvate (tho' I do often apply other concepts I learned during college, so all is not lost).

  9. I can answer most of them, but really these are NOTHING like the questions I had on Step 1 in June. Much more similar to

  10. PGYx: I was a math major, so while I can't do these questions, I think I could still get 800 on the math SATs (maybe).

    Danielle: Maybe the message is that the above site isn't a great way to study for step 1.

  11. 3/5... and I took step 1 like 9 weeks ago and got one of the top scores in my class... but the real step one questions are thankfully more clinical.

  12. Alright, one week into medical school: 1/5 without Google. I got a better score if you count using a search engine.

  13. K8: Using a search engine is definitely cheating.

    I want to hear from some more residents and attendings. Seriously, how many of you have retained the number of ATP to turn pyruvate into glucose? And I'm pretty sure those who have ought to be ashamed :)

  14. 4/5, didn't even guess on the first one. Not bad for taking the step 1 in 1996, but I always guessed well.

  15. Three of five for this veterinarian. One point for a pure guess on the endocrinology though. My patients don't usually have rotator cuffs, so I'd really like to reduce it to being out of four questions instead. Too bad tests like these are as much about your test taking skills as they are about actually knowing anything.

  16. (4/5) - Hahah, I love this post. I'm going to start studying for this test and God help me I hope to do good.

    It's true that all these details are important, but it's more important what you get to do as a doctor that is to save lives, even if you don't remember "How many ATP are required to transform pyruvate into glucose?" =P.

    Beekay: Yes it does have different types of questions, include the basic sciences.

  17. I am a psychologist, and I got 3/5. Chance? Probably. If it's not chance, then I'm not sure what it means. Maybe it just means that there are some very basic sciences questions here, and I'm closer to those basic sciences for not having erased that information with information much more relevant to a medical career.


  18. 4/5 not bad for an ND student over a year after our step 1 exam (we call it the basic science boards).