USMLE Exam Preparation & Best Practices to Score High

Q1. What is the USMLE exam?

A1. After a student completes his or her medical education, practicing medicine in the United States needs as additional license. This is when an aspirant needs to write the famous United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) exam, which happens to be a three-step examination for acquiring the same license in the United States of America.

Q2. What is the eligibility criterion for USMLE exam?

A2.  To be eligible for a license to practice medicine, a USMLE exam aspirant needs to be either a medical student officially enrolled in or a graduate of any medical school program in the US and Canada, which leads to a MD degree accredited by LCME, a DO degree accredited by American Osteopathic Association. International students enrolled in medical school programs outside the United States in any place listed by the World Directory of Medical Schools, or meeting the eligibility criteria of ECFMG, are also eligible to write the licensing exam. Before you begin your USMLE prep, please ensure that the course you are enrolled in or have graduated from meets the minimum standards required to write the USMLE examination.

Q3. What score do I need to pass USMLE exam?

A3. USMLE is held in three broad parts—with the 2nd step divided into two categories—2 CK and 2CS. While the scores of 2 CS are not available, and a USMLE test taker is just awarded pass/ fail status. All other scores are three digit numbers--- with passing marks set for the USMLE takers. While the passing score for USMLE step 1 is 194, it is 209 for Step 2 CK. For Step 3, the passing score is 196.

Q4. What is difference between USMLE and MCAT?

A4. The basic difference between MCAT and USMLE is that the MCAT scores are for admission into medical schools while USMLE is a licensing exam for qualifying to practice medicine in the United States. MCAT test a test takers abilities and skill to be eligible to study medicine while USMLE analyses all the learning a test taker has acquired in medical school and whether they can utilize in it practice in the real world as a practicing doctor.  

Q5. How does the USMLE exam work?

A5.  Every step of the USMLE exam is different, with the test schedule extending to several hours, Hence, USMLE test prep requires perseverance and dedication mote than anyone and a USMLE study prep schedule is important. These are the various steps of USMLE exam and how they actually work

Step 1: The first leg of the USMLE exam, often called the Step 1, happens to be a whopping eight hour long schedule complete with seven sections of 40 questions each. That is 280 questions in totality, required to be solved in eight long hours. Each section is an hour long and students can take 45 hour breaks in between sessions. A 5 minute tutorial is included in the test time but a test taker might opt to skip that an d take that time for a break instead.

Step 2: Longer than the first step, the second step is spread over nine long hours, the Step 2 has exactly the same number of sections and questions too. One hour is provided for each section. Between test sections, the test taker is allotted a 45 minutes break. There is a 15-minute tutorial at the beginning of the exam, which the test-taker can choose to skip and have that time added to break time.

Step 3: The final Step 3 of the USMLE exam lives up to its reputation, and is a computer based test spread over two days., with approximately 500 MCQs to be solved along with computer based case simulations (CCS) used to test a USMLE test taker’s ability to solve cases—evaluating case history of a patient, conducting physical examination, offering tests, study the tests and selecting a course of treatment apart from managing the patient. On Day 1, the Foundations of Independent Practice (FIP) test is conducted which has six sections in one hour slot; with each slot having 38-40 MCQs while on day 2, the students will be tested on Advanced Clinical Medicine (ACM), which has six 45 minute blocks of MCQs followed by 13 CCS.

Q6. How Should I prepare for the USMLE?

A6.   USMLE test prep is the only gap between a medical school graduate actually starting to practice medicine and hence, it is natural for the test takers to comprehensively test the knowledge of a student for awarding a thumbs up in the USMLE exam.

USMLE is one of those tests which make you feel like you’re running one long marathon with your destination nowhere in sight. The reason for maximum failures in USMLE is not the lack of ability in a student; but it is the lack of patience to go through all the stages with equal gusto and enthusiasm. Today, we bring to you a complete list of tips to crack USMLE without actually giving up in between. Straight from our experts, here’s FIVE TIPS to ace USMLE:

1. Study Gradually
Attempting USMLE is not one big leap but a thousand small steps. Remember, you have to begin somewhere! So, why not get to study? Review the syllabus, sort out your weaknesses and strengths and zero on what exactly you need to study. Focus on strengthening your plus points and most importantly, build yourself a study schedule. Regular study hours are the only way to study for top scores in any exam.


2. Cram your way to glory
A large part of the test involves remembering a lot of facts and diagrams and processes; and though the understanding of these is essentially crucial, there is NOTHING that that replace the plus points of having all of it on the tip of your tongue. So, brace yourselves for the epic task and allot a slot in your schedule exclusively to cramming- an essential to pass the USMLE


3. Find yourself a study partner
For a test that seems never ending; it is vital to keep the spirits high. A study buddy or a study group could be definitely beneficial to all the USMLE aspirants. You could compare notes, sit and discuss the issues you face with the prep at regular intervals. Need help finding a Study partner? Sign up for www.studypal.co today!


4. It’s all about the correct choices
The fact that most students forget while attending the test is; all questions weighs the same. So spending an extra five minutes so solve that real tricky question isn’t wise if you can solve an extra two(albeit simpler) in the same time frame. It is NOT about how well you attempt a particular question and best scorers get away with attempting something that is relatively easy!


5. Have a plan
Decide how on much time you are planning to spend on each phase and gradually work out a plan to cover the entire syllabus. Allot time slots for each topic and motivate yourself to meet the deadlines. Treat yourself to a movie or a dinner out to reward yourself and you will find yourself breezing through your prep for the test!

Now, that the list is up, what are you waiting for? Go find your book and settle down with a pen and paper to chalk out your prep plan today! If you are determined to excel; NOTHING could possibly stop you from acing your USMLE tests in the very first attempt. Stay calm and keep studying!

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Q7. What Should I expect on my USMLE test day?

A7.  You need to bring in a valid ID with your name matching the name you used to register for the USMLE test. The exam spreads over an abnormally long part of the day, so it is advisable to hold your breath and try to exercise or stretch a little between the sections. Sitting for the abnormally long hours can be exhausting, but that shouldn’t be an excuse to arrive at your exam center late. Arrive at least 45-30 minutes before the scheduled time of the USMLE exam, so as to compensate for traffic delays or other hiccups on the way. There is a security process to undergo and hence, arriving early is the smart choice to make.

Q9. How is my USMLE score calculated?

A9. USMLE test score calculation is not disclosed but for all papers except 2 CS, the students will receive a three digit mark which needs to be higher than the preset passing scores to clear the USMLE exam for a medical license.

Q10. How many times can I take USMLE exam?

A10.  You can give USMLE Step 1 exam up to six times.

Q11. How long will my USMLE score remain valid?

A11. USMLE score is valid for 7 years.

Q12. How long do you have to wait between USMLE exams?

A12. You can only give the exam three times within a 12-month period. Your fourth exam must be at least 12 months after your first attempt and at least six months after your most recent attempt.

Q13. What are the score ranges for the USMLE exam?

A13. There are no particular score ranges for USMLE exam.

Q14. Can I cancel my USMLE appointment? How to do it?

A14. You can change or cancel your scheduled USMLE latest by two days prior to the examination. You can do this by calling 18773112525.  

Q15. How much does it cost to take the USMLE?

A15.  For writing the Step 1 and Step two CK paper, the exam registration for USMLE costs $940 while for Step 2 CS it is $1580.

Q16. How to find study partner for USMLE test?

A16. In today’s fast paced world, competition in USMLE exam is best faced with a partner to study with. Simply sign up on Studypal.co and add the filters of your choice and find a study buddy near you!