Tips for usmle step 1 Test Format 350 questions

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Tips for USMLE Step 1

Test Format

  • 350 questions

    • 7 sections of 50 questions at 1hr each (one section does NOT count).
  • 8hrs total time. 45min of break to distribute.

    • Add 15min to break if you skip tutorial (recommended).
    • Finishing a section early adds remaining time to break.
  • Register by Dec & ideally schedule for mid-June.

    • Need 3-4mos of hardcore study time.
    • Register online at - schedule 3 mos elgibility
    • Eligibility period with NBME, Scheduling Permit with prometric.

Types of Questions

Meaning of Scores

  • Passing score was raised from 174 to 182 in May 2003.

  • Average is usually ~215 and each standard deviation is ~20 points (theoretical max 300 but curve exists).

    • Mean & SD for your specific test will be given with your score.
  • If normal distribution, 68% of values are within 1SD and 95% are within 2SD.

  • Two digit score (1-99) does NOT equal percentile.

Meaninglessness of Scores

  • Be careful judging advice based on scores (target, styles).

  • Set a realistic goal for your needs and abilities (stepping stone).

    • Competitive residences include Ophthalmology, Orthopaedics, Neurosurgery, Emergency Medicine, Radiology, etc.
    • Also competitive to go to top 10 programs or desirable geographic locations in ANY field.
    • Usually breaking 1SD is sufficient.

Creating a Goal

  • Different studying strategies based on goals:

    • Passing the test (master core high-yield info)
    • Breaking 1SD (high-yield plus know some low-yield)
    • Breaking 2SD (high-yield plus lots of low-yield info)
  • Risky if you create an unrealistic goal.

Creating a Goal

  • How do you know what goal you can achieve?

  • Honoring classes is sometimes unrelated.

    • People who did well in classes may do poorly on Step 1 and vice versa.
    • Luck component (many different test versions; different score distributions & curves)

Diagnostic Exams

  • Free Kaplan diagnostic test (% correct x3) = Starting point

    • Can realistically increase score by 10% raw score max (or 30 points max) each month.
  • NBME diagnostic test 1-2mos before test (evaluate progress & effectiveness of study plan).

    • Adjust studying in final month based on diagnostic.
    • Only use First Aid or other general source in final week.
  • Check-out testing site (can walk around inside).

  • COMMON SENSE: Sleeping & Eating (physical = mental)

Kaplan or NOT?

  • Boxers or Briefs?



KAPLAN or not

  • Pros:

    • Keeps you on track
    • Extrinsic motivation
    • Proven record
    • Skilled teachers
    • Geared towards achieving a good score
  • Cons:

General Study Strategy

General Study Strategy

  • Choose books for content review

    • Format your comfortable with/used in M2 classes
    • High yield without extraneous info
    • Class notes NOT BEST SOURCE
    • Don’t spend too much time on anatomy, Biochem, Behav. Sc.
    • Emphasize ACTIVE reading - Ask questions to reinforce what you’ve learned
  • Gradually work questions into study plan

    • Start w/ 1 block of 50 q and inc q week
    • Read explanations carefully - write down wrong answers
    • Constantly reassess strengths and weaknesses

Content Review

  • Consensus “must read” books

    • Micro Ridiculously Simple
    • Constanzo BRS or Physio text
    • BRS Path
    • Pathophysiology for Boards and Wards
    • Pharm Cards

Question Review

  • Kaplan Q-Bank

    • 2000+ questions: excellent stratification by subject, organ system, etc..
  • NMS question book

  • Blackwell’s free test online

  • NBME tests(2)

  • Robbins question book

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