What Every Medical Student Should Know about the USMLE


The USMLE, or United States Medical Licensing Examination, is by far one of the toughest examinations you will ever have to take. Learning as much about it as you can is important to helping you prepare, and with the right tools, you can truly succeed not only on test day, but all throughout your medical career. Here’s what every medical student should know about the USMLE.

There are Three Parts to the USMLE

The first thing you should know is that you will take the USMLE examination in four separate parts over the course of five days. There are three “Steps”, and the USMLE Step 2 is divided into two parts – clinical knowledge (CK) and clinical skills (CS).

  • Step 1: This is the multiple choice examination, and it takes place over the course of one day. You will answer questions on a computer about everything from nutrition and genetics to diseases and pathology.
  • Step 2: Step 2 is divided into two parts:
    • USMLE Step 2 CK – The CK part of Step 2 involves multiple-choice questions all about your knowledge of medicine in the clinical setting.
    • USMLE Step 2 CS – In this part of the exam, you will examine and diagnose a variety of actors based on their “symptoms” and histories.
  • Step 3: Finally, the USMLE Step 3 is a bit different in that you will take this after your first year of residency. Once again, you will be asked to diagnose and treat patients, make assessments based on virtual cases, and answer multiple choice questions.

You Need to Prepare Early On

The USMLE isn’t like any other test you have ever taken, and that means the earlier you start preparing for it, the better. Many students wait until the last six months prior to the exam, but those who start preparing earlier – even on the very first day of medical school – tend to fare better. One of the best ways to prepare for the USMLE is by utilizing a question bank filled with customizable features. By going over questions during your studies in a variety of different modes, you will not only reinforce the material you learn in class, but you will also familiarize yourself with the question formatting, which will help you feel more confident when test day comes.

Not Everyone Passes the First Time

Finally, it’s time to address the elephant in the room – what happens if you don’t pass. Each and every year, somewhere between 75% and 80% of those who take the USMLE pass it on the first try. That means 20% to 25% do not pass immediately and must take the exam again. Though this can be disheartening and certainly frustrating, you should never give up. Schedule the examination again as soon as possible, find a study group, and utilize your question banks as often as possible.

The USMLE is a difficult exam that puts tends of thousands of students on edge every single year. Understanding how it works, what you should do to prepare, and what to do if you don’t pass the first time will help to ease your anxiety, and that alone is often enough to enhance your chances of success. You absolutely can succeed as long as you are willing to put in the effort and study.

Steps Required to Become a Doctor in the U.S

Become a Doctor in the U.S

American doctors are among some of the highest-paid healthcare professionals in the world, so it comes as no surprise that people from all over the planet study, work hard, and obtain their license to practice within the US. There are several steps involved in becoming a doctor in the United States and understanding them can help you make better decisions about your chosen career path.

#1 – Earn Your Undergraduate Degree & Prepare for Medical School

The very first thing you need to do to become a doctor in the US is earn your bachelor’s degree. Though the major you choose is not really important at this point, remember that you will need to complete courses in biology, chemistry, math, and physics before you can gain entry into medical school. Once you earn your bachelor’s degree, you will need to take and pass the MCAT exam, which stands for Medical College Admissions Test. Almost every medical school in the country requires you to not only pass the exam, but also score highly on it. The most prestigious schools in the nation require incredibly high scores.

#2 – Get Your Medical Degree

Medical school is tough, and programs typically last about four years. You’ll spend the first two years in a classroom setting and the last two working with patients under the supervision of an experienced doctor. American medical students find their studies quite stressful, but fortunately, there are ways to simplify things. Keeping healthy, utilizing proven study methods, and getting enough rest will go a long way toward helping you to earn your degree.

#3 – Complete a Residency

After you’ve graduated from medical school, you will be required to complete a residency program to prove your competency to work as a physician in the US. During your residency, you will work in a variety of specialty settings, including things like obstetrics, pediatrics, and even surgery. During this time, you will be responsible for patient care, and depending on the year of your residency, you may or may not work under the direct supervision of a doctor. Residency programs last four years, and you will complete this part of your education in a hospital setting.

#4 – Get Your Medical License

Finally, in order to work as a physician in the US after you complete your residency, you will need to obtain a license, and in order to get the license, you will need to take the USMLE licensing exam. In order to qualify for the exam, you will need to complete medical school and your residency program beforehand, and you will need to pass any exams that come alongside this residency, too. The USMLE is a three-step exam, and you must pass each step-in order to move on to the next. Scores here are not important; this is a pass-or-fail type of examination.

Once you obtain your license, you can seek employment in a hospital or clinic, or if you prefer, you can even start your own practice. You may also choose to seek certification from the American Board of Medical Specialties (ABMS) in a specific area of medicine in order to further your career as a physician.


Important Things to Know Before Taking the USMLE Step 1 Examination

USMLE Step 1 Examination

If you are preparing to take the USMLE Step 1 exam, you may be feeling stressed out, apprehensive, or even terrified of failure. One of the best things you can possibly do is educate yourself as thoroughly as possible, and the following bits of information are sure to help you do just that.

Test Format

Familiarizing yourself with the test format can help you feel more at ease when it comes time to test, and fortunately, the first part of the USMLE is pretty cut-and-dry. It consists of seven sections made up of 40 multiple choice questions each, and you’ll have a total of eight hours to finish it. You’ll get a total of 45 minutes during the test session for breaks, but if you finish a section before the allotted hour is up, you can use that time to take a break, too. It’s always a good idea to participate in the optional 15-minute tutorial just before the exam that will help you feel even more at ease.

Application Steps and Cost

To apply for the USMLE Step 1, you will need to apply through the NBME, or National Board of Medical Examiners. If you are from a country outside of the US, you need to register with the ECFMG, or Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates. You will be able to choose a test date from a number of available dates throughout the year, and as of 2018, the cost to take the USMLE Step 1 exam was $605.

The Best Time to Sit for the Exam

If you are curious about the best time to take your exam, it’s important to know that most students opt to sit for it sometime between their first and third years in medical school. You should be able to pass once you’ve passed all your basic medical science courses, and you should always take it before you start your clinical rotation. If you take it at this point, the things you’ve learned are still fresh, but you’ve also had the opportunity to take a couple extra months to study.

Passing Scores and Test Results

In order to pass the USMLE Step 1 examination, you will need to obtain a score of 192. As of 2016, the NBME reported that the average score among passing students was 225 with a standard deviation of about 20. The NBME releases scores to students each Wednesday of the year, and it takes about a month after you’ve taken the exam to get your scores. When they are available, you will receive an email advising you how to check your score online.

The USMLE Step 1 is an important step in obtaining a license to practice as a doctor in the US, and while it can be a stressful event, learning more about it will help you relax and obtain a better score. Remember that you can take this exam as many as six times in your lifetime, too. Study hard and do well in medical school, and you should have no problem obtaining the required score of 192.