Home » 5 Most Productive Study Tips for USMLE Step 1

5 Most Productive Study Tips for USMLE Step 1

A medical school student presenting on USMLE Step 1 study materials to his study group.


How to Study for USMLE Step 1


Deciding how to study for Step 1 can be a daunting task. There are so many educational resources to choose from, and so much conflicting advice on the internet and from other students. Whether you choose to get advice from an Elite Medical Prep tutor or not, we hope these 5 high-yield techniques will help you in your USMLE Step 1 preparation.



1. Active Review


Its well-established that doing Qbanks are one of, if not the best methods of USMLE step 1 preparation. There is good evidence that the number of UWorld questions completed correlated strongly with passing USMLE Step 1. However, just doing the questions wont yield the full benefit of these resources. One great study technique is active review.


Actively reviewing Qbank questions gives you an opportunity to revisit other educational resources that are also high-yield. For example, lets say you get a question wrong about beta blockers. When you review this question, you can use the opportunity to revisit the Sketchy Pharm video on beta-blockers, or the First Aid pages on anti-arrhythmatics. This can help you to build a more consolidated knowledge base for any topics you are weak in. It also mixes things up during your Qbank reviews, and keeps things fun!


When you revisit a topic using this method, that’s a great time to create a flashcard on the information you missed. You can use Anki, or the built-in UWorld flashcards, and review your cards on a regular basis. These flashcard apps have a built-in spaced repetition mechanism which will really help with your active recall come test day!



2. Simulating the Test


Another great way to ensure success on the USMLE steps is to simulate the real test. Many students find that they can answer 40 questions in a row without much problem. However, the real USMLE Step 1 exam consists of 280 questions! Therefore, it can be helpful to start building your question-taking endurance in the weeks preceding your scheduled exam.


There are few ways to do this either by taking NBME practice tests (which have about 160 questions each), or by taking several UWorld blocks in a row (40 questions each). Incrementally increasing your question-taking endurance can lower your test-day anxiety and help you stay focused for the full duration of the 8-hour exam. See our 6-week or 10-week Step 1 study schedules to get help with effectively spreading these practice tests and QBank questions over time.



3. Starting Early


When thinking about how to study for USMLE Step 1, its important to remember that its a marathon, not a race! With so many resources at your fingertips, and so much information to memorize, it can be difficult to fit everything into just a few weeks.


If you start planning your USMLE Step 1 preparation early, you can get a head start on everything you will be asked to learn for the test. If you have time to start dedicating time for a few weeks or months before your dedicated study period, this can be immensely helpful.


Laying out a strong foundation of knowledge over a period of months can be much more manageable than taking on everything in just a few weeks. For example, if you start your USMLE Step 1 preparation 6 months before your dedicated period, completing an entire round of UWorld can take just 15 questions a day. For many students, this is much more palatable than the long hours of studying required during a few weeks dedicated period.


If you start early, then you may be less stressed when you do get to your dedicated period, as well. Personally, I had completed one round of UWorld by the time I started my dedicated study period this really helped me to have a much more pleasant, manageable experience during my few weeks of dedicated USMLE Step 1 preparation.



4. Working Together 


USMLE Step 1 preparation can be hard. Luckily, if you are taking the test at the same time as other students from your school, then you dont have to do it alone! Studying with other people can help you to stay motivated. If you study with a group, have them be your accountabilibuddies, making sure you stay off your phone and Netflix when you should be studying! And then after working hard all day, you and your friends can do something fun in the evening to destress.


Just remember try not to compare yourself to your friends! Everyone has different goals and schedules while studying for USMLE Steps. Be each others support, not each others stress!



5. Rest


Your Step 1 dedicated can be a very stressful time. Most study schedules require students to study for about 6 weeks, for 10-12 hours a day. Thats a long time to focus on one thing! Its important to take breaks so that you can de-stress and refocus when you have to get back to studying.


Try to work breaks of different sizes into your week. Throughout the day, you can take small breaks to help you stay refreshed in the 8th or 12th hour of daily studying. This doesnt have to be fancyyou can listen to a favorite song between UWorld sets, or do some push-ups after an hour of reading First Aid.


Also, dont be afraid to give yourself a day of rest each week. 12 hours of studying, 6 days a week is a lot. You can use the 7th day each week to do something fun, see friends, or take a quick day trip. When you get back to studying the next day, you will find yourself refreshed and ready to take on the week’s tasks! 


That’s all we’ve got today for how to study for USMLE step 1! As always, if you need help making a study schedule or getting your Step 1 score where you want it to be, don’t hesitate to contact us and speak with a professional USMLE tutor today!

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About the Author

Ian Nolan, MD Candidate

As an accomplished musician, Ian Nolan graduated from Indiana University with his Bachelor of Music in Piano Performance with High Distinction in 2015. During his…

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