10 Productive USMLE Exam Tips On How To Ace USMLE

Looking for study advice for the USMLE exam? We've taken care of everything. Here are eleven USMLE exam tips you may take to prepare for this critical exam.

May 13, 2022

Choosing how to study for USMLE  might be difficult. If you ask 10 medical students how to pass the USMLE, you’ll receive eleven different replies. 

We gathered hundreds of neurosurgery and general surgery residency candidates who typically get very high scores to collect their USMLE exam tips. We compiled a list of the most popular comments and 10 tips that we believe students will find useful.

The top eleven tips below can help you boost your USMLE score and increase your chances of training in your chosen area and location.

What is USMLE?

usmle exam tips

First and foremost, let’s know more about this exam and what it includes.

The United States Medical Licensing Test (USMLE) is a three-part examination that is needed of anybody who wishes to practice medicine in the United States. The Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) and the National Board of Medical Examiners® (NBME) are the sponsors.

Physicians must pass this test during medical school and after receiving an M.D. degree in order to be licensed and practice medicine in the United States. The USMLE’s three phases all work together to evaluate a physician’s skills and abilities, hence no single step can be used to determine preparedness for a medical license.

The first two steps are typically taken while the student is still in medical school, and the third step is completed after graduation.

What are Step 1, Step 2, and Step 3 included?

Step 1 determines whether you understand and can apply key ideas from the sciences that are fundamental to the practice of medicine, with a focus on the principles and mechanisms that underpin health, illness, and possible treatments.

The first step is a one-day test. It is broken down into seven 60-minute parts and given in one 8-hour session. On a specific examination form, the number of questions each block will vary, but will not exceed 40. There will be no more than 280 elements on the overall examination form.

Step 2 evaluates your ability to utilize medical knowledge, skills, and understanding of clinical science to provide patient care under supervision, with a focus on health promotion and illness prevention.

The Step 2 CK test lasts one day. It is broken into eight 60-minute chunks and delivered over a nine-hour period. Within each block, test item formats may differ.

Step 3 is intended to examine the knowledge and abilities of physicians who are taking on autonomous responsibility for delivering general medical care to patients in ambulatory settings. It is the last exam in the USMLE sequence that leads to a license to practice medicine independently.

Step 3 is a two-day assessment. The first day of examination includes 232 multiple-choice questions divided into six blocks of 38-39 questions, each needing 60 minutes to complete. On the first day, the exam session lasts about 7 hours, including 45 minutes of break time and a 5-minute optional lesson. Note that completing a block of test items or the optional instructional before the time limit expires might extend the amount of time available for breaks.

Top 11 USMLE exam tips to ace three steps

Now you already know how daunting it is to pass the three Steps of the USMLE exam. The following study tips will help you improve your test score and performance percentile whether you’re taking the USMLE Step 1, Step 2, or Step 3. We’ll go through 11 study tips that can help you prepare for the USMLE. In the conclusion, there are two additional tips!

Let’s dive in!

#Tip 1: Set a goal

Students that perform well on the USMLE set a goal for themselves and then work hard to attain it. Knowing what you need to score from the start creates a mindset that will keep you working year after year, month after month, and finally day after day as the exam date approaches.

Set big ambitions and shoot for the stars. Set a goal for yourself and don’t stop until you earn the anticipated score on practice examinations every time.

Many of my successful students suggested setting a deadline to get the score you need 30 days before your actual exam day. This allowed them to wriggle room and the chance to close any remaining gaps. It’s true that studying for 12 hours a day is difficult unless you first construct a light at the end of the tunnel.

For most students, achieving a high grade necessitates being diligent, sacrificing family and social life while maintaining healthy habits such as eating healthily and exercising. Basically, everything you do for the next six months should be focused on accomplishing your objective.

#Tip 2: Create a study strategy and start your study as soon as possible

The first thing to remember is to design your own study timetable.

The USMLE includes a variety of topics and having a study plan can help you stay on track and prepare for all of the information that will be assessed. Your study plan will keep you organized by advising you on which topics to study on which days when to take practice examinations, and when to take weeks of holidays.

During your specific USMLE study session, your study plan will be employed largely. In general, students devote 4-6 weeks to studying for the USMLE.

During designated USMLE study time, the study plan will be used. Allow yourself plenty of time! The USMLE preparation begins throughout your first two years of medical school.

It’s vital to remember that studying for the USMLE, particularly Step 1, is a marathon, not a sprint. It might be challenging to cram everything into a few weeks when you have so many resources at your fingertips and so much knowledge to learn.

You may get a head start on everything you’ll need to know for the test if you start planning your USMLE preparation early.

Building a solid foundation of knowledge over several months is far more achievable than tackling everything in a few weeks. For example, if you begin your USMLE Step 1 preparation six months prior to your designated period, you may complete one whole round of UWorld in just 15 days. For many students, this is preferable to the extensive hours of studying necessary during a focused period of a few weeks.

If you get started early, you may be less anxious when it comes time for your designated period.

#Tip 3: Study the proper material

UWorld, First Aid, and Pathoma are used by the majority of students. There are many resources to pick from, and various people will have different suggestions. There is no one best source combination. In fact, your learning style should guide your selection.

While this may seem self-evident, it’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting to study stuff you already know since it gives you confidence.

Focus on neurology first if cardiology is one of your stronger courses but neurology has been a topic you’ve struggled with.

Starting with your weak topics may make you feel unprepared or ignorant, but keep in mind that you are starting with the things you are least familiar with on purpose.

