We have previously posted a blog that discussed how to score above 270 on USMLE Step 1. While it is always good to aim as high as you can on Step 1, not everyone wants to or has the time and energy to put in the work necessary to score in the 99th percentile. Paired with a resume packed with stellar research publications and outstanding recommendation letters, a Step 1 score > 240 can get you just about anywhere a 260 will.
But how does one achieve a score > 240 on USMLE Step 1? There are many important things to consider here but to briefly summarize – 1) an organized study schedule to keep you on track is critical; 2) use the highest yield resources and, do not get distracted by the vast amount of materials out there; 3) start early on UWorld questions and do it consistently every day, even if it crushes your soul. With a solid knowledge foundation built during the 1st and 2nd years of medical school, if you stick to these three rules, you will excel on this infamous exam. So now, let’s break down the three rules:
- An Organized Study Schedule
By no means do I want you to make a schedule that breaks down your day to the most minute details. However, you need to have a clear vision of which subject you are going to study each day and how you are going to study them. I generally recommend breaking down the day into two parts – the 1st part for reviewing a First Aid chapter and the 2nd part dedicated to do UWorld Qbank questions. Neither isolated FA review nor doing questions without looking over FA first will help you improve your score. The two are meant to be used together to complement each other. In addition, depending on how long you have to study for Step 1, you need to have a clear sense of how many times you want to or are able to repeat FA and UWorld. We generally recommend going over all the materials twice. So schedule your test date and plan your study schedule wisely!
2. Less Is More When It Comes To Resources
I often see students purchase many resources when studying for Step 1 and Step 2CK, but end up getting distracted or stressed by the amount of time and work they have to invest in order to review all of them. When I was studying for Step 1, I relied heavily on two main resources – First Aid and UWorld Qbank and I scored > 260. When it comes to USMLE studying, less is more! Step exams are designed to test a specific set of knowledge and, fortunately for us, most of that knowledge is outlined beautifully in First Aid and in the UWorld Qbank. To score > 240, you simply need to master the information in FA and in UWorld. I totally understand that these two resources are by no means comprehensive and you may want to supplement with other resources such as Pathoma, Sketchy Microbs, Physeo or even Board Review Series/BRS books. However, you should still focus 90% of your attention on FA and UWorld. This saves you time, money, and energy.
3. When In Doubt, Do More Questions
My medical school did a study to find the single most predictive factor in Step 1 performance among all the medical students who have taken the exam in the past decade and shared the results with us. Not surprisingly, the amount of UWorld Qbank questions completed is positively correlated with better performance on Step 1. With a goal of >240, you should aim to finish all the UWorld questions AT LEAST once, preferably twice. Doing questions will help familiarize yourself with the style of USMLE exams and solidify the knowledge you learned from FA and other resources. Without questions, you will not be able to tease out and integrate the factoids and memorization points you learned during medical school.
In summary, these are just some general rules to do well on USMLE Step 1. It ultimately boils down to keeping yourself accountable, staying focused, and never giving up. Hope this helps and best of luck!