Exam Details for USMLE Step 1

How USMLE Step 1 is organized:

The USMLE Step 1 is split into a variety of subdisciplines, similar to the curriculum of most medical schools. Within each subtopic, an attempt is made to test knowledge on “Normal Processes”, “Abnormal Processes”, Principles of Therapy” and “Psychosocial, cultural and environmental considerations” (as stated by the National Board of Medical Examinars on their USMLE Step 1 content page).

The basic disiciplines include topics in (the NBME uses different words to describe the topics, but the topics fall into these descriptions): biochemsitry and molecular biology, cell biology, genetics and development, pathology, psychiatry, physiology, pharmacology, microbiology, immunology, and statistics.

The NBME further specifies the topics to be tested within physiology, including systems biology (neurobiology, immunology, general physiology, etc.).

Reviews of Step 1 materials:

Review of USMLE World Step 1 question bank – a reasonably priced question bank of just over 2,000 step-1 style questions with complete answer explanations.

Review of First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 – the go-to single review text published by McGraw-Hill. Any review book that acknowledges the great Dr. Ganong must have its priorities in order!

Comments are welcome on the USMLE forum.

USMLE Step 1 Question Format:

There is only one question format for USMLE Step 1: “Single question best answer”.

Applying to take and scheduling the USMLE Step 1:

Visit the USMLE Application Site

USMLE score distribution:

Most applicants have a general impression of how competitive their USMLE scores are, but it’s difficult to get data to support their impressions. We’ve compiled some data on how competitive USMLE scores are for different situations. Since residency programs are notoriously tight-lipped (and appropriately so) about the USMLE scores of their residents, we can’t guaranty any of the conclusions – but we do think they are in the right range. Let us know what you think after you visit our USMLE scores page.

Studying for the USMLE Step 1:

USMLE Step 1 is usually considered the hardest of the USMLE exams to do well in. As a result, this is the test that everyone studies the most for. The basic techniques for studying for USMLE Step 1 are straightforward (and we’ve also listed them on the USMLE home page at the Medical Students USMLE Guide):

Sample questions:

Having been through the process, it is clear that the most effective way to study for the USMLE step 1 is by using question banks. These question banks focus on the important, tested topics, and do a good job of identifying and explaining distractors (those “wrong” answers that sound pretty believable).

Focus on your weaknesses:

Because USMLE Step 1 is broken down by topics, you have to perform in all the areas to do well on the test as a whole. You can get an objective assessment of your strengths and weaknesses using diagnoistic tests. Built into most USMLE test prep materials are diagnostis (see for example Kaplan USMLE prep materials) – that let you know how you’re doing in a specific subtopic.

Study for the USMLE as you study your medical school course:

This seems like a trivial answer, but its not always implemented. Some medical schools use board-exam like tests in their courses, but some are pass-fail. If you’re in a pass-fail course its important to realize that you’re preparing for the USMLE – and study that way.

USMLE Step 1 Tips from Andreas Carl, the author of USMLE Step 1 Made Ridiculously Simple. Andreas’ prep advice for making a top score on the USMLE.

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