preparation tips

USMLE Step 1: Preparation Tips

This is the test taking experience of USMLE Step 1 submitted by a USMLE taker. You can read other USMLE takers’ experience HERE.

I had 2 months to prepare for my USMLE Step 1 test. I had already taken my Step 2 exam and had scored 240. Usually, the score in the second exam is higher than that of the first exam because candidates have learnt the tricks of better test-taking by then. However, this does not mean that you write Step 2 first. I studied between 9 a.m. and 11 p.m. In the final month before the test, I started studying at 8 a.m. I prefer studying in the mornings for better results.

Resources used:

  • Kaplan videos for all topics except pathology and microbiology
  • Pathoma videos with notes: This is a very high-yield resource.
  • UWorld question banks (If you want to attempt other question banks, try Rx instead of Kaplan.)
  • PrepEZ Questions of the Day

Practice test scores:

I attempted several NBME practice tests and here are my scores:

  • NBME-7 (offline) = 220
  • NBME-13 (online) = 237
  • NBME-15 (online) = 247
  • UWSA -1 (online) = 256
  • UWSA-2 (online) = 249
  • NBME-16 (online) = 230
  • NBME-17 and NBME-18 (online) = 245 and 225

Preparation Tips:


Around half the test is based on this topic, so study it well.

  • Listen to the lectures on Pathoma and add your comments to it—this should take a week.
  • Revise the material in the next 2 days.
  • Next, review the pathology portion in First Aid.
  • Attempt all the questions in UWorld to consolidate your learning.
  • Do use the pictures and high-yield lines of Goljan.
  • A week before the test, look at the pictures of Pathoma.
  • Practice diagnostics questions from UWorld as they are similar to the ones appearing in the test.


  • I studied from First Aid and UWorld.
  • I also reviewed the first 2 units from Kaplan.
  • A good strategy is to learn 10 facts at bedtime and review them the next day.


  • The most tested topics are advanced medicine and immune therapy mechanism.
  • I listened to Kaplan’s lectures for 3-4 days. Study First Aid and then attempt questions from UWorld online.
  • You can search UWorld for questions on specific topics. For instance, signaling mechanism. These questions are high-yield ones.
  • First Aid has two pages on immunology with high-yield material.


  • Listen to Dr. Turco’s lectures and do not ignore this subject.
  • I studied Kaplan for this topic.
  • Usually, clinically-oriented questions are asked from this topic.
  • For Genetics, I listened to Dr. Turco’s lectures first, then I attempted questions from Kaplan’s question bank and finally I attempted UWorld twice.


  • I began by listening to Kaplan’s lectures, especially on neuroanatomy.
  • Two days before the test, I reviewed Shelf Notes of Anatomy in 5 hours. I got a question from this on the test.
  • I memorized UWorld Anatomy and then studied Kaplan.
  • Learning the material in this sequence will help: Neurology and nerves lesion, vessels, muscle function, pictures from UWorld and Shelf notes
  • A week ahead of the test, review all the gross pictures of neurology.


  • Begin by listening to the lectures by Steve Daugherty. You may not understand them the first time, but be persevering.
  • Attempt Rx question bank, UWorld Step 1, and UWorld special subscription for 70 questions. If you have the time, you can also attempt Step 2 questions.
  • Questions from NBME biostatistics are also high-yielding.


  • I studied First Aid and attempted UWorld questions.
  • USMLE Step 1 exam has begun to test topics like fungus ecology, resistance mechanism, virology, and parasites most recently.


  • I began by listening to lectures of Kaplan and concentrated on cardio, renal, and respo.
  • Endocrinology and cardiology questions may be in the form of graphs or arrow symbols. Learn these facts from UWorld and First Aid.
  • Review the physiology pictures and the menstruation graphs.
  • First Aid and UWorld are also best for neurophysiology.


Psychiatry and Behavioral Science:

  • BRS behavioral science will help you through all the steps of the USMLE exam.
  • Next, study First Aid and attempt UWorld questions.
  • Solve the 100 cases of Conrad Fischer.


One month ahead of the exam, I reviewed the following things:

  • BRS behavioral science
  • NBME – last four tests
  • UWSA-1 and UWSA-2
  • UWorld questions
  • Biostatistics from UWorld, UWorld special review, Rx
  • Anatomy from Shelf Notes

Take the NBME-17 or NBME-18 practice test two weeks before the exam. Walking and jogging will help you feel refreshed.

One week ahead of the exam, I reviewed all my high-yield notes. Find a list of forgettable topics for Step 1 exam and study them. Search for a list of 150 high-yield cases USMLE and study them. Review the pictures and tables on UWorld.

Tips for test day:

  • Questions of all difficulty levels are asked—easy, moderate, and hard.
  • Don’t waste time figuring out the answers to the difficult questions. You can re-attempt them in the end.
  • In the beginning, you can take short breaks. Later, you can take longer ones.
  • Wear a shirt without pockets to reduce time taken for security checks.
  • Stay confident throughout the exam.
  • Avoid panicking as it can affect your performance in the entire block.

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