Aiming for a 99 – The Best Time to Start Studying for the USMLE Step 1

By askdoc / March 2, 2012
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What is the best time to start studying for the USMLE Step 1 if you want to score a 99? Believe it or not I’ve been asked that question so often and most of the time people don’t like my answer. The best time to start studying for the USMLE Step 1 is when you start medical school, during your 1st and 2nd year.

 

However, I understand that for most people they start thinking of the USMLE only after they finished school or for Step 1 after they finished the first two years of medical school. Therefore, they have already missed a golden opportunity to get a really high score. But it still is possible to get a 99 and a lot of people have done so.

I remember a particular case in 2006 when a young medical student from Europe with the callsign JackofKnives in the prep4usmle forum emailed me asking me to help him get a high 99. He was just a first year medical student. I told him that he needs to study pathology very well and do a lot of integration and correlation with other subjects while studying. That he had a golden opportunity to score really high since he is starting with a very good foundation. We had a series of discussions via email on how detailed he should study the concepts and the best books to use. In 2009, he emailed me back to thank me for helping him get a high 99. It was a very high 99/276.



I have always advocated studying correctly from the time you start medical school. By studying correctly from the beginning, you build a very strong foundation to master the topics tested in the exam.

That said, most people studying for the USMLE Step 1 have finished their basic science. Some have finished medical school altogether. For a few like me, the basic medical sciences is ancient history. But like me, a very old grad, it is still possible to get a 99, although it requires harder work and better and more efficient prep.

In conclusion, the best time to start studying for the USMLE Step 1 if you are aiming for a 99 is when you start medical school or as early as you possibly can. The later you start prepping, the harder you need to prep to get a 99.

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About the author

    askdoc

  • aman says:

    hello n hi…..i just read ur comments n i liked that…i m preparing for usmle step 1 for the last 14 month n also seriuos study but still i think i need alot to do n plz just guide me how i can consize n get high score in next 5 month…i m in final year of my medical school……ur suggestion n advice will be really welcomed n thanks for that hope ur reply

  • damhoar says:

    Hello)
    Thank you for this blog!
    I am second year medical student and i started learning since few months already; really not easy because i have first to master english skills to read/understand faster without any head’ traduction and your blog provide us really helpful advices!

    Like most people i want a 99 score; but i heard that this score become to be harder each year to get; is it true ?

    Wish you all a good day.

  • askdoc says:

    Hi damhoar,

    I don’t think getting a 99 is getting harder. When I took the exam, you need to get a 240 to get a 99. Now all you need is a 230, which is way much easier to get than a 240. There was a time when there was a significant increase in people getting 99’s. But that was traced to a prep company that cheated. The USMLE was able to trace that and shut the prep company down and disqualified the results of the students concerned. I wish I had clipped the article where I read that, so I can post it. But sadly I did not. Again, getting a 99 has always been hard. But its not getting harder.

    Askdoc

  • as.md says:

    Hello, I am a first year medical student. I am currently in a pal course outside if the us and I’m worried about my lack of preparation for the usmle. Can u give me any advise on the best supplements for my learning to ensure a high score. My course is particularly lacking in biochemistry and histology. How much are these topics emphasized in usmle? Please tell me what book to get for a 99in usmle.

  • askdoc says:

    Hi as.md,

    Using the proper prep material will not insure you get a high score. There is also no book that exists that will ensure you will get a 99. However, using the wrong prep material can insure you have no chance of getting a 99. To get a 99, you need the right prep material, proper preparation, superb study skills and above average intellectual capabilities which are inborn and therefore cannot be remedied. There is no magic bullet. It requires hard work and prepping the right way.

    Askdoc

  • minoxidil says:

    hi,
    i m a second year medical student of south-east asia. i m plannning to prepare for USMLE now.can u please tell me what is the best subject to start with.
    Also could u highlight the difference between taking USMLE after basics and after medical school altogether..

  • askdoc says:

    Hi Minoxidil,

    With learning phase, you start with anatomy and physiology. If you are in the mastery phase, you start with pathology. Refer to my book How to Master the USMLE Step 1 for more details. Too much to explain everything here. Its available in Amazon or click the link on the sides so you can find it in Amazon.

    I presume you are asking about Step 1 since taking Step 2 CK when you still have no clinical experience is a no-brainer. It is easier to take Step 1 after finishing basic science because most concepts are still fresh. If you wait till you finish medical school, you would have forgotten a lot of basic medical science already which means longer prep and lower scores.

    Askdoc

  • inamullah says:

    sir i wanna know after learning phase of heart physiology which things i have to master ? plzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz tell me thanx a lot in advance

  • princess says:

    hi. i am an intern. finished my final year. want to start with USMLE. please guide me thru it. firstly tell me the basic. i have read that there are 322 questions in step 1 so how much is the pass percentage and how many of the 322 have to be right for a 99?? what exactly does a 99 mean?? is it the % or the grading!!??! (sorry if the question is dumb) But i need help. i not only want the 99 but if anythng is possible which is better than that. I am not afraid of hard work and nor am i hesitant in putting in extra hours of study.. but i want you to tel me how the grading is done..

    secondly i want to know which books to start with the books i’ve been reading in med school or the FIRST AID for USMLE STEP1 ?? i am confused. plz tell me which books to start with also because i remember less of my first year subjects!! i wanna be done with it by the time i finish my internship. please i will be grateful if you reply in detail.

    god bless you
    thanks.
    Please do write back


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