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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Board Preparation: Training for a Marathon, not a Sprint 

The first key to success on the boards is using practice questions to develop your “hunch reflex.” If you’re a second year medical student, “kinda-sorta” thinking about a certain test you’ll have to take in about six months, and you haven’t already begun using USMLE/COMLEX-style practice questions in your study, you should start now. Even if you’re just half way through first year, start incorporating the following advice into your study plan: questions, questions, questions!

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How to use a Pea Plant to Increase your USMLE, COMLEX, and Shelf Exam Scores

80/20 principle

Studying for the boards overwhelms most people. The sheer amount of information to know is … Read more

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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Exam preparation: More than just studying?

exam preparation

Do you know of a colleague who is extremely good at their job, yet cannot pass the professional exams required to ascend the career ladder? Or an exceptionally bright friend – who seems to fall apart during exam periods? Or do you yourself struggle when it comes to final assessments? I’m sure most of us are familiar with situations like this, as they are a very common occurrence. Failure to pass specialist exams in one’s field is not down to lack of intelligence or an inability to do the job. Rather, it is usually down to inadequate preparation for the examination.

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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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3 Ways to Prepare for the USMLE Step 1 Exam

The USMLE Step 1 exam is arguably one of the most important tests in a medical student’s career. While a student’s score on Step 1 is taken into consideration amongst many other factors, the score still plays a major role in determining a student’s competitiveness for residency in certain specialties. After all, once a student has applied to a specialty, his or her Step 1 score will partially determine which types of institutions he or she will have the opportunity to interview at. Below are three general strategies to help you prepare for the USMLE Step 1 exam:

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