How to Pass the USMLE Step 1 in One Take
Hi, my name is Mike, also known as ‘askdoc’ in the USMLE prep community. Some of you may know my story. But for those who don’t…
Well I am an old IMG, 16 years out of medical school when I decided to prep for the USMLE Steps. I took Step 1 in April of 2006 and scored a 99/256. Took Step 2 CK in November of 2006 and scored a 99/258. It was a long and arduous journey, filled with bitter-sweet experience. Since that time, people have been asking me how I did it. How I aced it, despite being a super old IMG.
It is a rather long story, and there are many things you need to do if you want to do well in the USMLE Step 1. However, to make the long story short, if you want to pass the USMLE Step 1 in one take with good scores, then you need to Master the USMLE Step 1.
I know, I know. I too hate motherhood statements like master the USMLE, memorize pathology, etc. When I was prepping, I wanted details. The problem, of course, with details is that it’s quite long. It takes a long time to explain and it takes a long time to write. However, this being a blog, I can write the details over time and boy will there be lots and lots of details. Even my book “How to Master the USMLE Step 1: Askdoc’s Method of USMLE Prep” available at Amazon is not as detailed as the discussions in the blog will eventually become. Hopefully, you have the patience to go on this long journey of discovery.
What Do You Mean By Mastering the USMLE Step 1
So what exactly do I mean, when I say you need to master the USMLE Step 1. Well at minimum it means.
First, you know the big three, namely pathology, pharmacology and micro-immunology like the back of your hand. You know the medical topics to the finest details and not just have a general idea. It means you understand diagnosis, pathophysiology and basis of treatment very well and in detail. It means you have integrated the big three to the basic three, namely anatomy, physiology and biochemistry. It involves not just understanding the what, but the why. And even more, the what-if and the why not of health and disease.
Second, it means you know the basic three enough so you can understand and memorize the big three very well. You don’t need to know the basic three in as much detail as the big three, but you need to know enough of it.
Lastly, you need to know enough of behavioral sciences, so it does not pull down your overall score.
It helps of course if you are a good or average test-taker. If not, well you will need to do something about that.
The above however applies primarily to fresh grad and third year medical students who want to pass and do well. If you are an old IMG, there are a lot more things you need to do if you want to pass the USMLE. Please go the old IMG section of the blog. You can start with the post “Advice to the Old IMG Taking the USMLE” and proceed from there.
Another questions I am often asked, “Will I be able to ace the USMLE if I master it?” The answer is maybe. But if you truly want to ace this exam and some of my students have proven it, then you need to Make the USMLE Step 1 Easy for you.
What!?! You say. Isn’t the USMLE supposed to be hard? And the answer is yes, it is a hard exam, maybe the hardest exam you will take in your medical career. But if you want to ace it, you need to make it easy. If you want to find out more, then go to the Ace USMLE section and read, “The Key to Acing the USMLE Step 1” and proceed from there.
How Do You Master the USMLE Step 1
Ever since I started my USMLE prep way back in 2005 to 2006, it seems too many people believe that all they needed to do is read through First Aid a couple of times and they will pass Step 1. There are even those who think that memorizing everything in First Aid and the online q banks is enough to ace this exam. Despite evidence that a lot of people studying this way keeps on failing the exam, it seems people continue to believe that this is all they have to do in order to pass or even excel in the USMLE Step 1. It seems people are afraid to admit the truth. That they have to work hard to pass this exam, and work even harder if they want to ace it.
Taking the USMLE is different from any other exam you have taken before. That is even more true if you are an IMG. Therefore you need to pay special attention to those things that make the USMLE different from your country’s medical boards. Even for the AMG, this exam is a special challenge even if their medical school has taken pains to train them to pass this exam.
I have divided the whole discussion into the following sections. As articles are posted on the blog, the link will turn blue. You may want to subscribe to our email list if you want to be informed by email once new articles are posted.
- Why You Need to Master the USMLE Step 1 – Know Thy Enemy. If you want to defeat the monster that is the USMLE Step 1. Know it thoroughly, so you know how to Master it.
- How to Master the USMLE Step 1 – Understand the different strategies available to you to Master the USMLE Step 1. How to cover specific weak points. How to approach specific study difficulties. What you need to be able to do to Master the USMLE Step 1.
- Creating a Study Plan for the USMLE Step 1 – Understand how to create a study plan that will let you master the USMLE Step 1. Generic study plans do not work. You need to understand your particular weak points and your situation and chart your way to USMLE success.
- Study Materials for the USMLE Step 1 – You need the right study materials and review resources to Master the USMLE Step 1. We discuss the pros and cons of various materials and resources here.
- Learning Phase for the USMLE Step 1 – Learning Phase is important to learn new medical concepts or relearn concepts you have forgotten. Remember, you cannot review what you do not know. You need to learn them first. If you are an IMG or a third year AMG who is less than average in medical school, you may need a learning phase in your prep.
- Mastery Phase for the USMLE Step 1 – Mastery Phase is what most people consider as prepping. This is where you memorize and train yourself to be able to recall at the right level of detail concepts tested in the exam. Learn how to Master the USMLE Step 1 the right way, so you pass the USMLE Step 1 in one take with good score to boot.
- Test Preparation Phase for the USMLE Step 1 – Get ready for the actual examination by learning how to answer USMLE type questions, deal with distractors and two-to-three step thinking questions, diagnose clinical vignettes and a lot, lot more.
- Sitting for the USMLE Step 1 – The only thing that counts as far as the USMLE is concerned is what happens on exam day. The USMLE does not care how much or how little you studied for the exam. It does not care how many thousands of questions you practiced on. At the end of the day, the only thing that counts is how well you did on exam day. Make sure you are at your peak condition on the day of the exam. Find out how to do that here.