United States Medical Licensing Examination

Three-step examination for medical licensure in the United States

Strategies for taking USMLE

When the test day arrives, here are some tips to help you approach the USMLE Step 1 with assurance that you will be successful:
  • Know how to get to the test site, and do a practice run. There is nothing worse than feeling rushed on the morning of the test.
  • Get to the test site at least 30 minutes early, and be sure to have a current picture ID with your signature, along with a printed copy of your scheduling permit.
  • Bring a lunch, snack, and ear plugs.
  • Answer every question. Wrong answers do not count against you.
  • Think of the exam as seven mini-tests — that is, seven blocks of 44 questions each.
  • Focus solely on the block you are in, complete it, clear your mind, and move to the next block.
  • Be sure you have checked all the questions in a block before hitting “end.” Once a block is ended, you cannot re-enter it to review your answers.
  • Gain extra break time by skipping the optional 15-minute tutorial. At this point, you should be so familiar with how the test works that you won’t need the tutorial — but an extra break will be welcome.
  • Decide your plan for breaks ahead of time, and practice the strategy. For example, you could try the following plan:
  • Complete two blocks
  • Take a 10-minute stretch/bathroom break
  • Complete two blocks
  • Take a 30-minute lunch break
  • Complete two blocks
  • Take a 10-minute stretch/bathroom/snack break
  • Complete one block
Or you could decide to complete four blocks, take a quick lunch break, and return to complete the final three blocks. Whatever strategy you choose, perform it over and over on practice tests to simulate the real test environment and train your body to become accustomed to the challenge of a long test day.
Get a great night’s sleep the night before the exam. Anecdotally, students and admissions counselors report that this night of sleep is one of the most important (and easily accomplished) steps you can take to enhance test performance.
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