Studying for the Step 1 exam is extremely tough. The sheer volume of information is very difficult to retain in such a short period of time. However, many students have still been able to crush the Step 1 exam which shows that it is possible. Overall, this will probably be the hardest exam you ever take, so it is important to prepare early.
The general preparation time for the USMLE Step 1 exam takes about 1.5-2 years of medical school education and about 1-3 months of dedicated study time which is an independent, uninterrupted review of everything that you have learned. Most of the Step 1 content should be covered in the first two years of medical school. Therefore, during dedicated study students are mainly reviewing material they have already learned, doing practice questions, and taking full length practice exams.
The amount of dedicated study time depends on two things: how confident you feel with the material AND how much dedicated time your school allows. It usually ranges from 4 weeks to 12 weeks. However, many students find that 8 weeks is a fair amount since too little time can be detrimental and too much time can be counterproductive.
It is very likely that you will never be “fully” prepared for the Step 1 exam. The exam is designed in a way that very few people end up with a score close to the 100th percentile (about 265+). However, a student is probably prepared for the exam if they are consistently reaching or surpassing their desired score during practice exams.
Here are some study tips that can help you succeed while studying for the USMLE Step 1 exam.
Many students recommend using your dedicated study resources during your curriculum. For example, some students begin their UWorld questions 3 months before dedicated to get a head start on it. Also, some students follow their First Aid book throughout didactics to get an early first pass on it. This can be a very useful strategy for studying.
Limit your interruptions. Stay away from distractions. One of the biggest distractions is your phone. It is important to limit anything that can break your focus during dedicated study.
Schedule regular breaks so that you don’t burn out. Breaks during dedicated can be motivating to study harder. Having a break to look forward to can encourage your mind to focus harder so that your break can feel more rewarding.
Have someone to talk to. Although your social life will probably be poor during dedicated, make sure you still have people you can enjoy time with and vent to if needed.
Choosing your resources for the Step 1 exam can be very difficult because there are so many options to choose from. It is recommended that students pick at least one review book, one question bank, and a lecture series. For example: First Aid for content review, UWorld for questions, and Boards & Beyond for lectures to reference.
For more information about resources, visit our thorough resource guide.