Five Study Tips To Prepare For USMLE Step 1


By now you are probably knee-deep in textbooks and study guides, preparing to showcase your mastery of scientific processes for the USMLE Step 1. You may have already gotten an idea of what to expect from the exam by talking to a few 4th year students, or taken a stab at one of the most commonly missed exam questions from Kaplan’s USMLE Qbank- you can find a recent question here. No matter your technique, here are a few fail proof tips that will help you get the most out of your study sessions:

  1. Plan Your Resources

Earlier I mentioned the types of resources you may have started using, and whichever you have chosen offer their own unique benefits. But did you know that constantly looking in too many different places can actually cause you to get overwhelmed and unorganized?  Many students have found that creating a plan centering around one main Step 1 guidebook, and then creating a routine with supplemental Q-banks, study groups, videos, and flashcards helps them get the most out of each resource and their study time.

  1. Practice Makes Perfect

Spending hours reviewing patient cases does not greatly benefit you if you are not testing your knowledge of the principles involved. Medicine is not as cut and dry as mathematics for example, so the USMLE test questions are designed to make sure you understand the abstract processes that are being discussed. Practicing (even when you may not answer correctly the first time) will make you critically think about the concepts and think about different ways to approach the answer.

  1.  Start Early

Some medical schools give a two-month period where students can focus primarily on studying for the exam. Though this is definitely beneficial, if you can start applying certain aspects of what you learn in your courses to your exam, it will make you feel more prepared when the designated Step study time begins.

  1. First Aid to the Rescue

In a survey conducted by the University of Washington, it was found that 95% of medical school respondents recommended using First Aid Step 1. It covers much of the material that you will learn during your 1st and 2nd year of medical school, of course with a focus on what will be relevant to your exam. Grabbing this book early on will be a great help.

  1. Focus on Strengths and Weaknesses

Now usually people will tell you to focus on one or the other, but when it comes to the USMLE it is better to identify both your test-taking strengths and weaknesses. When it comes to what type of learner you are, focus on your strengths. For example, if you are a visual learner implement more usage of flashcards and drawing of diagrams to understand how concepts work together. On the other hand, knowing your weaknesses come in to play when deciding what material to spend more time on studying. Many students have found that their scores were representative of their skill level in that course, so if you know that you are lacking in your mastery of microbiology then devote more time there.

Sierra Kennedy
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