Study for the USMLE Step 1 exam

This three-step examination will asses a physician’s ability to apply the required knowledge, principles and skills to provide effective patient care. The USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Examination) requires daily commitment in preparation of the Step 1 exam, after which a successful candidate will enter the third year of medical school. To get to that point, here are 5 simple tips to follow.

5 tips to study for the USMLE Step 1 exam


1. Prepare yourself

The test will require you to study well in advance, but you’ve essentially laid the groundwork in your first and second year by actively engaging with medicine. Dedicated study time for the USMLE Step 1 should begin two to three months prior to taking the exam, but it’s important not to burn out. Balance your study time with activities that encourage relaxation, such as exercise, or spending time with friends. It’s fine to take a day or two off from studying as a way to re-boot.

2. Harness speed-reading skills

The USMLE Step 1 exam provides you with around 90 seconds to answer each question. This might seem an insurmountable task, but it can be done. You just need to prepare. One technique is to speed read the narration, then read through the question carefully. Then you can go back over the narration, reading with comprehension to formulate the answer.

3. Practice experimental questions

Concepts of enzyme receptors and pharmacologic mechanisms of action will often be asked in the form of an experimental question. This encourages you to show a fundamental comprehension of these concepts, so it’s important to practice this question construct thoroughly ahead of the exam.  There are several USMLE Step 1 exam question banks available online that you can use for exam preparation.

4. Check for distractor answers

Another popular question construction in the USMLE Step 1 is the distractor– where an incorrect answer is seemingly correct. To identify a distractor, it’s important to look out for their characteristics:

  • Close to perfect: Distractors are just almost correct, but one aspect will be slightly off.
  • Believable: You will need to know the topic thoroughly to identify the distractor as they might appear to be true.

Distractors make studying that much more important. If you’re armed with a thorough grounding in the content, you won’t be tripped up by these distractors.

5. Join a membership review revision site

To make your studying experience as hassle-free as possible, the best course of action is to join a site that offers comprehensive USMLE Step 1 revisions and reviews.  Experts in the medical field have formulated USMLE Step 1 review courses, resources and multiple-choice questions to give you expansive practice, as well as thorough explanations for each. Experienced tutors can also provide valuable one-on-one USMLE Step 1 coaching, with member-only forums providing a platform to engage on medical-relevant topics. These reviews emulate the actual USMLE Step 1 exam formula and question construction, so you can be assured you’re completely prepared when it’s time for the real thing.

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