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USMLE STEP 1 Preparation

If you have not already done so, become familiar with the information in the USMLE Bulletin of Information found at . The Content Description and Sample Test Materials may also be downloaded from that site. The Content Description provides a detailed breakdown of content.
  • Plan ahead. Testing sites and seats are limited.
  • If you need special testing accommodations, you should also plan ahead as securing accommodations takes more time.
  • For a fee, you can schedule a 3 1/2 hour time block at your Prometric center to take a practice exam in the same environment as your actual test. The questions on the Practice exam at Prometric are the same questions found on the USMLE website. You may schedule the practice exam as soon as you have your Scheduling Permit. If you are planning on taking a practice exam at the Prometric center, schedule it as soon as you have your exam date, since the centers do get booked. Plan to take the practice exam approximately a week before your scheduled exam date. Do not take the practice exam too close to your actual exam. If you choose not to do a practice exam, at least visit your site to become familiar with the set-up (parking, traffic, restrooms, etc).
  • Re-confirm your appointment with your Prometric center a week before the exam, and again a few days before the exam.
  • Practice questions daily. Use resources that have questions close to the USMLE format. Practice timing for 1 minute per question. A primary strategy is to KEEP MOVING. There is no penalty for wrong answers and no hierarchy of difficulty of the questions. You benefit most from doing questions in the tutorial mode . Read the question, answer it, immediately read the explanation of all the answers. Use the explanation to lead you to topics to review at that point. This immediate feedback and reinforcement helps retention.


Nutrition (remember your course?) is important to help keep you healthy during the study period and to maintain energy on the exam day. While many of you rely on caffeine and sugar to sustain your energy level, protein is a better choice to help you through the Step I "marathon." Think about snacks (cheese sticks, peanut butter with whole grain crackers or an apple, etc.) that you can eat mid morning and mid afternoon to keep energy level even. This is particularly important on the exam day.

You do not have to join a gym or begin Olympic training during Step I study, but exercise should be a part of your daily schedule. Simply walking outside or dancing to your favorite songs for half an hour can provide a break, clear your head, and offer an opportunity to re-connect with the world. The time it takes to exercise can provide the ?down time? your brain needs for memory and learning.

Making a Schedule :

Take time to determine your review sources and make a schedule.

  • To prevent burnout, schedule in leisure activities, exercise and other activities or responsibilities you will have during this time.

  • Set reasonable study goals. A 20-hour study day is not productive. Your brain needs time to process information.

  • When to start your study? Some will want to start the day after Pathophys ends; most will take 3 or 4 days off before beginning to study.

Try scheduling your most intense study time during "regular work hours," from about 8:30 am - 4:30 pm. This coincides with most scheduled USMLE Step I exam times and helps promote a pattern for working intensely with subject content within this time. Evening hours may be best for doing practice questions. Sometimes doing a block of questions during the day can act as a break. Remember to do the majority of your questions in the tutorial mode. Practice for timing, particularly if it is an issue for you. Your study time is finite; you cannot skip studying Biochem because you are anxious about Pharm. As you complete areas, acknowledge this accomplishment; this will aid in motivation.

Suggested Daily Schedule:

8:30 to 12:00 - Study Session

12:00 to 1:00 - Lunch Break

1:00 to 4:00 - Study Session

4:00 to 7:00ish Break (be human, get some exercise or have some fun)

7:00 to 9:00ish Do Questions-Go over High Yield Facts

Relax and go to bed at a reasonable time

In summary, honestly assess your academic record and study style, consider your needs, plan a schedule, stick to the schedule (your schedule is the best one for you!), be active in studying, think linkages of information, build in break time, and take care of your physical and mental needs.
Link for Step I Study Schedule(6 week study schedule):
click here to download the study schedule

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