USMLE Step 1 Preparation

Instructor: Carrie Soucy
Preparing for Step 1 of the United States Medical Licensing Examination? Read on to get all the information you need about the exam's content and the different prep materials available along with tips to help you succeed.

Preparing for the USMLE Step 1

To fully prepare for Step 1 of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE), you'll need to not only master the content of the test by gathering and utilizing effective prep materials, but also fully understand what to expect on test day.

Depending on the time you expect to study each day, your study habits, and your comfort level with the exam content, the recommended prep time ranges from one to six months. When planning your study schedule, be sure to explore some of the online courses and prep materials included below so you can choose which best suit your style of study.

Master the Test Content

As the first of three tests required for medical licensure, USMLE Step 1 measures a test taker's mastery of foundational science concepts and organ systems' processes. The exam focuses on traditional life science disciplines and interdisciplinary areas, such as the behavioral sciences, as well as basic patient care and diagnostic tasks. A free booklet that provides an outline of exam content may be downloaded from the USMLE website ( online review and refresher prep courses covering many of the disciplines found on the exam are included below:

Understand the Exam Timing and Structure

USMLE Step 1 is a full-day exam that takes about eight hours to complete. The test has seven one-hour sections and each includes no more than 40 questions. Because all questions are multiple-choice, you may want to watch this quick lesson to review Strategy for Multiple-Choice Questions before your exam day.

Additional free and fee-based prep materials that can get you familiar with the test format and structure are available online through the USMLE and National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) websites. These include:

  • A free practice test, sample questions and tutorial are available on the USMLE website.
  • The NBME's fee-based Comprehensive Basic Science Self-Assessment allows test takers to complete multiple-choice questions similar to those found on the USMLE Step 1 and receive a performance and scoring report, which details test takers' strengths and identifies areas in which they need additional study.
  • For a fee of $75 in the United States or Canada, test takers may take a practice test at a Prometric testing center to preview the official USMLE Step 1 test-taking environment and exam delivery system.

Consider the Scheduling Rules

When planning out your USMLE Step 1 prep time, be sure to take into consideration the registration procedures for the test. When you register, you will need to indicate the three-month window - up to six months in advance - during which you want to take your test. After completing this application, you will receive a permit to schedule your exam date.

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