Home » 5 Effective Study Tips to Help You Prepare for COMLEX Level 1

5 Effective Study Tips to Help You Prepare for COMLEX Level 1

A student doing online studying and preparing for COMLEX Level 1


COMLEX Level 1 is a tough exam. Not only does it test basic science content at the same level as the equivalent USMLE Step 1, it also tests the principles of osteopathic medicine.  Furthermore, the questions themselves can often throw you for a loop – many students find that the questions are either very direct 1-step questions or rather vague, with many answer choices being possible. Despite these issues, achieving a good COMLEX Level 1 score is within reach if you prepare appropriately. Undoubtedly, the best way to prepare for the COMLEX Level 1 is to start learning the material early, be thorough in your approach, and practice those test-taking skills! We hope these tips can help you get a good COMLEX score! 


1. Learn Medicine

First and foremost, mastering basic science content and osteopathic medicine is key to doing well on this exam. Treat your first- and second-year classes in medical school as the opportunity to start preparing for COMLEX Level 1. Dive into the content with a thorough book like First Aid for Step 1 accompanied by a video lecture platform (eg. Boards & Beyond or Osmosis) and learn the content to the best of your ability. Use the Savarese book to learn the osteopathic components. This will help prepare you for your class exams and get a sense for what COMLEX is testing. Starting as soon as you can will give you the most time to brush up your mastery of the material. If you, like many students, are getting a late start, don’t despair! As long as you get through the basic science content and master the osteopathic components prior to test day, you will be prepared!


2. Make a Schedule – and stick to it!

Everybody needs a schedule in order to get a good COMLEX score. Without a schedule, you will have no way of knowing how many questions you need to do per day or how much content you need to get through in order to reach your goal. Take a day to plan out exactly how much time you have to get through the resources you have decided to use, and make a detailed calendar to get you through your studies. Like the above point, start early! You can incorporate COMLEX Level 1 review into your daily schedule as soon as possible by even allotting just 30 minutes a day to review while in your first or second year of classes. During dedicated, plan out your day in 2h chunks, and make sure you give yourself time to eat, exercise, and re-fuel. Importantly, give yourself a day off each week to review, rest, and catch up when you inevitably fall a bit behind schedule.


3. Questions, Questions, Questions!

Undoubtedly, practice questions are the key to doing well on COMLEX Level 1. There is strong evidence to suggest that the more practice questions students do, the better they score on COMLEX. Ideally, you should plan to get through all of the UWorld (even twice!) and either the COMBANK or COMQUEST question banks. Some students even delve into other question banks like Amboss if they feel like they’ve “used up” UWorld. Whichever qbank you choose, remember to spend time reviewing each question – even the ones you got right! The explanations in UWorld and other qbanks are often very high-yield, so spend those extra minutes annotating First Aid with all that useful information! Going one step further and making your own flashcard deck in Anki can also be hugely helpful.


4. Practice Exams

Taking the COMLEX Level 1 practice exam, the COMSAE, is critical to your success and a good COMLEX score. However, since there is only 1 official practice exam available, many students find that other practice exams are necessary to help them simulate test-day conditions and predict their score. It is important to keep in mind that while COMLEX objectively has “easier” questions, the test has significantly more questions and is a longer exam with less time per question than Step 1. Keep this in mind as you decide whether or not to use the NBME practice exams for Step 1 in your COMLEX preparation.


5. Take care of yourself

You can’t do well on COMLEX unless you are doing well yourself – both mentally and physically. Many students find that they have to effectively address issues such as test-taking anxiety with some support. Talking through these problems with friends, family, a counselor, or a psychiatrist can often provide students with adequate coping strategies. Other students have family obligations or are balancing work and school. Whatever your situation, make sure that you budget enough time into your study schedule to take care of yourself and your personal responsibilities so that you can tackle COMLEX Level 1 and become the doctor you’ve always wanted to be.


As always, if you find yourself in need of extra help on COMLEX Level 1, don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional COMLEX tutor! We would be happy to answer your questions, help you set up a study schedule, or guide you through your preparatory process.

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About the Author

Karolina Woroniecka, MD/PhD

As a former Howard Hughes Medical Institute Student Fellow, Karolina Woroniecka graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Brown University with a B.S. in Biology and Hispanic…

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