Because you will be most focused and productive at the start of your study session, this is an excellent time to concentrate on your weakest areas.

Starting with your weak topics will offer you more time to review and revisit them over the rest of your academic career.

This repetition will aid memory retention.

#Tip 4: Practice, practice, practice

usmle exam tips

Third, answer as many practice questions as you can, particularly during your designated USMLE study session. Solving practice questions have been found to be one of the most effective ways of preparing for the USMLE.

There has already been data that indicates that completing more practice questions correlates with a better USMLE score. UWorld is an amazing resource, but you are able to choose the question bank that best fits your requirements.

Practice questions might begin during your first two years of medical school, but they are essential during your committed study phase. While it is beneficial to complete practice questions, it is also critical to study the answers to each question as well as the explanations for each answer choice.

#Tip 5: Actively review each answer choice

You should go through each practice question’s answers as well as the explanations for each answer choice, including wrong ones. Learning why an answer option is incorrect is just as essential as learning why an answer choice is correct.

Furthermore, you will be able to study numerous high-yield subjects in a single question. If the question requires you to identify the diagnosis, for example, you will have the option to learn about each condition/disease offered as an answer choice by reading the explanation.

If you want to go over the issue again, you can utilize other resources to enhance the explanations.

While actively analyzing question bank questions, you will have the option to examine other high-yield instructional materials.

Let’s imagine you answer a question regarding beta blockers incorrectly. You can go back to the Sketchy Pharm video on beta-blockers or the First Aid section on antiarrhythmics while you study this question.

This might assist you in consolidating your knowledge base for any topics in which you are lacking. It also adds variety to your Q-bank evaluations and keeps things interesting!

#Tip 6: Mark wrong practice questions and go through them again

The fifth tip is to keep track of which practice questions you get incorrectly and which questions you get right but had to guess on.

You’ve now built a question bank using the information you missed on your first attempt. After you’ve gone through the full question bank the first time, go through all of the marked questions again.

During the second pass, re-flag the questions you continue to get wrong and resume the procedure. You will ultimately know the majority of the question bank if time permits.

#Tip 7: Use practice exams to simulate the actual USMLE

Simulating the real USMLE stages is another excellent strategy to guarantee success.

Self-assessments from NBME and UWorld closely resemble the USMLE, but you are free to utilize any other practice test site you choose. During your devoted USMLE study period, you should strive to take at least three self-assessments.

When you finish most self-assessments, you’ll get expected results and a breakdown of your weak and strong subjects. This data will provide you with helpful feedback and allow you to make any required improvements to your studies.

Additionally, practice examinations will assist you in gradually boosting your question-taking endurance, lowering your test-day anxiety, and allowing you to remain concentrated for the whole 8-hour exam.

#Tip 8: Remove distractions from smartphones and social media

You should limit your mobile phone and social media usage during studying. Distractions can make us less effective over time, and they may cause us to miss our daily study goals.

Put your phone in flight mode or, if possible, leave it in another room. It is permissible to keep your phone with you if you have an urgent need to do so. Use your phone and social media during breaks, which leads us to our next recommendation.

#Tip 9: Rest

Preparing for the USMLE can be challenging. The majority of study schedules demand students to study for lengthy periods of time, often for many hours each day. That’s a lot of time to concentrate on just one subject! It’s critical to take pauses in order to de-stress and refocus when you return to studying.

Involve a variety of breaks within your week. You can take slight breaks throughout the day to assist you to feel refreshed throughout the 8th or 12th hour of regular studying.

Don’t be scared to take a day off each week to relax. It’s a lot to study for 12 hours six days a week. Every week, use the seventh day to do something enjoyable, meet friends, or go on a brief day trip. You’ll feel rejuvenated and ready to tackle the week’s duties when you return to studying the next day!

This will assist you in recharging and is also beneficial to your physical and mental health.

#Tip 10: Make sure you look after your mental and physical health

Studying for the USMLE can be difficult, and it frequently requires devoting time away from family and friends.  Therefore, maintaining your physical and emotional well-being is really important.

Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, eating healthily, exercising, meditating, or doing anything else you love are all things you can do on a regular basis to aid with your physical and mental health.

During your committed study period, you should also take three full days off. On your off days, you may spend more time doing activities you enjoy, such as visiting extended family, chatting with friends, traveling, hiking, or anything else you enjoy. After each NBME or practice exam, you should take the rest of the day off.

#Tip 11: Study with a partner

Preparing for the USMLE can be difficult. Fortunately, you don’t have to take the test alone if you’re taking it with other kids from your school. Studying with others might assist you in staying motivated. If you’re studying in a group, make them your “accountabilibuddies”, who will make sure you’re not on your phone or watching Netflix when you should be studying! After a long day of hard work, you and your friends may unwind with something enjoyable in the evening.

Always remember not to compare yourself to your peers! While studying for the USMLE Steps, everyone has various goals and timetables. Be supportive of one another, not stressful!

2 bonus tips for the USMLE

Here are two more tips to help you prepare for the USMLE.

  • Change up where you study. Rather than studying every day in your room, apartment, or house, a change of environment can sometimes help you become more productive (as long as it does not distract you too much).
  • Make no comparison to others. You may study differently than others and progress at a different rate. We all have different ways of learning and studying for tests, so do what makes you feel most at ease and trust yourself.

Final thoughts

That’s it for today’s USMLE exam tips! Save time, boost your scores, and advance your career! Good luck!

Let’s get started with our free USMLE practice test to pass the exam on the first try with a high score.