Choosing the right USMLE Step 1 prep course is the most important decision you will make on your journey towards passing your exam.
You will be spending many hours studying, so it’s crucial to find the USMLE course that best fits your learning style and background. The difference between successfully passing or failing the USMLE Step 1 exam largely depends on how well your study materials prepare you for it.
Using a prep course that isn’t a good match for your learning style can cause you to score lower or even fail your exam, costing you months of study time and additional exam fees. CRUSH is here to make sure that doesn’t happen!
Here’s the good news: we have personally researched and reviewed every major USMLE Step 1 prep course on the market to make it easier for you! The comparison chart below will help you decide which online course best fits your needs.
Top 5 Best USMLE Step 1 Prep Courses in 2023
- Best Overall: Kaplan USMLE Step 1 Course
- Best Live Online: Pass Program USMLE Step 1 Review Course
- Best USMLE Tutoring: Varsity Tutors
- Best Value: Achievable USMLE Course
- Best USMLE Qbank: Board Vitals USMLE Step 1 Study Materials
- Best Practice: Lecturio USMLE Step 1 Study Materials
1. Kaplan USMLE Step 1 Prep Course & Study Materials
Kaplan is the world’s largest provider of medical education. With over 3,800 instructors in 468 locations throughout the world, Kaplan has the expertise and the advanced tools needed to pass the USMLE Step 1 exam. Their experts have thoughtfully designed their USMLE Step 1 course options. They offer self paced, live-online and in-person USMLE classes. They best in class technology to provide you ample practice tests, quizzes, qbanks, flashcards and more. Plus, they have a team of experts on hand who can help you with any questions that come up making this our #1 course option for passing the USMLE in 2023.
Pros of using Kaplan USMLE Step 1 Prep Courses
- Flexible Course Formats: If you study better in a real classroom setting, Kaplan is one of the few remaining USMLE course providers that offers it. They also provide live-online options which are a great mix of the classroom experience, but with the convenience and ability to study anywhere you want. Then if going at it alone is your style, they have complete full featured, self paced courses or if you’re on a budget you might be able to get away with their USMLE Qbank alone.
- Large Question Bank and Video Collection: Kaplan Medical’s USMLE Step 1 course give students access to a large number of exam-like questions in a Qbank and include an extensive video library with 2,000+ questions. Cut hours off of your review time by watching videos at 1.5x their regular speed. The high-quality videos are informative and entertaining, making the large body of material less daunting.
- Diagnostic Exams, Quizzes, and Practice Exams: There are many opportunities for students to test themselves on the knowledge they must master before they sit for the exam. Diagnostic tests, shorter quizzes and full-length simulated exams give students practice and targeted feedback on their ability and performance.
- Mobile Friendly: All lectures can be viewed from your iPhone an Android device, making it easy to get your study hours in, no matter where you are located. The Step 1 Qbank includes a free app for you to work on practice questions and check answers as well.
- International Student Friendly: Kaplan Medical has first-rate options for International Students who are preparing to apply for a residency program in the USA. Live, Live Online and On Demand options are supplemented by immersive In Center learning opportunities and study centers with state-of-the-art facilities, computers, internet access, and helpful staff to answer questions.
- Pricing: Kaplan provides a top tier USMLE course, but it comes at a cost. There are less expensive alternatives that provide similar quality, so if price is a deal breaker you may want to check out the other courses on our list. They also rarely have promotions, so make sure to check out our discounts page regularly so you don’t miss anything.
Kaplan USMLE Step 1 Features
- Price: $1,999+ Self Paced, Live Online $4,399+, In Person $9,999+
- Practice Questions: 3,300
- Video Lectures: 220 Hours
- Course Length: 4, 7, or 12 months
Bottom Line: Kaplan has one of the most comprehensive USMLE prep courses on the market. They offer flexible course formats including in person options (which are hard to find these days). If you value real time feedback and want all the bells and whistles to pass then don’t let the price scare you. It’s a quality course and offers a vast library of practice questions, video content, and simulated exams all focused on helping you pass the exam.
