Introduction to USMLE Step 1: Overview of the Examination

The USMLE Step 1 exam is designed to measure the medical knowledge of those pursuing a medical career. It is composed of multiple-choice questions (MCQs) created by committees of faculty members, investigators, and clinicians. 

Questions test the examinee's fund of information and their ability to interpret graphic and tabular material, identify pathologic and normal specimens, and solve problems with basic science principles. 

The content outline for the exam includes 18 major topics weighted according to the importance and subdivided into normal and abnormal processes. Test questions may not cover all topics listed in the content outline, but overall coverage is comparable among the forms. 

Examinees are encouraged to become familiar with the test software by completing the Step 1 interactive testing experience prior to the exam.

USMLE Step 1 Format of the Examination: Number of Blocks, Time Allotment, and Break Times

USMLE Step 1 is a one-day examination, divided into seven 60-minute blocks and administered in an 8-hour testing session. The number of questions per block on a given examination form may vary, but will not exceed 40. 

The total number of items on the overall examination form will not exceed 280. The examination also includes a minimum allotment of 45 minutes of break time and a 15-minute optional tutorial. 

The amount of time available for breaks may be increased by finishing a block of test items or the optional tutorial before the allotted time expires.


Practice Materials Available for Exam Preparation

UWorld STEP 1
UWorld offers a comprehensive Qbank for the USMLE Step 1 exam. It contains thousands of multiple-choice questions with detailed explanations.

First Aid for the USMLE Step 1
First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 is the most comprehensive study guide available for the exam. It contains a comprehensive overview of all the topics covered, as well as study strategies.

Kaplan USMLE Step 1
Kaplan offers an extensive Qbank and study materials for the USMLE Step 1 Exam. It provides detailed explanations of each question and high-yield content review.

NBME Self-Assessment Exams
The National Board of Medical Examiners offers several self-assessment exams to help you assess your knowledge and prepare for the USMLE Step 1 Exam.

USMLE Rx is a comprehensive study tool designed to help you prepare for the USMLE Step 1 Exam. It contains a Qbank, practice exams, and question explanations.

USMLE Flashcards
USMLE Flashcards are an easy and effective way to review key concepts and facts quickly. They are available online and in print form.

Lecturio offers a comprehensive video library with over 600 lectures on topics related to the USMLE Step 1 Exam.


Tips for Making the Most of the Optional Tutorial

  • Make sure your browser supports all the advanced HTML, CSS, and JavaScript features required to run the orientation.

  • Clear your browser’s cache and cookies before starting the orientation.

  • Create a dedicated workspace for the tutorial, free from distractions and interruptions.

  • Take notes as you go through the tutorial to help you remember what you’ve learned.

  • Ask questions if something isn’t clear or if you need more information.

  • Take your time and don’t rush through the tutorial. Make sure you understand all of the concepts before moving on to the next one.

  • If you’re stuck on a particular task, take a break and come back to it later with a fresh perspective.

  • Review the materials afterward to reinforce what you’ve learned and make sure you understand it fully.


Strategies for Maximizing Performance on the USMLE Step 1 Examination

Get Adequate Sleep

Getting enough sleep is essential for being able to concentrate and focus on the exam. Try to get at least 8 hours of sleep each night in the week leading up to the exam.

Establish a Morning Routine

Establishing a routine for the morning of your exam will help you feel more prepared and in control. This should include setting an alarm, eating breakfast, and leaving for the testing center with plenty of time to spare.

Familiarize Yourself with the Testing Center

If possible, visit the testing center before your exam day. This will help you get a sense for the fastest route, give you an estimate of how long you should budget for transit, and minimize any chance of getting lost or having difficulty finding it on the morning of the exam.

Maximize Your Break Time

During your exam, you’ll notice two clocks in the corner of your screen. The first clock represents the time remaining in your current block of questions, while the second clock indicates how much time remains in the exam day. This second clock will also include additional time for breaks; make sure to divide up your break time however you like so that you can take a break once every one to two blocks.

Manage Your Emotions

Making sure your emotions don’t get the best of you is crucial. In the weeks leading up to the exam, some tips to handle the stress include making sure to carve out time to take care of yourself including eating and sleeping well, staying physically active, and taking time for family and friends.

De-Stress After the Exam

 After you take the exam, de-stress! You have earned it. Spend time catching up on tasks (and your life) and be with friends and family doing what you enjoy. The most important point here is that you should not dwell on the exam, as your performance will be dependent on your percentile as compared to the performance of other test-takers.


The Importance of Reading the USMLE Bulletin of Information

Reading the USMLE Bulletin of Information is essential for those planning to take the USMLE examinations. It provides all the necessary information on eligibility requirements, scheduling, testing and score reporting. 

The Bulletin also includes cautions that help candidates prepare for the exams in a safe and responsible way. It also outlines guidelines regarding irregular behavior, so that candidates understand the implications of any misconduct. 

Finally, it provides a comprehensive overview of the USMLE and its abbreviations, making preparation for the exams easier and more efficient. For these reasons, it is important to read and become familiar with the USMLE Bulletin of Information before applying for any of the three USMLE steps.


Summary and Conclusion

The United States Medical Licensing Examination Step 1 is a one-day exam that assesses a medical student's knowledge and understanding of the foundational sciences required for the safe and competent practice of medicine. 

The exam consists of seven blocks with a maximum of 40 questions per block and a total of 280 questions. It also includes 45 minutes of break time and a 15-minute optional tutorial. By taking this exam, medical students demonstrate their mastery of the basic sciences required for competent medical practice and lifelong learning.


Read also: step 1 content breakdown