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USMLE Step 1: Pass/Fail & What It Means for Med Students
Med School Tutors by Med School Tutors on Apr 9, 2020 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.

In the weeks and months to follow as everyone awaits further information from InCUS, there will be much speculation. For now, here are the answers to the questions we've gotten so far from the update:

When Your USMLE Step 1 NBME Scores Say No, But Your Calendar Says Yes
Med School Tutors by Med School Tutors on Mar 12, 2020 in USMLE, USMLE Step 1, nbme

Lauryn Falcone and Dr. Eli Freiman contributed to this post. 

For most students, the anticipation leading up to their first NBME practice test is the same. Most wonder: Am I truly prepared? What happens if my score prediction is much lower than my goal Step 1 score?

Frequently, the answers to these questions may initially feel negative (it’s common for students to receive an early NBME score or two that’s below their ideal score). Many students see this as an opportunity for improvement, but what happens if the NBME scores don’t continue to rise? What happens if you truly aren’t scoring where you want on NBMEs before your step 1 test day?

Don’t worry. Everyone experiences score plateaus on practice tests, and there are numerous reasons for this. There is no way for an exam to adequately test you on your specific growing body of knowledge, so there will be huge amounts of variability from exam to exam.

You could be at a 250 level but get a 235 – that’s how much variability you could have by nature of being tested on a finite, specific body of knowledge. You could also have a bad testing day, or just have not been up to taking a practice NBME when you just want to get the real one over with.

Often, we underperform on exam practices because they aren’t as important as the real test. Most students will interpret stagnation on NBMEs as a sign that they haven’t been studying the right information or that they are inefficiently studying – this is usually not the case. You’ve still been learning! 

That said, we have some tips to help you break through score plateaus for your NBME practice exams. Read on for more on how to break through NBME practice test score stagnation!

USMLE-Rx Review: A Step 1 Study Ally

Are you considering USMLE-Rx as one of your Step 1 study materials? To help you make the decision, here is our comprehensive USMLE-Rx review. Happy studying!


Available on both desktop computer and mobile app, USMLE-Rx is a collection of high-yield USMLE study tools created by the authors of First Aid. Let me repeat that: this resource was made by the authors of First Aid! 

Apples & Oranges: Comparing USMLE and COMLEX Scores

Ryan Kelsch contributed to this post.

A great number of DO students take both the USMLE and COMLEX in hopes of broadening their residency options. Others only take the COMLEX, and wonder how they stack up to their USMLE-taking brethren. Program directors and applicants alike want a quick and easy conversion. The two tests are distinct, the scoring algorithms for each are different, and the cohorts examined are dissimilar, but if one were to try to compare apples to oranges, this is how I would do it:

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? 

Scheduling Step 1 After a Med School Leave of Absence
Michael Stephens by Michael Stephens on Jan 8, 2020 in USMLE Step 1

Everyone has their own path through medical school, and for many, that includes taking time off for reasons that may be personal, professional, or both. It’s important upfront to acknowledge that this is perfectly acceptable. Medical education and training is long and challenging, and life outside of medicine for many people may require that you take a break from your studying and learning. If this break happens to occur shortly before or during your study period for Step 1, it can be challenging to determine how to go about diving back not only into medical school but also your preparation for Step 1. This post will help you navigate the considerations that go into this.

Starting at a 220 or higher? Five reasons to still work with a USMLE tutor

Every once in a while a student will ask the following question: "I've been getting good scores throughout medical school. Do I need to use a tutor to prepare for Step 1?" Though students are generally hoping for a "yes" or "no" reply, the answer is a little more complicated and depends on your priorities and end goal. Based on 13 years of student successes, the simplest answer is: Having a tutor can exponentially increase how high you score on your exam — even if you already know your stuff — and save you precious time, resources and energy in the process. How? Below, we've compiled the five most common benefits of working with one of our tutors:

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

Ask any nephrologist - they will tell you that renal function is all that matters. Well, it’s pretty important for your Step 1 studying, too. There’s so much wonderful physiology, pathophysiology, medications, mechanisms of action. A truly exciting organ system. Let’s talk about some basic renal framework before jumping into details.

USMLE Step 1: How Do I Know I'm Learning What I Need to Know?
Malina Filkins by Malina Filkins on Nov 6, 2019 in USMLE Step 1, Test Prep

At some time during medical school every student wonders if they are learning what they need to know for the boards. Are professors covering all of the high-yield material? Do I really need to know all of the details covered in my lectures? As tutors, these are some of the most common questions we hear from students.

Free High-Yield Study Guide For Last 5 Days Before the USMLE Step 1

One question I get time and time again from both students, and friends who know I tutor is, “Help, I have a week before test day, and I don’t know what to study.” 

The following study guide started out as a loose list of topics and book sections that I would always recommend to review during the last week before sitting for Step 1. I have since polished it into a free-to-download recommended study schedule for those final 5 days of studying before Step 1.

Before you dive in, here are a few important notes and things to keep in mind:

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