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2. USMLE Pass Program
Best USMLE Step 1 Prep Course
The Pass Program teaches you everything you need to know about the USMLE Step 1 exam through engaging lectures featuring Dr. Francis.
The Pass Program’s classes are small, so that there is ample opportunity for one-on-one time with your instructor. They use novel teaching methods that when implemented allow you to simplify answers, ensuring you don’t have to know absolutely everything on the USMLE. With their comprehensive USMLE classes, daily practice questions, and expert tutors, you’ll be confident and ready to pass the exam in no time.
Pros of Pass Program USMLE Step 1 Prep Course
- Help When You Need It: There is a great team of instructors that are ready and willing to help with any question you have. Of course they will not tutor you, but if you’ve missed a key concept, you may reach out and get detailed answers in 10-20 minutes and in our testing this is much faster than any other provider.
- Access: The USMLE Pass Program includes 1 year of access. This is something that other providers have cut back on so keep an eye out when you’re comparing with other courses. It is very important to ensure you have all the time you need and so you don’t have to buy another course after yours expires.
- Entertaining Lectures: Francis is a teacher that knows how to motivate students. His classes will actually keep you engaged and even excited at times.
- Live USMLE Coaching: Having access to USMLE tutors is essential when you are struggling with concepts or just have general questions. This is something you don’t get with test banks, or even other full USMLE review courses on this list.
- No Companion App: While their website is responsive (meaning it works on all devices) they do not have a dedicated app for studying. That means if you’re in an area with spotty service this could be an issue.
- No Pass Guarantee: Other USMLE courses such as Kaplan offer refunds, the Pass Program instead will allow you to retake the course at no additional charge.
USMLE Pass Program Features
- Price: $899 Self Paced, $2,200+ Live Online
- Practice Questions: 2,000
- Video Lectures: 150 Hours
- Course Length: 5 weeks or 12 weeks
The Bottom Line: The USMLE prep course created by Pass Program is among the most challenging and all-encompassing study options currently available on the market. You will have access to daily test taking strategy sessions, extensive subject study, and a great deal of practice work and drills for the duration of your multiple week package. This class earns great grades due to the extensive amounts of live class work, high-quality study materials, and strategy that prioritizes the needs of the students.
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3. Varsity Tutors USMLE Step 1 Prep Course
There’s no denying that Step 1 can be a challenging exam. But with Varsity Tutors by your side, you’ll have all the preparation you need to nail it. Join them online from anywhere via Zoom, with their comprehensive USMLE prep classes that will teach you everything from understanding the process of preparing for the exam to how to approach and answer questions on test day.
Their classes are taught by expert physicians who have decades of experience teaching students in both online and offline formats, so you can be sure that each and every question is covered thoroughly. Their classes are also 100% interactive, and only for small groups of 6-8, so there’s nothing standing between you and success!
Pros of using Varsity Tutors USMLE Step 1 Prep Classes
- Small Group Classes: The problem with most online USMLE courses is they do not offer small groups. This limits your abilities to ask questions and get answers, especially in a timely manner, which is important for learning. Varsity Tutors limits their courses to 7-9 people. This ensures you get the attention you need.
- Pass Guarantee: Varsity Tutors backs their USMLE Step 1 Prep Course with a 100 percent Pass Guarantee. This means you can rest assured if you do the work, you’ll pass.
- Convenient Scheduling: Their course consists of twenty sessions of two hours each, for a total of forty hours of instruction. They offer convenient scheduling to fit your lifestyle and calendar.
- Mobile Friendly: No matter where you are, you may watch all lectures on your iPhone or Android smartphone, using the Zoom app. This makes studying on the go easy to fit into your schedule.
- Dedicated Help: Varsity Tutors will pair you up with an enthusiastic Educational Director who will make sure the course enables you to achieve or surpass your learning objectives. You can always get in touch with them if you have any questions.
