The secrets to acing your USMLE Step 1

With 322 questions and 8 long hours, the USMLE is one of the most rigorous examinations in the world.

And guess what, this is just the first step!

And now that you’re reading this carefully, let us assure you that the test is definitely ace-able. We’ll show you how.

What is the USMLE?

Unless you know the idea behind USMLE, rest assured, you can’t ace it.

So, the United States Medical Licensing Examination(USMLE)  constitutes a series of (three) examinations for obtaining a practicing license in the United States. The National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) and Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) are responsible for the design and implementation of these examinations.

The need for the USMLE was felt in the absence of one standardized examination protocol across all states. Hence, the USMLE ensures one single and fair testing procedure for all medical professionals who wish to practice in the United States.

USMLE Step 1

With the idea behind the USMLE clear, we can dig deeper into the USMLE Step 1.

The step 1 examination tests the ability to apply important concepts of the study of medicine to practice. In doing so, the test is split into two distinct dimensions: the system and the process. 

The test consists of seven sections (called blocks) with varying number of questions in each section, but never exceeding 40, which means that the total questions on the exams will not exceed 280. For each block, the examinees are allotted 60 minutes.

How to ace your USMLE Step 1?

With an understanding of the examination and its core purpose, you’re already one step closer to acing it. But it takes a lot of hard work to ace medical exams such as the USMLEs. Here’s some tips that can help you get ahead.

  1. Keep calm and work hard

Needless to say, the USMLE step 1 is not easy and you have to work hard to ace it, that’s a prerequisite.

But panicking is not and will never be of any help. 

Keep your nerves in control, that’s step 1. 

Realistically think about the time you have for the exam, the course content that you need to complete and the practice that you need to put in.

Once you’ve done this, be ready to put in lots and lots of hard work. 

  1. Start early and be consistent

Ideally, you would want to start step 1 way in advance. 

Everyone has a different pace of study and stamina and you’re in the best position to evaluate how much time you’ll need. 

If you start way in advance, you’ll be able to manage any secondary commitments as well as any bottlenecks along the way. But starting early is not the only game, being consistent is essential too. 

  1. Figure out the perfect study method for you

Some people like to put in all-nighters, some like to study during the day. Some realize that they’re most productive when they take multiple naps and some get the best with just one 8 hour long slumber. Some study best from text, some need to learn from audiovisuals. 

You need to figure out what works best for you. There is no point in putting in suboptimal study time. You need to get the most out of your time. 

  1. Learn to pick up important information from long blocks of text

If you’re studying medicine, you’re definitely going to need to get through excruciatingly long blocks of text. But not all of that text is important.

The faster you learn to skim through the text for important information, the better for you. Always keep a highlighter with you so you can highlight that text, so it sticks with you later on and is easier to find.

  1. Don’t compromise on your physical or mental health

Perhaps the best kept secret of acing the usmle step 1 (or any exam, for that matter), is to keep your mental health in check. The constant stress and learning tends to have its toll and can lead to frustration pretty fast. 

Always remember to get out and enjoy your time every once in a while. Connect with pears going through the same process and remember that you’re not alone in this and this is not the end of the world. 

Take out time for your loved ones. It will mean more for you than for them.

At the same time, an 8-hour long exam demands you to be physically able to sit through the entire duration. If your body is not fit, it will fail you. So, remember to put in some exercise during your studies to keep your mind fresh.

  1. Practice, practice, practice

If you’ve done everything right, but haven’t actually practiced taking the exam, your chances of choking on the day are high. Being in tune with the procedures of examinations, the environment inside the examination center and the time pressure is critical.

At the same time, practicing an actual exam will help you get in your comfort zone when answering the questions. Later on, tallying your answers with available answers will help you gauge your preparedness for the exam.

But most of all, the practice exams will help you understand the fatigue of an 8-hour exam. So, on the day of exam you will know what to expect of your body in every hour and how to utilize the 45 mins of breaks between 7 blocks.

  1. Believe that you can do it!

If you’ve done all of the above, you can be confident that you’ll pass the exam. In fact, most of those steps up there are essentially designed to give you that confidence and to help you believe you’re going to ace it.

If you go into the examination center with doubts, your brain will not function to its maximum potential. And that is where you lose half the game. Don’t make that mistake. 

Wrapping it up

The USMLE Step 1 is hard and it’s going to demand the absolute best of you. Unless you’re giving it your best, you can’t get through. 

But it’s not just any other examination. You’re studying for a purpose and your skill will help save lives in the near future. And if there’s anything worth putting in that effort, it’s this exam. 

Buckle up and start now.

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