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Seven Most Effective Strategies to Score High In USMLE Step 1



The USMLE Step 1 exam is the most stressful, toughest, and important test you will take in your medical career. Step 1 aims to test your ability to apply your knowledge reserve of preclinical subjects to find out the correct solution to the given health problem. In this article, I will be sharing the seven most effective strategies for scoring high in USMLE Step 1.

1. Fewer Resources Equal Better Scores

I appreciate the fact that the USMLE Step 1 exam covers a great deal of information. Many students make the mistake of choosing additional resources, wasting a lot of their time. In the end, they haven’t mastered any single resource essential to pass their exam.

You don’t need to cram each bit from every book available out there. By choosing additional resources, you have less time to focus on the essential resources.

These are the three most essential Step 1 preparation resources, used by more than 90% of students.

  • First Aid for USMLE Step 1
  • UWorld
  • NBME exams

These Step 1 resources are time-proven to be very useful and cover more than ninety percent of the questions you are most likely to see on your Step 1 exam.

2. Use Active Learning Techniques

Active learning is the central pillar of Step 1 preparation. It promotes your understanding and knowledge retention. Moreover, by using active learning techniques, you learn to apply your knowledge reserves for high-order reasoning to understand the questions and figure out the correct answers.

By just passively reading and cramming your books, passes after passes, you may retain knowledge, but for short term only. On the exam day, you may not be able to recall much of that information and may get stuck on questions.

Learning from video lectures, making flashcards, solving questions, and group discussions are incredible active learning techniques.

3. Study Schedule

A practical and realistic study schedule is another crucial factor determining your Step 1 scores. A study schedule saves you a lot of time and keeps you focused on your study goals and objectives. By following a proper study schedule,  your dedicated study time will improve enhancing your learning capability.



Have you heard the saying ‘By having no action plan, you plan to fail”? It also applies here. Without a proper study schedule, it is impossible to do well on USMLE.

I recommend you to make your customized study schedule based on your daily routine, hobbies, and needs. Not every subject needs the same amount of time to prepare it well. Make sure to spend extra time on your weak areas.

In the end, you will pat your back for having mastered every bit of information required to ace Step 1 within the given time frame.

4. Do UWorld as Random, Timed Blocks

The student should understand the importance of random, timed blocks. To put it simply, it may seem feasible to do tutored and system-wise blocks related to the subjects that you covered most recently. You can easily get freshly covered questions right, and it makes you feel good about yourself. But it may take a toll on your exam scores.



If you do random, timed blocks, you are not doing yourself a disservice. By doing UWorld in random, timed blocks,  you get familiar with the real exam format. You learn how to dissect a question, enhance your reasoning ability, and learn to apply your knowledge to solve a question. It also makes your stamina, for exam day, to keep solving the questions for consecutive eight hours. Using UWorld in the right way can dramatically increase your test scores.

5. Take as Many NBMEs as Possible

Many students don’t take NBME self-assessment exams because they fear to analyze their preparation. By simulating the real exam questions, NBMEs teach you how to dissect a question stem, enhance your reasoning skills, and improve your ability to apply your knowledge reserves to solve a question.

By taking NBMEs, you recognize your weak and strong areas, and can better prepare by focusing your attention on weak subjects. Moreover, it also builds your confidence and avoids exam-day anxiety.

6. Get a Tutor

I highly recommend getting a personal tutor for your USMLE STEP 1 preparation. This single move can make a huge difference in your Step 1 scores. A tutor has much more experience, and there is nothing better for you than to learn from his mistakes to excel in your preparation. Your tutor will customize a study plan for you, help you improve the score, and will boost your self-confidence, which all matter for your preparation.  Although not every medical student needs a USMLE tutor, but it will be better if you assign a tutor, this will boost your scores.

7. Take care of Your Health

A healthy body bears a healthy mind. You can never succeed in your Step 1 exam without a healthy living. Being in bad health during preparation, and especially on the test day, may drastically affect your scores. Being fit and well, you will be able to perform your best during the exam.

You should spend a minimum of 2 hours doing exercise, yoga, stretching, walking outside, hobbies, or gossiping with friends, etc. These activities during your dedicated study time every day will make your mind fresh, keep your mood active as well as make your health better and as a result, you will better understand the concept you need to learn to pass Step 1.



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