- Missing Supplemental Materials: Other courses on this list such as Kaplan offer more supplemental materials that may be helpful when studying. We recommenced picking up some USMLE flashcards and additional MCQ’s if you can.
Varsity Tutors USMLE Step 1 Features
- Price: $1,999 (Live Online)
- Class Size: 6-9 People
- Course Length: 40 Hours (2 hr sessions)
Bottom Line: The world’s best Step 1 prep classes are here, and you don’t have to take them in person. Varsity Tutors offers convenient scheduling, expert instructors, and small classes. This is all paired with a pass guarantee and the ability to reach out to your instructor directly almost anytime.
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4. Achievable USMLE Step 1 Prep Course Online
- Advanced personalization: Advanced personalization: Achievable uses adaptive learning techniques to create and update a personalized model of your memory, individually tracking your retention and mastery of each USMLE learning objective. Their learning engine monitors your study progress and continually reprioritizes your quiz questions to ensure you’re focusing on the topics that matter most for you, improving study effectiveness while reducing overall study time.
- Modern platform: Whether you’re studying on the web or a smartphone, Achievable’s UX is clean and responsive. Their progress charts highlight your journey through the course content and your current strength in each section.
- No-nonsense textbook: Achievable’s material cuts off all the fluff so you can focus on the core points of each topic. Reference images, diagrams, and charts are found on nearly every page. Review quizzes on each topic to continually test your understanding.
- Light Course: We’re not joking when we say Achievable USMLE cuts out the fluff. There are much more comprehensive options available. If you need the extra help we suggest test driving the other courses higher on the list.
- No Guarantee: It’s important to note that other USMLE courses offer pass, or satisfaction guarantees Achievable does not.
Achievable USMLE Step 1 Features
- Price: $299
- Practice Questions: 1,300
- Video Lectures: 0 Hours
- Course Length: 10 months
The Bottom Line: Achievable’s online textbook and great mobile experience make it an excellent resource so you can study anywhere, and their adaptive learning engine helps you memorize more information in less time.
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5. Bard Vitals USMLE Step 1 Prep Course
- Exam-Like Practice Tests: A timer helps students keep track of their progress on each question and the overall exam. You can move back and forth among questions, which are designed to match the difficulty level of the questions on the actual exam. You can also choose between the Timed Mode and the Review Mode when answering practice questions or taking a practice exam.
- Large Question Bank with Explanations: Detailed explanations and answers for every single practice question form the core of this prep program. You’ll have access to 1,500 board review questions to prepare for the USMLE Step 1 exam. Questions are written and reviewed by practicing physicians, medical faculty, or come from 3 leading medical publishers.
- Adaptive Learning Technology: You’ll get individualized question recommendations based on your performance. After you’ve answered practice questions and taken a practice test, you can compare your performance to that of other students. Your performance allows the program to suggest specific practice questions for additional study, so that you can focus on those areas that will benefit most from review.
- Great Price: For the quality of the material, you can’t beat the price. Priced between $79-$199 for up to 6 months of access, this course is a bargain and could easily be combined with other study materials. The pass guarantee makes this offer even better: Board Vitals offers free extended subscriptions to your course if you do not pass the exam for which you are studying.
- Test Bank Only: While Board Vitals USMLE has quality materials to help you pass, it’s only a test bank. If that’s all you need to pass, then it’s a great deal.
Board Vitals USMLE Step 1 Features
- Price: $69, $119, or $189
- Practice Questions: 3,300
- Video Lectures: 0 Hours
- Course Length: 1, 3, or 6 months
The Bottom Line: BoardVitals has a great USMLE prep course that contains realistic test simulations and is backed by effective adaptive learning technology. Best of all is that these features come at one of the lowest prices on this comparison. Better yet they even have a monthly option so you can get a taste of what the content and dashboard looks like.
