USMLE® Step 2 CK Study Schedule

How, when, and what to study in order to ace the USMLE® Step 2 Clinical Knowledge exam

Start studying strategically

In the United States, most students take USMLE Step 2 CK and USMLE Step 2 CS after their third year of medical school, immediately after finishing their clinical rotations. This is because much of what is tested on Step 2 directly relates to what you learn during your rotations. But how do you efficiently study, when you’re in the midst of your rotations and Shelf exams? First of all, studying hard for your clinical rotations and for your subsequent Shelf exams can only help you here. Second, creating and sticking to a study schedule will help you, just like on Step 1. And third, utilizing versatile resources allows you to simplify your study routines and focus on the content you need to learn.

What to expect on the Step 2 CK Exam

On the USMLE Step 2 CK exam, you’ll encounter up to 320 questions over the course of your testing day. Traditional questions on the Step 2 CK exam are patient-centered clinical vignettes paired with multiple choice answers, with 3-26 answer options. These are single best answer questions, so while multiple answers may be partially correct, each question only has one best answer. The Step 2 CK exam also has another type of question: sequential items. In this case, a single patient-centered vignette may be associated with 2-3 consecutive questions about the information presented in the case. These questions are designed to be answered in sequential order; once you mark your answer choice and move to the next question, you will no longer be able to see the answers for or go back to the previous question in a sequential item set. It is always best to guess if you are not sure about an answer, as any unanswered question automatically counts as an incorrect answer. 

Your USMLE Step 2 CK Study Schedule

When preparing for any Step exam, you want to make sure that you’re not only reviewing the proper material, but that you are also using your time and study resources efficiently. We recommend preparing for the exam using a Qbank and the two-block scheduling system during your dedicated study. Elements of this can also be implemented (for example, one block) during the course of your rotations, and it is recommended to pick your rotations and vacation time that will allow you to maximize this time to also prepare for the Step 2 exam. 

Map out your timing and resources

The first step in creating a study schedule for dedicated Qbank-based study is figuring out how many days you have to study and how many Qbank questions you have left. For example, the Lecturio Qbank for Step 2 CK has about 2000 questions, and UWorld’s Step 2 CK Qbank has about 3000 questions available. As you’re planning this out, make sure to include some time to rest and review what you need to, as well as to do NBME practice exams throughout your dedicated study time (we recommend one per week to assess your progress). 

In addition to a Qbank (or two), you’ll also want to have access to high-yield video lectures (such as Lecturio’s) and a single reference text. For Step 2 CK, there is no “golden book” like First Aid® for Step 1 and Step 2 CS, but there are many good reference books out there – choose what is best for you.

Once you know about how many questions you should complete per day to fully review (we recommend two blocks of 40 questions during dedicated study, so 80 questions total), which resources you plan to use, and how many days you have for studying, you can get started! 

Plan your days

Some people are morning people, some people prefer to stay up later. The 2-block study system allows you to shift the timing of your blocks to fit your exact schedule. If you’re still in rotations, you’ll need to take time on your day off to focus on blocks, but can also slip a block in between shifts. The block includes an hour to complete 40 questions – test style – and then three hours to review the related material as needed. During dedicated especially, we recommend you sticking to a study plan like this:

Two-Block Study Schedule Example

6AMWake up
Do morning routine.
Block 1
Pick subjects as proposed by the schedule. Do questions in “test mode.”
Carefully read the answer explanations to the questions you answered. Consult your reference book and/or Lecturio videos to refine your knowledge.
Eat lunch and/or take a nap.
Block 2
Repeat the morning schedule’s study steps.
Break for exercise and/or dinner.
Review all materials covered during the day.
10PMGo to bed. Get a full eight hours of sleep.

Recognize this graphic from our Step 1 Study Schedule page? That’s not a coincidence – the same techniques can be applied to the USMLE Step 2 CK exam as well. 

Did this not work for you before or do you have other methods you’d prefer to use? You can easily modify your personal study schedule to fit your scheduling needs and study style; this is just a baseline for you to start with. 

Your #1 resource: the Lecturio Qbank 

Doing a Lecturio Qbank block in “tutor mode” provides detailed answer explanations and connects you to related videos and resources, including First Aid® page references so that you can study as you go. Doing a Lecturio Qbank block in “test mode” simulates your exam day experience, from the time pressure to the interface of the test itself. 

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