7 Tips to prepare for USMLE Step 1

Tips for USMLE Step 1

These tips are excellent if you are just starting your Step 1 Preparation.  these great tips for usmle Step 1  are shared by a Medical Graduate from USA Medical School.

Study Efficiently

Try to study efficiently so that you aren’t wasting too much time focusing on one subject and won’t feel as frustrated if you spend 3 months on one topic and forget everything that you previously studied. Spend 1 week at most reviewing each system. And the 2nd week should be spent on doing questions from that subject from UWorld, Kaplan Qbank AND USMLERx under tutor-mode. Stay disciplined about the 1 week rule to review and 1 week rule to do questions. Even if you are not finished reviewing everything within a week, move on to next subject after doing questions and just make a note of topics you didn’t finish covering.

Remember your goal is to do multiple reads, not learn every single detail about one concept so don’t waste your time on one topic. As you go through the material multiple times, within that 1 week of review during your subsequent reads, learn a little about the anatomy of each system, little bit about the embryology, etc. While anatomy is tested on Step 1, don’t spend TOO much time on learning anatomy except for what’s in First AID and neuroanatomy which is very high yield but its very basic and clinically oriented.

Don’t worry if you don’t remember everything

the first time around. No one remembers everything the first time. The first time around your goal should be to learn and understand broad concepts. After you go through the material multiple times, at least 4-6 times, you will start to finally remember things and you will automatically start picking up on certain associations and will integrate concepts which USMLE loves to do. And as you go through the material, the review will become quicker because you will remember facts and concepts.

For microbiology and immunology

I would start off your studying with learning microbiology first before any subject because it requires a lot of memorization. Focus ONLY on the pathogens listed in First AID. You DO NOT need to know any other pathogens. Every night read your notes from one broad category such as all the Gram negative bacteria. Next night, read up on Gram positive bacteria, subsequent night DNA enveloped viruses, etc. Keep doing this EVERY night and eventually after multiple reads you will have memorized all the pathogens. Know clinical presentation of each infectious disease because thats how they’ll present each question even when asking about general principles about microorganisms–you’ll be expected to be able to make the diagnosis and know which organism they are talking about either based on the most common causative organism or based on certain characteristics that they may mention in the question stem.


For biochemistry:

Most high yield thing you can do is learn the diseases and clinical presentation in metabolism. Know which enzymes are deficient, what these enzymes normally do, what normally regulates the enzyme, what substrate and product would be affected in the disease. 

For general pathology: Pathoma videos + Goljan audio are enough.

For systems:

I would actually try to study in a system-based approach. For example, for each system learn physiology, pathology and pharmacology first. Do this for the each of system: cardiovascular system, renal, respiratory, endocrine, gastrointestinal, heme-onc, reproductive, MSK, derm, neurology, pysch, etc. This will help you when you do questions because most qbanks are organized by system.

Systemic review

After you finish each system, review the Pathoma video and Goljan audio for that topic–so if you are studying renal, only watch renal videos and listen to renal audio and then listen to them again on the subsequent pass (i.e. when you go through the material again so that you have watched the videos and heard the audios multiple times as well). Read the First AID section on that topic and add anything that you learned into your First AID. Then do questions from at least UWorld, Kaplan Qbank, and USMLERx for that topic only in tutor mode, i.e. do only renal questions when studying renal. When you do questions try to learn the clinical presentation that the questions uses to test each topic. Don’t use questions to grade yourself–don’t worry about percentages in the beginning. Read First AID section AGAIN and add whatever you learned from the qbanks. 

Do NOT waste time trying to read textbooks or Kaplan books or watch Dr. Najeeb videos–they’re excellent resources but just aren’t the best use of time because students end up wasting time trying to read every Kaplan book for example and end up neglecting questions in the process.

USMLE Question Banks

Another point of advice about doing questions. Many students use qbanks incorrectly by worrying about percentages and what scores they’re getting on UWorld–I see this ALL the time. Students also make the mistake of waiting to the end to start doing questions–they want to save the questions until the end once they’ve learned everything. BIG mistake. Questions need to be done to complement your review. Questions should be used to 1. learn the clinical scenarios that are used to test each disease 2. pick up on patterns–the more questions you do, you’ll soon begin to pick up on these patterns and realize that certain concepts and associations of a disease are asked more often and these questions will go from initially being very difficult to becoming easy points on the actual exam. Doesn’t matter how many textbooks you memorize, if you don’t do questions properly you aren’t going to get a high score. 

Also, always keep in mind that USMLE is a standardized exam its not going to ask extremely minor details and even if it did almost all other test takers will probably get it wrong also and hence won’t be counted in the end.

2 replies
  1. Maria Smith
    Maria Smith says:

    USMLE consult has Qbanks for Steps 1 2 and 3 and has a choice for every practice exam whenther you wan to use FRED1 or FRED2 (the new interface for the step) and has almost three thousand questions!! It has the best explanations of any of the q-banks quoting text books and using the best up to date images from tones of sources. I have used all of the q-banks acceot USMLErx and this is by far the best.

  2. Sara John
    Sara John says:

    the content of the real thing is very similar to USMLE world, but I am certain I went over at least 6-7 questions that were almost exactly as ones I had on USMLE world, save for simple differences in the wording and options.


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