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6. Lecturio USMLE Step 1 Prep Course
- Study Schedules Included: Lecturio provides a comprehensive USMLE course that is customizable to an extent. Best of all they include step-by-step study schedules optimized to ensure you stay focused and learn everything you need to succeed.
- First Aid Match: The Lecturio Bookmatcher offers the fastest way for you to find relevant video lectures for topics in your First Aid® textbook. Simply entering the page number of your First Aid® for the USMLE Step 1 or by scanning the relevant page with a smartphone, you are instantly guided to all applicable videos for your current topics.
- Adaptive Learning: Memorize key USMLE information faster with the Lecturio adaptive algorithm that tells you exactly when and what you need to repeat to score higher. Their system also allows you to stay on track with regular notifications for questions due.
- Integration Issues: Lecturio’s learning components and features ar essentially separated, which means you’ll likely be devoting nearly all your time to navigating Lecturio. If you’re short on time, you may want to look elsewhere. The only other con is the discussion of test taking strategies leading up to test day and on test day. The strategies discussed don’t necessarily apply to all tests (namely, they do not apply to taking the USMLE Step 1 in the USA). Take this lecture with a grain of salt and always verify with your test center what their protocols and rules are.
Lecutrio USMLE Step 1 Features
- Price: $299
- Practice Questions: 2,000
- Video Lectures: 200 Hours
- Course Length: 3 months, 1 year, 2 year, or 4 year
The Bottom Line: Lecturio’s USMLE study materials are focused on high quality videos and are great for visual learners. This is a contrast to the traditional question bank style of learning, but they have that too. New monthly pricing is very affordable making this a great option to get started with your USMLE preparation.
7. Uworld USMLE Step 1 Question Bank
- Extensive Question Bank: UWorld’s Step 1 question bank includes more than 2,200 practice questions. It’s an excellent learning tool with frequently updated questions. All of the questions also come with detailed explanations, and students can compare their performance to other UWorld users to see how they measure up.
- Self-Assessment Exams: Created by physicians, the self-assessment exams closely resemble the format of the Step 1 exam and consist of 4 blocks of 46 multiple-choice questions. Although the USMLE exam contains 7 blocks, completing several of UWorld’s self-assessments will give you an idea of your strengths and weaknesses. Each assessment comes with a detailed analysis and an approximate 3-digit score.
- Free Mobile App: The convenience of a free mobile app is always a popular feature with students. Practice questions from UWorld’s extensive Qbank can be accessed from smartphones and tablets whenever you have a few minutes to spare. The app is compatible with iOs and Android and your progress is synced to a central database, so you can move seamlessly between devices while you study.
- No Video Lectures or Additional Materials: This course does not include video lectures or additional review materials to help you go over the material in a more structured way. UWorld’s approach to studying consists of practice questions, self-assessments, and the feedback generated from your performance on these tasks.
The Bottom Line: Unless video content is a must-have, students will appreciate what UWorld has to offer in their USMLE Step 1 prep course. Expect lots of practice questions, self-assessments, and a handy mobile app.
8. Smash USMLE Step 1 Prep Course Online
- Popular and Engaging Video Lectures: Smash USMLE founder, Dr. Adeleke Adesina, has an impressive following among medical students, who love his upbeat and straightforward video lectures and explanations. Some of his most popular videos have been watched millions of times on YouTube!
- Extensive Question Bank: The Smash USMLE Question Bank includes more than 3,500 practice questions to help students prepare for the Step 1 and Step 2 CK exams. Detailed explanations help students learn why specific answers are right or wrong. The test bank can also be reset twice, and questions are reviewed regularly to ensure they are up-to-date. Practicing thousands of quality questions is a great way to raise your score on the USMLE!
- Performance Feedback and Analytics: The course dashboard makes it easy to monitor your progress and evaluate your performance as you study for the USMLE exams. One glance at the pie chart shows you the percentage of videos you have watched, and software keeps track of your performance on the practice questions so that you can tailor your studies to those areas that would benefit from additional practice.
