How to find the best USMLE Step 1 Test Prep Course
When preparing to USMLE, you probably will (or have) asked yourself what kind of USMLE prep course is best for you. There are plenty out there, some which are more popular due to great marketing, public outreach. But that is obviously not what matters when you’re looking for a good prep course: straightforwardness, review material, availability of instructors, diagnostic exam tests — this is what we searched for; so we’ve gathered the best to discuss in details to help you pass faster.
Your expectations vs. the reality
A prep course will usually offer videos with exclusive review material, in pdf or physical books. You may also be provided with on demand videos or even live lessons with a chat pod to communicate with the teacher. The on demand videos works best for those who live in another time zone, since you can watch at your own time, while live lessons can be difficult to follow in this same context, since they might be broadcasted in the middle of the night in your time.
When choosing the prep course that works best for you, you might want to consider if they offer a mobile app, in reality, you might not be sitting before your computer all the time. This is particularly useful if the prep course offers a question bank of its own, it’s a great way to fill up your commute time.
Take a test drive.
Before subscribing, make sure that the prep course also offers a demo version, or simply a video demonstrating how the software works.
Content matters, but so do looks.
As much as some might not be ready to admit it: it is much easier to keep using a platform with a friendly design and that doesn’t have neon colors. Ultimately, design matters, it saves your time and makes the learning experience easier to cope with.
Plan your expenses.
If you’re planing to take the exam in 2, 4 or 6+ months it plays a big role on your wallet. These programs usually offer different deals for longer subscriptions. Be sure to set aside time you wish to dedicate to those courses and then compare prices. Luckily, we have done that research for you!
So, long story short, we truly care about and rate our Best USMLE Step 1 Courses by: content, videos, question banks, mobile apps, course design, dashboards, analytics and price.
USMLE Pass Program Quick Facts
Pass Program Strengths
- This is a great chance to diverge from classic teaching
- Francis is a teacher that knows how to motivate students
- Lessons pacing is ideal, not too little, not too long classes
- If you have missed a review class, you may “retake” it, since they are all recorded
- Two NBMEs are included in the program
- There is a good team of instructors that are ready to answer any questions you have, including related to the material covered in class. Of course they will not tutor you, but if you’ve missed a key concept, you may write them after class and get answered in 10-20 minutes.
Pass Program Weaknesses
- You cannot rewatch question solving classes
- No money back guarantee if you have subscribed to the online version of the program.
- If you truly feel comfortable with a prep course that is divided in disciplines, then you might just not adapt to Dr. Francis’ concept.
- Online lectures on almost 40 topics
- Course notes book
- Questions with video answers
- Student support
- Practice exams
USMLE Step 1 Online Review Course Prices
- Live Online: $2,200 (5 weeks), $5,500 (12 weeks)
- In Person: $3,750 (5 weeks), $6,499 (12 weeks)
- On Demand: $899 (6 months)
*12-week students have access to the recorded Morning Question sessions. Only them though.
Pass Program Coupon Codes
All in all, the Pass Program has plenty more advantages than disadvantages. But keep this in mind: preparing for the USMLE is not about using numerous resources or even all the resources that are at your reach, so we truly recommend you to choose one and stick to it. Dr. Francis’s methods of teaching are proven to work, engaging and easy to understand. Plus the quality content, companion PDF’s and new dashboard we highly recommend the Pass Program to any perspective USMLE Step 1 student.
USMLE Pass Program Detailed Course Information & Features
Why it’s so different.
This program sets itself apart from others by the way it structures disciplines. When you were in to medical school, you probably have gotten used to studying subject by subject separately. Well, Dr. Francis, the face from Pass Program, thinks differently, this is probably the most integrated course out there. Dr. Francis saw what he thought was wrong with medical education and did it his own way: he will teach you concepts, not mnemonics.
If this still sounds confusing to you, here is an example: One of the first lessons are about the so-called Low Energy State. According to Dr. Francis, if you apply this concept to any disease that develops because of a low energy state (anemia, for example), symptoms will not only repeat itself, but you will get it right 90% of the time. And as he says, you should aim for the 90% and not lose your time trying to achieve the other 10% — not that this is impossible, but if you’re short on time, this is still a pretty good promise. Ultimately, Dr. Francis wants to teach students how to recreate these concepts in every clinical vignette and clinical scenario whenever needed. All classes are, in this way, integrated, you will study multiple subjects simultaneously, in the way Dr. Francis puts it. He can be a little emotional at times, but surely has a good sense of humor and keeps up a good dynamic in class.
