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.