Experiencing The USMLE STEP 1

I am very happy. I just received my IMG score. I wanted to give my advice, the advice that I wished I had received before I began studying for the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). But this is the rough outline of the way I would prepare for the exam.

1. You will require three to six months preparation time depending on your current level of your studies. If you know your pharmacology, pathology and microbiology, then three months should be sufficient. If not then you’d need nearer to six months. You would need lesser time if you are going to medical school in the United States.

2. Start by going through the A rated books on FA (physiology, BRS pathology etc.) Ensure that you understand everything; when I say “understand”, I really mean “understand”. This examination really tests your understanding. Just learning the facts is not sufficient.

3. As you study and understand each subject –

  1. Annotate your First Aid book so that you can understand every fact in it clearly. On its own, first aid is not interesting and unless you read it over and over again during the last two to four weeks you cannot prepare for the exam efficiently. You should be so familiar with the subject that you should be able to review it completely in just one day.
  2. The record of all the topics given at the beginning of each of the chapters is of great use it is advisable to cover all of them at the very first time that you read it.
  3. Make a note of those subjects that seem to be theoretically difficult. This will be helpful when you revise  so that you can go straight to the topic. It is important as revising for this exam is tiresome and boring. When you revise, do the difficult subjects first so that at the end of the day you can concentrate on the easier subject. It is difficult to read about epilepsy management, anti-cancer drugs and renal pathology when you are tired.
  4. See that you are strong in those areas in first aid that are important – microbiology, endocrinology, autonomic pharmacology etc.

4. Once you have finished reading all the subjects, I would attempt all the Board Simulator questions and or the medrevu.com questions, subject by subject. This will reinforce your knowledge. As far as I am concerned, these questions are good for teaching purposes by not good from the point of view of the exams as they are too choosy. You should do it only because the analysis of your answers is automatic.

5. If you have finished the medrevu.com questions then you should check out those areas in which you are weak. No point in doing a repeat on those subjects that you are well versed in. Focus on the subjects that you are weak in. Use the results of your medrevu.com analysis of your answers and the notes that I told you to make previously. This is more essential, especially if you happen to be weak in those subjects that will give you a better score. Don’t waste your precious time on subjects in which you will probably get only one question, the one question that you’ll probably get wrong. Some four months would have gone past by the time you get to this point. From this point onwards use “kaplan qbank” and shift your focus to all areas. That should leave you some two more months to prepare. Read a couple of subjects more for the next three days or so, for example, behavioral science and microbiology and then repeat the qbank questions. Do this again and again until you have completed all the subjects and all the questions in qbank. This should take another month. Leave the last month for a complete review, concentrating on the weak areas. You should be able to review FA in a day with the exception of pathology, perhaps.

Some General Points For Study : Learn the subjects from a clinical angle. You have to be strong in pathology because one of USMLE’s favorite question id to ask you to describe a disease and then quiz you about its immunology, pharmacology, microbiology etc. If you haven’t studied your pathology, you’re bound to get stuck. No point in looking up the previous questions that have been asked or the question that others have been asked. They are all different. FA is a better guide. And don’t go about comparing your scores with those of others; your standard of preparation will be different from theirs. Focus on your scores and they will gradually rise to the place where you want them to be. Do your practice questions a couple of weeks before the actual examination so that you will have time to rectify your mistakes.

Make an attempt to score some 70% and above in realistic examination standard questions. Kaplan simulated USMLE exam CDs would be the best for practice. Though there is no guarantee to success, scoring 70% in the Random Tests should do the trick. To my opinion, anatomy is the least important simply because there is so much to study. Keep in mind that each individuals exam is different and everyone gets a bombshell to blast them out of the exams. Frankly, mine was in molecular biology. So many questions! If there is any subject that you intend to gloss over, make it anatomy. From what I can make out, that is the subject that is not likely to come up with many questions. There is also ne necessity to look at too many slides in histopathology. You can make out most of the histopathology slides just by looking at them.

What I am now imparting to you is an improved version of the study methodology that I followed. I did not prepare as well as I have advised you to. Make alterations to this pattern of study to suit your temperament and your time schedule. But on the whole I believe this will be useful. That is Understand FA. Answer a lot of test questions. Put your focus on weak areas! Do Not Give Up!

The scores that you should aim are :

ü  Qbank 69% (a month prior to the real exam)

ü  USMLE CD    39 to 45%

ü  Kaplan Simulator CD 73% ( a week prior to the actual exam)

ü  Books to read up : BRS Pathology / Physiology / Behavioral Sciences(BRS pathology is the best), Microbiology Made Simple(the best), Lippincott’s Biochemistry, Pharmacology, Immunology and FA for all subjects.

If I think of anything else, I’ll post it. Bye for now and Good Luck.


see also


10 steps to USMLE Step 1

USMLE Step 1 Tips

7 reasons make you fail in usmle step 1

how to study for usmle step 1 exam

USMLE Step 1 exam misconceptions

One thought on “Experiencing The USMLE STEP 1

  1. robert

    If I know your pharmacology, pathology and microbiology, then three months should be sufficient. should i do kaplan books? its just i dont like kaplan


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