United States Medical Licensing Examination

Three-step examination for medical licensure in the United States

USMLE Preparation Strategies

Once you’ve decided whether you’re going to enroll in a prep course, and which question bank and books you’ll be using to study, you can also begin to practice the following preparation strategies:
  • Start preparing for the USMLE Step 1 the moment you set foot into medical school by using board books as you are taking courses in each subject. For example, while you are studying microbiology, review “Clinical Microbiology Made Ridiculously Simple.”
  • Before any official studying begins, make a schedule that includes breaks and time to eat, as well as days for taking full practice tests. If your schedule isn’t working, change it so you can get to all of these activities — each one is important!
  • Take a practice test early to see where you stand.
  • Complete as many practice questions as you can. Go through your question bank — then go through it again.
  • Be sure to do as many full-length practice tests as possible in a test-like setting to ensure you are finishing blocks in the allotted 60 minutes and preparing your body for a long test day. Prometric Test Centers allow you to take a USMLE practice test for a fee that ranges from $75 to $266, depending on where you are taking it. This practice session is worth every penny. Schedule it at least a month before your actual test date so you have adequate time to sharpen your skills if the test doesn’t go as you hoped.
  • Study what you don’t know. It’s easy to fall into the trap of studying the subjects you’re already confident in, but if you’ve mastered a subject, spend time focusing on areas in which you are struggling.
  • Study with a friend, and use humor and other potential mnemonics to help with memorization. Remember, the amygdala (emotion) is connected to the hippocampus (memory).
  • Take breaks in your study day. Get outside. Exercise.
If you are retaking the test, focus your preparation on the areas in which you did not excel. Fortunately, the score report from your previous test provides graphical performance profiles for each testing category that will allow you to see where you need the most work.
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