USMLE Step 1 (United States Medical Licensing Examination) can be a tough exam to crack, and preparation can be hard. Getting tips from other med students who have taken the exam is key, and what better place to look than Reddit?
The medical community of Reddit has many tips and tricks to share when taking the USMLE step 1.
USMLE STEP 1: What Do Reddit Med Students Have to Say?
This exam can stress the life out of someone, but being a part of the r/step1 community can really help. It even earned the infamous name of “The Beast”!
Instead of scrolling up and down (and around a ton of Reddit threads) looking for the best tips to study and prep for this exam, we got it sorted for you right here.
A Reddit user came across Manik Madaan, who is a 5th-year medical intern from India. He made a video about his tips and tricks to excel on his USMLE exam. It’s basically a general guide to passing the exam.
You can watch the video here, but we’ve summarized it into its best points below.
Look At the Question Pattern
Although this may seem less important, it’s actually beneficial when taking the exam. Step 1 questions need multilevel thinking and reasoning. They are definitely not straightforward and can sometimes trick you. You need to have the ability to make a differential diagnosis to get the right answer.
The Elimination Principle will help you take out wrong answers, which can significantly increase your chances of getting the correct answer. Another way to dissect questions is to think like the question writer.
Ask yourself this when answering questions:
- What is the point of the question?
- What do they want me to do?
- Which concept do they want me to show?
By asking yourself these questions, you are already answering the exam question. This leads to an increased possibility of you getting the right answer.
Sometimes USMLE throws in a random question, which can be super difficult. Don’t worry, though; you can use this concept instead:
- Find out the age, sex, history, and ethnicity
- Fully understand the physical examination finding
- Then gather the lab findings
- Make the best answer with the information you got above, even though you’re not sure about it
Having study resources is vital to help you prepare for the exam. Reddit med students always say you should not get stressed if you use different study resources from others! It’s not the number of resources you use, it’s the ones you choose to use and how you use them.
These are the most high-yield study resources:
- UFAP, which stands for UWorld, First Aid, and Pathoma.
- Boards and Beyond (BnB) – see our article; Pathoma Vs Boards And Beyond: What’s Best To Use?
- Sketchy Pharm and Micro
Devise a Study Plan
Having a proper study plan is also important when preparing for the USMLE. It will help you stay organized and track all the topics you need to study.
Use these simple steps to make your study plan:
- On your calendar, mark your USMLE exam date.
- Work out the number of days before the exam.
- Organize 3 NBME self-assessments.
- Have special days where you take a break, then other days are to study.
Everyone studies in a different manner! These steps are just to guide you. Make adjustments and additions to your study schedule as needed.
Track Progress by Doing Practice Exams
Doing self-assessments are key in preparing for the USMLE. These practice exams allow you to predict your score, take a timed exam, and get familiar with the type of questions on the USMLE.
What you score on these assessments will also give you feedback on how to study and which topics to focus on more. Self-assessment exams are different from practice questions in a question bank. While it is important to do those question banks, you should also replicate the actual USMLE.
You get two types of self-assessment tools: NBME and UWorld assessments.
NBME assessments are like the USMLE, so many Redditers swear by it. They are about 75% of the length of step 1, and they are divided into timed blocks like the actual exam. Recommended ones are 20 to 24.
UWorld also offers self-assessments, which are 4 blocks of 40 questions and also replicate USMLE questions. Formats can change over time, so always visit the official website to check. Getting good scores on these practice exams will give you good self-esteem and confidence when taking the actual exam.
Other Tips to Remember When Taking the USMLE Step 1
Redditers also recommend you to make use of flashcards. Flashcards are a good way to learn a lot of information quickly. They allow you to learn stand-alone facts rather than complicated interconnected concepts. They are best to study when you’re on the go too.
If you feel like nothing is sticking in your head, stop studying. Redditers know all too well about burnout after studying for 10 hours. Other people may be flexing about how they pulled an all-nighter the whole week, but sometimes it’s not so productive. Don’t worry about your fellow peers and their study timetables.
If you feel guilty about taking study breaks, break up your study time with other productive tasks, such as exercise. Whatever you choose, you must step away and absorb the knowledge you just learned!
Go through your resources as many times as you need. A general rule among all med students for knowing if you have studied a topic enough is when you can explain the concepts in an interactive conversation. If you’re able to do that, you learned it, but if you struggle, go back to the books!
You should also maintain healthy habits right up till the test day, such as:
- Eat a balanced meal to support your brain.
- Celebrate study wins.
- Get a regular sleep schedule. Sleep is VERY important!
- Don’t study on the day before the exam.
That last point might come as a shock but dedicate that time to getting yourself ready. Relax and recharge before taking the “beast.” Take care of the last-minute tasks, such as how you’re getting to the test center, snacks, and the weather.
Don’t forget to go to bed on time!
What is the USMLE Step 1?
It is a computerized examination taken by med students after their 2nd year of medical school. When you pass this exam, you can begin practicing medicine under supervision. The main purpose of the USMLE Step 1 is to test the understanding of important science concepts. Its now a pass/fail exam.
The exam also tests your application of those concepts in various medical situations. It is 8 hours and contains 280 questions, which are grouped into blocks of 40 questions each.
This is a very difficult and broad exam that needs A LOT of prep to pass with a good score.
You must have the right attitude to pass the USMLE Step 1 exam. With a positive mind and organized test preparation, you can easily tackle the exam.
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Verosha has been involved in creating content in the healthcare niche for 3 years. She has produced various articles dealing with healthcare, from medications to health careers and education. She devotes her time into producing quality articles that will help people improve their health choices. Verosha lives in the sunny city of Durban, South Africa.