5 Tips for Developing a USMLE Step 1 Study Plan

USMLE Step 1 study plan

Step 1 of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (or USMLE) covers all preclinical topics taught in medical school, from DNA replication to the details of disorders like ulcerative colitis and diabetes. Depending on your school’s curriculum, you may take this test anywhere between completion of your preclinical requirements and graduation, with the majority of schools offering a “dedicated” study period in which to review after wrapping up preclinical classes. No matter when you plan to take Step 1, however, one thing is clear: there is a lot to go over, and you probably do not feel like you have enough time to cover everything. Developing a reasonable study plan as you head into your dedicated study period can help reduce Step 1 preparation from an impossible task to one that seems difficult, yet doable. Studying for Step 1 will never be easy, but these five tips can make it more manageable:

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What Really Matters When Choosing Your Medical School

choosing your medical school

Many students don’t realize that residency match should be top of mind when choosing their medical school. Even though residency is several years away, your time spent as a medical student will determine the fate of your residency. This is because residency directors have various criteria that they look for in their future residents, and this criteria comes from specific factors acquired in medical school.

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QBanks Before Step 1: Bomb the Questions, Ace the Test

Here’s a scenario I am asked about a lot: It’s a month before Step 1 and a student is doing lousy on UWorld questions. Or sometimes a student tells me they just took a NBME practice test and dropped from their previous score. Step 1 is getting closer and panic sets in. What should the student do? Bump their test date out a few weeks? Find a new resource? Maybe just quit medicine all together?

This scenario happens to everyone to some degree as Step 1 nears. And although the panic reaction is understandable, poor performance on practice questions before Step 1 is actually a very good thing in many cases. There are three important reasons not to worry too much about wrong answers to practice questions, which I will explain in this post.

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5 Study Tips for the USMLE Step 1

1. Set a goal
As the saying goes, “being begin with the end in mind.” Before you begin preparing for the USMLE Step 1, you should consider where you are with your knowledge base and your score, as well as what your goal target score is. To determine where you are starting from, you should take a practice test. Online prediction calculators use your scores on question banks and the USMLE practice test to estimate how you will do on the actual Step 1 exam.
When setting a goal, consider that 192 is currently the minimum passing score for USMLE Step 1, and 229 was the national average in 2014 (the most recent year for which data is available). However, depending on the specialty into which you desire to match, you may have to aim for a significantly higher score. If you’re not sure what specialty you want to pursue, you’ll want to score as high as possible, though you probably want to do that anyway. This is a table summarizing average USMLE Step 1 scores by specialty in the 2014 Match.

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How to Succeed in Physiology: The Course, Step 1, and Beyond

how to succeed in physiology

Physiology is different! If you’re in the midst of learning physiology, either in a traditional or systems course, you’ve noticed that it feels different from biochemistry and anatomy. There are several reasons. First, the stakes are high, as physiology is inextricably the basis for medicine; learning physiology has long-lasting, downstream consequences for understanding pathophysiology and clinical medicine. And physiology is the underpinning for Step 1, so learning it well in your courses is essential. Second, physiology cannot be memorized (and you’re good memorizers!). Physiology must be understood, and understanding can’t be rushed. You’re learning concepts and principles, rather than isolated facts, and you’re challenged by the hierarchy of concepts, interconnections, and recurring themes. Last and oh so important, you must make peace with graphs, equations, and calculations, since they are the language of physiology. Rather than concede up front that “I don’t do graphs,” it’s best to find a system for translating the mathematical side of physiology into something intuitive that speaks to you!

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Opinion Column: A fundamental flaw in the USMLE exams

There exists a fundamental flaw in the USMLE exams – applicants who pass the exam cannot retake the exam. This means that applicants who score poorly in the exams are prevented from applying to competitive specialties and in some cases even from practicing as a doctor in the US. Why does the USMLE not allow candidates to rewrite exams to improve scores? To understand this, we have to delve into the purpose of USMLE.
The United States Medical Licensing Examination or USMLE as it is popularly known, is a critical set of exams that medical students and graduates must pass before they can practice medicine in the US. The USMLE is a multi-part exhaustive evaluation of a physician’s ability to apply knowledge, concepts, and principles, and to determine fundamental patient-centered skills that are important in health and disease and that constitute the basis of safe and effective patient care. It is highly regarded not just in the US, but also in various other countries around the world. So much so that one can use the USMLE in lieu of that country’s exams.

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