Dr. Francis simply doesn’t think you can memorize everything you need to know for the USMLE test, therefore, all the information must be integrated. In fact, the first hour of class is only about studying techniques, so this can be truly helpful.
What they offer.
In their website you will find a 4-week or 8-week program. You will have classes everyday, plus a morning session lasting one hour to solve test questions with Dr. Francis. In the program you are offered both on demand lessons as well as the daily (except for Sunday) live classes, the content doesn’t vary extensively.
Let’s take a closer look at what the USMLE Pass Program has to offer that might call your attention.
The pacing is key to the program.
In general, classes are very well put. According to Dr. Francis, your brain “reaches Vmax” within two hours, therefore, you will not have longer classes, and if you do, you will have longer breaks. Ultimately, you can attend the program online or live. Prices, obviously differ, but the first that stroke was the fact that you are not only getting a live feed from the class with the students who are taking the course in person, but you also have a button to “raise your hand” and ask questions to Dr. Francis in class, with a microphone. This seems a bit different from various other USMLE Step 1 prep courses that offer a simple chat pod.
What your subscription includes.
Within your online subscription, you are granted access to PDF’s to accompany the classes, basically everything that Dr. Francis mentions is well written there, and you will rarely ever need to write anything unless you want to take extra notes.
Apart from the textbook, you have access to various other secondary files, but the one that called our attention the most was the “Pass Program Clues”, this is also a PDF file that has exclusively only high yield questions. That means that it is like the First Aid, but only with questions and a short explanation on the side. This can be very useful for a last week review before your exam, for example.
Morning question classes.
Because Dr. Francis’ method is so different from everything else in the market, question solving classes are separate from review classes. The question solving classes take place early in the morning. It’s important to attend those classes since they are not recorded like the review classes. And as we’ve mentioned before, it is imperative that you are located on the right time zone, classes take place in US Central Time Zone.
Pinpoint your weak points from the start.
Other good news are that the Pass Program offers you two NBMEs included in your subscription. The idea is that you take the first one as a diagnostic test before the course even starts, while this might sound a bit intimidating, most prep programs do this in order to motivate the student and pinpoint your weak points at first.
What we also liked about the Pass Program was not only their motivating spirit, but the fact that you can get your money back if you did not pass the test. The issue is that this perk does not extend to those attending the online version of the course, but rather only to students who are there in person.
Either way, the USMLE Pass Program is a solid choice based solely on Dr. Francis’ teaching methods and the quality content they provide. Better yet it’s an incredible value when you compare to the big players like Kaplan USMLE or Becker USMLE.
Pass Program USMLE Step 1 Online – Overall
- Videos: Pass Program has great videos, mainly because of Dr. Francis. He is a very good educator and having him explain all of the topics is a plus. He uses questions well, helping the students understand the concepts and not just memorize them. Dr. Francis’ way of teaching might divide opinions as he shouts at times (although, not angrily) to emphasize points, but for the most part it is not disturbing and actually helps with the monotony of long study sessions.
- Self-Assessment Quizzes: The online lectures come with very useful self-assessment quizzes. The quizzes comprise of 5 multiple-choice questions that cover the material in each lecture. What really make these quizzes great though, is the video explanation for each question. This really helps you to improve no matter how you performed the first time.
- Practice Exams: While the self-assessment quizzes are fantastic, there’s nothing quite like getting 2 NBME practice exams to prepare you for the real deal. Practicing with the actual test format is very important and really helps this course stand out.
- Free Demo: Pass Program has a demo on their site showing how to use their software and better yet a few sample lectures from Dr. Francis. This is a nice little feature to give prospective students an overall idea of what to expect as far as the main lecturer and study portal are concerned. They want students to know what they’re getting, which gives the course more credibility.
- No Question Bank: Pass Program is not a one-stop-shop kind of deal as they do not provide their online students with access to a question bank. They do; however, provide 5 videos at the end of each topic that show how to approach different types of questions. In total they have about 180 topical question videos that they provide. Students might want to supplement this course with a question bank from another company.
- No Guarantee for Online Course: Students taking the 8 week live course with Pass Program are guaranteed their money back in case they fail the step 1. Unfortunately the program doesn’t extend this offer to its online students.