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USMLE Step 1: Pass/Fail & What It Means for Med Students
Med School Tutors by Med School Tutors on Sep 14, 2021 in USMLE Step 1

Dr. Brian Radvansky contributed to this post. 

Though the USMLE Step 1 passing score is currently 194, after years of debate, the Invitational Conference on USMLE Scoring (InCUS) announced their long-awaited decision to transition the USMLE Step 1 to only a pass/fail outcome.

Here are the answers to the questions we've received so far regarding the Step 1 scoring change:

USMLE Score Reporting: What to Expect

The only thing more nerve-wracking than studying and sitting for the USMLE exams is waiting for your score report to be released. Many of you may be wondering: what happens after I leave the Prometric center and how long will it take for me to receive my score? 

How Much Do I Need to Study for Step 1 if It’s Pass/Fail?
by Leo Wang on Aug 11, 2021 in USMLE Step 1

Step 1 has traditionally been the gateway exam to residency until the announcement that it will be a pass/fail exam. This decision was made to take pressure off of students so they can spend more time focusing on their actual medical school coursework and other interests instead of preparing for an exam that ultimately has little correlation with clinical skill.

Whether Step 1 being pass/fail achieves this purpose is still to be determined. It inevitably shifts the focus of residency applications to other areas, and only time will tell if Step 2 CK takes over as "the new Step 1” as some have already begun to speculate. 

What Does Step 1/Level 1 Going Pass/Fail Mean for DOs?

What will the world be like when USMLE Step 1 and COMLEX Level 1 are pass/fail? Obviously, something has to take its place. I have been involved in the resident selection process at my program for the last four years, and I can tell you from experience that a decent Step 1/Level 1 exam score gets your foot in the door and increases your chances of landing that audition or an interview.

Low scores automatically get you excluded and impressive marks become significantly important as the final rank list is constructed.

Board scores aren’t the only factor that admissions committees consider, but they are one of the most important and form a benchmark with which to evaluate students. 

Aortic Dissection Management by Type for USMLE Step 1 & Step 2 CK

In a recent webinar, a student asked, "Would it be important to know the management of aortic dissection depending on the type? Type A versus Type B, etc." for USMLE Step 1 and/or USMLE Step 2 CK.

Drs. Michael Stephens and Sana Majid answer that question for you here—both in the video and the transcript below:

Mastering Mnemonics: Signaling Pathways For USMLE Step 1

Dr. Christopher Carrubba and Dr. Taylor Purvis contributed to this article. 

I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I missed a question regarding the signaling pathways of endocrine hormones when I was using UWorld to prepare for Step 1. At some point, I finally had the realization that this was something that I would just have to memorize.

Fortunately, I came across the following helpful mnemonics before my exam. Looking back, I think I had at least three questions on this topic. Ever since then, I have made it a point to utilize these with the students I tutor. And now, I hope they can help you as well. Enjoy!

USMLE Step 1 Prep: The Truth & Myths of Getting Started

Lauryn Falcone, MD, PhD and Shelby Wood contributed to this post.

From the day most students start medical school, they learn about the USMLE Step 1 exam. As the months go on, talk of the exam becomes an almost daily occurrence. It’s not surprising, then, that many students feel they need to devote as much time and energy to preparing for this exam as possible.

For some, this manifests as weekly USMLE practice questions and frequent skimming of review books as early as first year. Others may spend their entire first summer preparing for Step 1. Some students sacrifice Thanksgiving, Christmas, and spring breaks to prepare. On the contrary, other students do little prep before their dedicated Step 1 study period.

So, the question remains: what do you need to know about getting a head start on USMLE Step 1 exam prep?

The following offers some myths and truths to guide you through the process.


NBME vs UWSA: When & How to Use Practice Tests for USMLE Step 1

One of the most common questions I get as a USMLE tutor is:

"What is the difference between the NBME Comprehensive Basic Science Self Assessments (often referred to as just NBMEs) and the UWorld Self Assessments (UWSAs)?"

For starters, the NBME and UWSA are both practice tests that students take to help them prepare for the USMLE Step 1 exam, to gauge their study progress, and to predict their final score.

There are six NBMEs that are available for purchase for $60 each (and in 2020 an additional five that are available for free). There are two UWSAs that are included in your UWorld subscription if you buy at least a 180 day subscription.

NBMEs consist of four sections of 50 questions while the UWSAs contain four sections of 40 questions. The actual USMLE Step 1 exam is made up of 7 blocks of a maximum of 40 questions per block. 

Now, That's What I Call High-Yield: Biochemistry

How would you describe studying for Step 1? Is it internalizing data? Or would you call it pattern recognition? Is it retaining facts, or applying knowledge? Likely all the above. But at some level, studying for Step 1, or any exam for that matter, is about triaging information. In your 800 pages of First Aid and 2000+ UWorld questions (leaving aside hundreds of flash cards and possible second question bank), your task is to learn as much as possible. Hanging onto the entirety of this information is an impossibility; at some point you need to be happy enough with having an “acceptable” handle on the material. While aiming for “good enough” might feel like selling yourself short, many students will express the feeling of having “hit capacity,” and find it difficult to put more info into a fact-laden noggin.

Jumpstart Your USMLE Prep from Day One
Malina Filkins by Malina Filkins on Aug 11, 2020 in USMLE Step 1

As a new medical student trying to figure out how to succeed in their coursework many students will eventually face the same question: When and how do I start preparing for Step 1?

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