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Top 6 Tips to Pass the USMLE
Friday, 19 March 2021

If you’re a medical student from the United States, you have probably already heard about the United States Medical Licensing Examination - or the USMLE for short. The USMLE is one of the last examinations you will need to pass before you get your practice license. It is also one of the hardest exams, which means you will really need to apply yourself when preparing.

There are, however, some ways to make preparing for the USMLE easier and more efficient. If you’re preparing for this difficult examination and could use a hand, make sure to take note of these 6 tips to pass the USMLE.

1. Get familiar with the formula

When starting your revision before taking the USMLE, one of the first things you should do is familiarize yourself with the exam’s format. Fortunately, it remains mostly the same each year, which means you can easily know what to expect. The USMLE consists of three steps, with written tests as well as clinical practice.
During Step 1, you will have to answer up to 280 multiple-choice questions, divided into seven components. The first part of Step 2 is very similar - an 8-hour-long written examination with only a 45-minute break. In the second part of Step 2, you will interact with patients and perform physical examinations. Finally, Step 3 always features 233 multiple-choice questions and 13 case simulations with a time limit of 10 to 20 minutes for each. For more information, you should always refer to the USMLE website.

2. Keep a tight studying schedule

Procrastinating and postponing studying until the very last day won’t work if you want to pass the USMLE, unfortunately. The key to receiving a satisfactory grade is to study every day - or at least most days. Make sure you set up a daily schedule and stick to it to help keep your time organized and not get lost in your daily tasks. Put away an hour or two every day just for studying - and make sure nothing distracts you while you’re at it!
Scheduling apps are a great way of organizing your time, giving you a checklist of things you have to do - including studying. If you haven’t tried out any apps of this kind yet, we recommend you give them a try!

3. Don’t postpone taking the USMLE

If you want to make sure you pass the USMLE, try to take each of the steps of the exam as soon as you can. While, in theory, you can wait to take the USMLE after your graduation, it is much easier to pass it early. The knowledge required for each step will still be fresh in your memory, making studying less of a hassle.
The perfect moment to take the USMLE Step 1 is during your 3rd year of medical school, as it will only require knowledge from the first two years. If you want, you can also immediately take it during the break between year 2 and year 3. After passing Step 1 - or even before - start preparing for the first part of Step 2 - Clinical Knowledge. You will want to ideally take it between your 3rd and 4th year of medical school. Step 2 Clinical Skills exam is most usually taken some time during the 4th year, but some students will wait until their internship begins to have more time to study for finals. Finally, finish the USMLE with Step 3 during your intern year.

4. Study using practice questions

One of the best ways to make sure what you study sticks is to frequently do practice questions. You can find some sample tests at the USMLE website, which will show you what types of questions you can expect on the real exam (you won’t, unfortunately, find any of those sample questions on the real exam though). In addition, you can use a medical question data bank like QUPI to help.
QUPI is an easy-to-use app with over 10,000 medical practice questions, including some prepared specifically for those who study for the USMLE. With QUPI, you can regularly test your knowledge with custom-made tests consisting of only the questions relevant to your needs. Increase your chances to pass the USMLE and give QUPI a try!

5. Mind your health

Being in a poor condition can easily demotivate you from studying, lowering your chances of passing the USMLE with a satisfactory grade. Things like keeping a proper diet and an active lifestyle are important, but don’t forget about your mental well-being as well.
Studying for an exam like the USMLE can be taxing, often leading to an increase in stress levels. When studying, take a break if you’re starting to feel tired or irritated - don’t let the USMLE get the best of you. If you’re feeling that the pressure is too much, consider talking to a therapist - it really helps!

6. Don’t neglect the rest of your education

While studying for the USMLE takes time and effort, you can’t let it interfere with the rest of your studies. Finding the proper balance between medical school and the USMLE will make your life much easier. A good tip is to divide your studying sessions between those during which you study for the USMLE, and those during which you prepare for other assessments.
This is especially important during your final year of medical school - don’t let the USMLE keep you from studying for the finals. You can finish whatever is left of the USMLE after you start your internship.
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