tips-for-passing-usmle-step-1

How to Pass USMLE Step 1: Top 5 Tips

The USMLE Step 1 exam is one of the most important examinations in a medical student’s quest for residency. Combining the knowledge and critical thinking accumulated within the first two years, this 8-hour exam not only challenges the mental strength of students but also their physical stamina to withstand long hours of testing. In essence, it serves to foreshadow the challenges that physicians face on a daily basis as they aim to keep themselves focused on providing quality care for their patients during long work hours.

The USMLE Step 1 exam is a marathon, not a sprint. Thus, it requires dedication and commitment on daily basis within the 2-3 months allotted in preparation for the exam.  You will spend a significant amount of your day studying and preparing for this exam.  As challenging as it may be, remember your 3rd year of medical school awaits, where you will finally be able to enter the clinical rotations and experience what you’ve wanted to do since the first day you started medical school.

As a 3rd year medical student having taken the exam, I hope that the following guidelines and suggestions may nurture your success.  It’s not an easy task and your life will change significantly within the time period you devote toward preparation.  Stay calm, focused, and collected. The USMLE Step 1 exam is the only thing standing between you and the wards.

  • Set Realistic Goals

    Every medical student will agree that practice for the exam is key and many may even say that the more questions you complete, the better prepared you will be. However, do not overwhelm yourself.  Practicing 100-200 questions a day with follow-up analysis is an acceptable amount and any more may result in tremendous fatigue.

  • For every 1 hour of studying/preparation, take a 10-minute break

    This will allow you to relax and recharge for the next hour of studying. During this break, avoid checking e-mail, going on Facebook, texting, etc. Close your eyes, breathe, go outside and take a short walk. It is important for your brain to rest at this time so that you are able to retain further information.

  • Forgo all hopes of being perfect.

    There is no such thing and it is impossible to know everything that is on the exam as you may be tested on minutia that is not covered in any review book.

  • Focus on high-yield topics first

    You will see the greatest amount of questions on these topics. Remember that every question is worth the same amount of points and you are not penalized for answering any questions incorrectly.

  • Change your study atmosphere.

    Remember that your classmates are going through the same process. They share the same insecurities and worries. It may be encouraging to go to the library and see others also working hard. You are never alone.