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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?

How to Make & Use a UWorld Journal — Plus Free Journal Templates

When I finished the USMLE Step 1 exam, I was almost too eager to finally throw away two years worth of medical school notes, old textbooks, and study guides. It was a cathartic release and a final closure on two years of hard work. But still sitting on my shelf, nearly three years later, is my UWorld/Step 1 journal.

I think I kept it all these years as a reminder to myself about how important it was. I still sometimes pick it up and show it to students during a tutoring session to prove to them that I really did keep a journal and that they should too. Making and using a UWorld Step 1 Journal can be a golden ticket to a high Step 1 score. Read on for how to get started!

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? 

M2 vs. M3: You're Taking USMLE Step 1 When?
Brian Radvansky by Brian Radvansky on Jun 21, 2020 in USMLE, USMLE Step 1
If you've learned anything up to this point in medicine, it's likely that the field has strong foundations in dogma and tradition. Routinely, medical school consisted of two years of basic science classroom work followed by two years of clinical clerkships, with these two phases being separated by our timeless friend (or greatest nemesis), the USMLE Step 1 exam.

In recent years, however — and amid the COVID era — many schools have positioned Step 1 at the end of third year, just after completion of clerkships. The impact this has almost certainly depends on each individual student. What we can tell you, however, is how to use your third-year clerkship experience to your advantage if you happen to be in one of these programs.

The Numbers Game: What Scoring a 260 on USMLE Step 1 Really Means
*Blog post updated June 17, 2020 to reflect most recent USMLE data below.*

I have been putting off the writing of this post for a while. I’m not sure why. I guess I wasn’t sure how to say anything genuine that would convince you guys that you shouldn’t be hard on yourself for falling short of the lofty goals that you set for yourself before beginning the arduous process of studying for the USMLE Step 1.

Perhaps it’s because I was in your shoes once, and no amount of reason could penetrate my longing for that perfect score, the one that I believed would either complete my application to dermatology residency (and therefore complete me), or dash my chances at my dream job against the harsh rocky shores of reality.
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:

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