Step 3 is notoriously known for its emphasis on biostatistics, which requires students to not only have a solid foundation of biostatistical concepts and equations, but also be able to apply this knowledge in the context of medical research and literature. It can feel daunting to study these concepts, especially for students who have forgotten some of the basics in the years since taking Step 1 and Step 2 CK.
Much like it is for the other USMLE exams, UWorld is often the “go-to” resource for Step 3 studying. In addition to the qbank, UWorld offers a Biostatistics Subject Review for Step 3 which many students utilize during their test preparation.
However, I still often hear from students that they felt unprepared for the biostatistics questions they encountered on the first of their two-day Step 3 exam. Although everyone has a different approach to studying, this post covers some of the best strategies that both myself and other students have utilized to conquer the biostatistics material, and hopefully these tips will help you to be more successful on Step 3 overall.
UWorld Biostatistics Subject Review
UWorld’s Biostats Subject Review is comprised of 20 modules based on the most important biostatistical concepts you will see on Step 3. Each module begins with a series of 2 to 6 questions about that concept. After answering the questions, you are taken to the answers for these questions, followed by lengthy explanations that include important biostatistical definitions and equations, as well as demonstration of calculations, when applicable.
These explanations can be overwhelming to read and may leave some students feeling like they are just glancing over the text rather than truly learning the concepts they contain. Some students even argue that they feel like they get nothing from these modules and wonder if it was worth purchasing.
I truly believe that these modules are beneficial and are the best place to start your biostatistics studying, but only if they are utilized in a purposeful way.
How to Use UWorld Biostatistics Subject Review for Step 3 Prep
I recommend the following for most effectively utilizing UWorld’s Biostatistics Subject Review:
- Start the modules early in your Step 3 studying.
This will allow you to slowly build up your knowledge base and not rush to memorize equations and definitions the day before the exam.
- Do a maximum of 1-2 modules per day.
This will help you to break up your biostatistics studying into smaller, more manageable topics, and will allow your brain time to truly conceptualize the material.
- Treat each question in the module like it is a qbank question.
Even if you have never seen the material before (or, more likely, have just forgotten it over the years after you initially memorized it for Step 1 or Step 2 CK), approach the questions at the beginning of each module like you would a normal Qbank question. Although they are often shorter than your normal Qbank questions, utilize your excellent test-taking strategies to read the question in its entirety, pull out important information from the vignettes, and eliminate answer choices you know to be incorrect.
- Take notes on each module.
After after answering the questions at the beginning of each module, you are greeted with numerous paragraphs explaining the answers to the questions. More important than the answers themselves is the additional information these paragraphs provide, and this text is truly where you will get the most bang for your buck when studying biostatistics. Taking notes on each module, including key definitions, equations, charts, and real-world examples for certain concepts will be the most beneficial thing you can do to actively engage yourself while completing these modules.
How to Make a Step 3 Biostatistics Study Guide
1. Take notes!
As mentioned above, I strongly encourage taking notes on the content provided at the end of each module. This will not only help you to better understand the material presented in each module, but it will also provide you with your very own study guides of sorts, which you can add to along the rest of your Step 3 studying journey (see more on this below).
2. Have a dedicated Step 3 Biostats notebook.
I personally recommend having a dedicated notebook for these notes, with the title of each module at the top of the page so that you can easily go back and find information on specific topics or concepts. Having a physical notebook makes it easy to quickly add extra notes in the margins about certain topics, draw figures or charts, or remind yourself how to approach the many calculations you may have to do by showing your work for some examples. Some students may choose to start an electronic document with these notes instead; whatever works best for you!
This study guide also serves as a great resource that can be used to review biostatistics throughout your study period and can also be brought with you and left in your locker on test day.
I recommend quickly reviewing the most important equations from your study guide before your test starts, or even reviewing it on a break if you have certain equations or definitions you tend to forget!
Taking Advantage of UWorld’s Qbank Questions for Biostatistics Review
As you complete your normal UWorld qbank questions, you will encounter 139+ biostatistics & epidemiology questions. Each of these provides you with the opportunity to practice the skills and demonstrate the knowledge you learned from each of the UWorld Biostatistics Subject Review modules.
The content in the modules is not exhaustive, just as the content in the qbank may not cover every biostatistical concept that you might see on your exam. However, each qbank question (or questions you encounter on the UWorld Self-Assessments or NBME practice exams) contains important biostatistical pearls in the explanation that can help to fill in the gaps of content which the qbank or Biostatistics Subject Review may be lacking if used alone.
I recommend reading each question’s answer explanation thoroughly, including the information included for all of the wrong answers, as it is often the incorrect answer choices that contain important information about other concepts you may encounter on your actual Step 3 exam.
Then, if you encounter any new content in the text of that question’s explanation, you can add notes about this to the appropriate page of your already-created study guide.
For example, if you encounter a qbank question that includes an answer choice of “Hawthorne effect,” you may want to write down its definition on the “Selection and Measurement Bias” page of your study guide, as this definition is not explicitly covered in that UWorld Biostatistics Subject Review module.
Additional Step 3 Biostats Practice Questions/Resources
If you follow the above advice, UWorld’s Biostatistics Subject Review and Qbank should get you well on your way to mastering the biostatistics you need to know for Step 3. However, if biostatistics is a particularly tricky subject for you, have no fear! There are plenty of additional resources you can use to review content and give you more practice with the style of questions you may encounter on test day.
- USMLE Step 3 Sample Questions
These are 137 free official USMLE Step 3 questions that you can find online. Questions 12-14, 23, 28, 48, 53, 55, 58, 65, 66-67, and 70 are great examples of the type of biostatistics questions you will see on your exam, including abstracts and drug ads.
- OnlineMedEd Epidemiology and Stats Videos
These nine videos cover a lot of the big biostatistical concepts you will encounter on test day and are a great way to enhance your learning from UWorld, especially for more visual and auditory learners.
- UWorld Step 2 CK Qbank/Additional Qbanks
Although this requires purchasing the full UWorld Step 2 CK Qbank, this qbank would provide you with another 146+ biostatistics questions that are very similar to those you could encounter on Step 3. Kaplan and AMBOSS also have additional biostatistics questions in their Qbanks for those that want even more practice!
- YouTube Videos
There are many great YouTube videos, including Randy Neil’s videos, which cover biostatistics content on Step 1, Step 2 CK, and Step 3.
You now have the tips and tools you need to succeed on Step 3 biostats. Happy studying!
Additional Step 3 resources: