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Top USMLE Step 3 Resources for Struggling Students

5 min


A medical school student studying for the USMLE Step 3 at home on his laptop.


I rarely teach students who are doing well in their studies. The majority of my students are struggling to pass. While most of my students are sitting for Step 1 or Step 2 CK, I occasionally get a student for Step 3 who is looking for advice after a failed attempt or after an interruption in their medical education. Choosing the right resources for your USMLE Step 3 prep is an important step in your study journey.


The United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) is a medical licensing exam that physicians are required to pass in order to practice medicine in the United States. It aims to assess the physician’s mastery of medical knowledge, concepts, and skills used to diagnose and treat patients. 


Studying for Step 3 is a marathon, not a sprint.


Studying for USMLE Step 3 is a unique challenge for many residents and applicants. Between balancing your clinical responsibilities and your studies, how can anyone expect to study for this beastly exam? Below are my three most recommended resources for passing Step 3 if you are a struggling student. Some of these may seem obvious, but that’s because they are fundamental to doing well on the exam. 



UWorld for Step 3


UWorld is the gold standard for USMLE test preparation. Whether you’re failing, barely passing, or crushing your board exams, there is no substitute for practice questions. There are many trusted question banks to choose from (AMBOSS and Kaplan, for example). While working through questions in any question bank is almost always good. Based on my personal experience taking Step 3, UWorld questions most closely resemble Step 3 multiple-choice questions. I strongly recommend purchasing the $25 biostatistics add-on. Step 3 focuses on biostatistics as much (if not more) than the previous Step exams. If you’re struggling with Step 3’s multiple-choice questions, then UWorld is a must-do.



CCS Cases


Step 3 is broken down into two types of questions: multiple choice questions and real-time simulated patient care scenarios, or Computer-based Case Simulations using software called Primum.


About 25% of your Step 3 score depends on how you performed on the 12 CCS cases that are part of the exam. These cases will test you primarily on conditions and situations you should have encountered during your intern year. Scoring well depends on being familiar with the scoring system, the computer program, and the timing of the exam. 


UWorld has a very thorough Step 3 CCS section, however, it’s not particularly interactive. “CCS cases is an online resource that uses the same software as the real Step 3 exam. The platform has 140 cases to choose from with scoring, grading, and feedback based on your answers provided for each case with suggestions on how to improve your score. I found CCS Cases to be the best way to prepare for Step 3 CCS.



Tutoring for USMLE Step 3


If you are using the above resources and you are still struggling with Step 3 content, then you might benefit from academic Step 3 tutoring. Working with a tutor will not guarantee a passing score, but it will almost certainly improve your chance of passing Step 3. At the very least, a tutoring session can help struggling students find out where they can and should focus their studying efforts and improve their test-taking strategy.

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