- Basic, Low-Budget Videos: The streaming videos in this course may be popular and dynamic, but they are not in the same league as the professional videos created by more well-known review companies. Adesina’s accent is also somewhat difficult to understand in certain videos, although his English is very good.
- Live Online: If you prefer to study in a classroom setting, unfortunately Smash does not offer any. This is a self paced course so you need to be disciplined enough to log on and study on your own.
Smash USMLE Step 1 Features
- Price: $697+ Self Paced
- Practice Questions: 2,300
- Online Practice Exams: 2
- Video Lectures: 250 Hours
- Course Length: 3, 6 or 120 months
Select the Best USMLE Prep Course for You
The optimal USMLE preparation course for you will rely on your needs, objectives, and unique skills. There are various USMLE preparation courses accessible. We’ve compiled a list of the key actions to follow while selecting a USMLE prep course.
Plot out your USMLE preparation time
Since the USMLE is so extensive, it’s critical to begin preparing as early as possible. Successful test takers advise starting your preparation at least six months before the test. You may need to start even sooner if you want to take in-person classes and have to juggle work and education.
Keep your learning style in mind
Knowing your learning style and being able to tailor exam prep to capitalize on those strengths can make studying simpler and faster and improve subject retention. Read through these descriptions to determine which one seems to best describe your preferred learning style if you are unsure. Look for prep classes that include alternatives that fit your learning style if you are already aware that you are a visual or kinesthetic learner.
Compare USMLE Prep Course Prices
USMLE preparation courses come in a wide range of price points, from inexpensive monthly fees around $20 all the way up to almost $10,000 for all-inclusive programs with lifelong access. It’s a smart idea to look around and select a prep course that falls within your available budget after getting a sense of what’s available.
Features That Are Essential For The Best USMLE Prep Course
When assessing USMLE preparation courses, some of the most crucial qualities to consider are as follows:
- Whether a trial period is free
- The quantity of available practice exams or questions
- Whether there are in-person or online classes offered
- If private tutoring is available
- Whether the business provides a money-back guarantee
USMLE Questions and Answers
When should you register to take the USMLE?
Unlike other standardized tests, the USMLE requires an application before you can take it. On the USMLE website, you can submit the application. You can set a date for your test once you have been accepted. Every September, application materials become accessible. 31 days prior to the test date is the cutoff for free test cancellation or rescheduling. Every Wednesday, results are made public after a processing period of around three to four weeks.
Are there accommodations for those with disabilities to take the USMLE?
In line with the Americans with Impairments Act, the USMLE does offer accommodations for persons with disabilities (ADA). However, before choosing a date for your test, you must submit the request for accommodations together with the necessary supporting materials.
When should I start preparing for the USMLE Step 1 exam?
Starting your preparation at least six months before the test is recommended. You only get six chances to do it right, so it’s crucial to be ready. If you are an expert in the field, you might be able to prepare in less time.
How many practice exams should I take in advance of the real test?
You gain a better understanding of your level of readiness for the USMLE and the areas you still need to improve with each practice exam you take. It’s a good idea to take a preliminary practice exam to gauge your chances of passing. You can make sure you’re making progress and feel better prepared on test day by taking another test in the middle of your preparation and a week or two before the actual exam.
How long do most USMLE preparation courses last?
The length of time you have access to the course contents depends on how much you pay for it in many USMLE prep courses. This can be anything between one month and four years. The 5 to 12 week duration is typical for the guided prep courses on our list.
Does USMLE preparation pay off?
The USMLE will switch to pass/fail marking for Step 1 exams starting in January 2022, thus you might not be able to use the increase in score points to determine whether the preparation was worthwhile. However, you will perform better on tests whenever you are more prepared, both in terms of the required theoretical knowledge and practical abilities. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the average compensation for physicians after passing the USMLE is $208,000, but this can vary greatly depending on speciality.