USMLE Step 1 Information

The first step of the three stage USMLE exam helps to measure how well the test-takers have understood and are able to apply some of the main concepts and principles central to practicing medicine.
Here’s a table from specifying which fields will be covered in the exam:


Step one is a computer based test that consists of approximately 322 multiple choice questions. The questions are divided into seven 60-minute segments, making the examination day 8 hours long. The test is usually taken after the second year of medical school.

How To prepare For USMLE Step 1

Study prep for USMLE step 1 tends to be somewhere between 2 and 3 months of active study time. You probably should start thinking about the test even before then and familiarize yourself with the structure of the test and the resources available for study, so that when it’s time to study hard you’ll be concentrating on the important material. Before you start studying take a practice test to find out where you’re at and go from there.

Choosing the right prep resources for you is integral for your success in the USMLE. Much depends on how you personally learn but I’d say anyone will benefit from having access to prep tests and a question bank. These resources will give you a clear idea with what you’re dealing with and will make you more at ease walking into that exam. Using a good prep course can make all of the difference in studying effectively for the exam. We have reviewed some of the best Step 1 prep courses so you don’t have to, check out our Step 1 Comparison Chart.

Get used to the USMLE type multiple-choice questions. Make sure you also really work with the questions. Figure out your weaknesses and analyze your answers. Make sure you understand the logic behind all the questions and answers.

USMLE Step 1 Study Schedule

Start prepping early. Your study schedule is completely dependent on how much time you have. Most med schools give students about 2 months off classes for the preparation. Use this time wisely and make a schedule for yourself. Pencil in the hours you’ll be at the library and a study plan to go with it. Hold yourself accountable of the process. Concentrate on your weak points.

Tutoring with a friend and purchasing a prep course can make a lot of difference in many cases. It allows you to make further connections and more things become interrelated intuitively. You’ll be amazed how much you’ll learn explaining things to another person. It reveals weak points in your understanding and you’ll most likely learn from others. Some people get good results revising on their own, but most can benefit from outside help.

Set your schedule and stick to it. Divide the material into segments and work methodically. You’ll be working long hours so make sure to schedule in breaks!

USMLE Step 1 Scores

USMLE uses a scaled 3-digit scoring system. However, the NBME does not disclose how the end score is calculated. Theoretically the maximum score for step 1 is 300.

It’s smart to set a goal for the USMLE. In 2014 the passing score on the test is 192, the national mean score 230, and the score that will get you into most competitive specialities somewhere around 240. If you know what speciality you’re going for aim for the score that will get you there. If you’re undecided, go for a score that won’t limit your options in the future.

USMLE Step 1 Secrets

USMLE is a massive and demanding exam. The good news is it’s not going to try to trick you into giving wrong answers. The questions are straight-forward and if a question seems “too easy” it may just be an easy question.

The test consists of some basic questions, some more difficult questions and some extremely difficult ones. When you get an easy question just answer it and move on quickly to save time for the more demanding ones.

The key to success in step 1 is to prepare in a smart way. Practice multiple-choice questions every day. Answer a 100 of them each day if possible. Then list all of the mistakes you made and read that list often. This is your chance to learn from your mistakes. Do this on a regular basis and you’ll make sure you won’t make those mistakes on the day of the actual test. A good prep course is capable of pointing out your areas of weakness for you and quizzing you more frequently in those areas.

It might not feel amazing to be reminded of your mistakes but it makes all the difference. You’ll learn more that you’d expect using this tactic.

USMLE Step 1 Dates

When you register for the exam you’ll have to pick a 3-month eligibility period so for example January-February-March or June-July-August. During the period allocated to you, you’ll be able to choose a location and a date available to take the test.

Please keep in mind that prometric test centers are closed on major holidays. Also take into account that Step 1 testing is not available during the first 14 days of January.

If you’re unable to take the step one exam, you can apply for a one time extension only for the next contiguous eligibility period.

USMLE Step 1 Registration

Registering for the Step 1 of USMLE is a two to four week multi-step process. First you’ll need to register online on the NBME website. After this your schools student affairs office will verify your enrollment and good standing. After this process you’ll finally able to choose your exact test location and time.

Test opportunities fill up fairly quickly, so in order to make sure you get to sit the exam in your preferred location on your preferred date, it is suggested to start the registration process early. If you wish to sit the exam in the summer, you should start the registration process in December of the previous year.

Make sure you register with the exact name that is on the government issued valid ID you’ll use when entering the exam center.

USMLE Step 1 Cost

The cost of registering for the step 1 exam in 2015 is $590. This gives you a three month window in which you’ll have to complete your step 1 exam. You can apply for an extension once for a fee of $70. If you fail to complete the exam during your initial eligibility window or the extension period, you’ll have to register and pay the fee again.

James Edge

James Edge

James is on a mission to uncover the greatest study guides and prep courses to ensure you pass your exam on your first attempt. He has personally assessed hundreds of study materials and developed courses himself.

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