How To Pass the USMLE Even If You Only Have 5 Hours Per Day

The United States Medical Licensing Examination, commonly referred to as the USMLE, is perhaps the most important stage of your medical education. It’s also extremely difficult, and food good reason. Passing it means you’re on your way to being a doctor, with responsibility over life or death decisions.

Despite its well-known difficulty, you do not need to be a genius to pass the USMLE. You just need to do the work, and study effectively. Here are some tips to help you prepare for the exam, even if you only have 5 hours per day.

Get to know your own strengths and weaknesses

The USMLE is a competitive exam and has many modules for you to get through. It is important that you have a focus on what you expect to be in the exam and show up fully prepared to avoid nasty surprises.

Preparing for the exam differs from individual to individual, depending on your strengths and self knowledge. Some students are good at writing; some are good at MCQs (Multiple Choice Questions). One who is good at MCQs might not necessarily be good with longer answer questions. So before you sit any exam the first thing is to understand yourself, your capabilities, your weakness and your strengths in answering questions.

Gather information about the exam

Now you know yourself better. It’s the time to understand the main elements that you need to focus on for the USMLE. You have an exam paper, you have a CCS simulation, you have question blocks. So first have a clear idea as to what is that main thing you need to focus in the exam. You can talk to your seniors and get some insights as to how the experience is and what was the framework, so you know now how this game needs to be played. Gathering as much information as you can about the exam will pay off.

Know your timeframe

Look at your calendar. Look at how much time you can spend to study. If you are busy with some other work going on, then you have limited time and limited resources to get prepared. Then that is where you have to strategically weigh your options on time. Whether you need to study in the night or day or in the early morning.

If you have only five hours per day and you have five weeks. That means you have 35 hours per week and a total of 175 hours left for the final exam. If you count in days, basically you have a total 7.2 days of pure study. That may not sound like a lot, but it’s better that you know in advance. Now you can work on dividing up that 7.2 days per subject, according to the modules that you will face in the exam.

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It’s important that you prioritize your daily study time according to what will actually be in the exam, and according to your own strengths and weaknesses.

Recall, recall and recall

In a high pressure situation where you have limited time, it’s important to recall fast so that can efficiently answer all the questions. Take 30 minutes everyday to review what you studied the day before, and increase your recall speed. If it took 30 mins to remember 10 pages today, by your 3rd week, if you practice this well, you will be able to recall the same thing in just 10 mins. You are training your brain to remember things faster.

Try to find more time

If it’s possible, try to find more time than 5 hours per day when you are nearing your exam to give it your best. You may have to make some short term sacrifices, but you’ll be glad you did when you pass the exams and go on to become a doctor!

But even if you can’t, and you only have these 5 hours per day, then you still stand a strong chance of passing if you study consistently and intelligently. Research the exam, divide your time according to your strengths, and focus on improving your recall.

Three Biggest Mistakes that Students Make with First Aid USMLE Step 1

USMLE is no laughing matter. There are so many things that can go wrong even when everything you did was write! It needs proper planning, vigilant preparation and thorough understanding of the subject to be able to overcome this gigantic exam. First aid USMLE, in particular, requires you to have all your wits about you to identify and diagnose every scenario by the minute. The clock keeps ticking and it’s important that you think fast to get to your answers. In all the rush, there are many common mistakes that candidates make, which are easily avoidable. Here we discuss, 3 of the most common ones so that you don’t end up making them as well.

Not starting the preparation for first aid USMLE early enough

The most common excuse that students make is that they just finished MED school and were saving it up for later. Although the course is high yield, the book still has 583 pages for you to go through. No matter what others say, it is impossible to complete the book in a few weeks, if you want to learn it enough to do your profession justice. Let alone that, it isn’t enough to allow you to pass. The best way to learn first aid USMLE is by taking it side by side during your regular classes. This way, you would have covered a major part of your course beforehand, allowing you to easily revise the book when it’s time.

Taking too many notes

On the other extreme are those students that try to digest every bit of information, scribbling down notes from class on the first aid USMLE book. The problem with this is that the book itself has been fine-tuned to give you the most refined and manageable knowledge that you will need to pass the exam. When you distort with added info you end up confusing the text that was supposed to be learned as well. Your brain fails to retain all the extensive information and steers to the next available option, which is drainage. This way, you are left with nothing.

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Reading instead of memorizing

You need to understand the difference between reading and memorizing. Simply reading the text won’t make you memorize it. You need to commit the information to your memory and if you don’t motivate yourself to make that effort, vital pieces of information will slip through your mind at the moment you need them. This is why you need to sit down and learn off those pages so that you can command the knowledge instead of going round in circles. If you find it difficult to differentiate, simply read the pages first and then recall. Repeat the process until you are sure that you have learned that USMLE first aid book by heart.

It can be hectic and trying, having to cram all that information into your brain. However, it’s a necessary part to excel at your job. Unless you do it now, the other information that you need for the exam will vaporize. Since you are fresh, the knowledge is still ripe, and you still have the time and energy to do it, it’s best to get these boards out of the way at one go! If you follow the rules and study right, USMLE first aid, won’t be that big of a hurdle to overcome. You just need to drive your guts to it!

5 Things You Should Know Before Taking the USMLE Step 1 Exam

The USMLE step 1, more commonly known as the boards, is a critical point in every doctor’s career. The brain wrecking questions, quizzes and the thorough interrogation of the examiners can send any student running for the hills. Regardless, you will have to take the boards at some point, so, it’s better to prepare for them beforehand. Although, the exam has 3 parts, here we focus on getting you through the first step. There are some fundamentals of the exam that you need to know and even before you start studying for the test. To help you out, here are some of the most important things that you should know before taking the USMLE step 1 exam.

The format

Basically, the USMLE step 1 is a computer-based analysis of your knowledge. It’s multiple choice, with 7 sections, each having 42 questions, making the total amount to 322. You are given 1 hour for every section. You can also take up to 45 minutes break split in as many as 6 different occasions. If you finish a section early, you can add this time to your break time, but not to the time for the other section. The exam lasts for a total of 8 hours in a single day, which is pretty long, especially considering all the brainstorming that you will need to do.

The content

The exam covers all the basic grounds that you learned in med school, including anatomy, physiology, pathology, biochemistry, pharmacology and behavioral science. On top of this, the specialized anatomy, physiology, pathology and medicine of the particular specialty you have chosen is also included. The exam aims to find out your basic understanding of concepts, the definitions, and problem-solving ability.

When to take the test

The best time to take the test is in between your second and 3 years of Med school. At this time, most of the primary knowledge is fresh in your mind and with a little extra studying, you can easily attempt the exam with minimal effort and maximum result.

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What is the passing score?

You need a score of at least 192 to pass the USMLE step 1. This was much lower back in 2013 but has risen since.


You need to acknowledge the fact that you will not be able to retake the exam, simply to improve your score. However, if you fail the USMLE step 1, you can retake the exam for a maximum of 3 times within 12 months. If you still fail, the 4th attempt has to be 12 months after the first attempt and at least 6 months after the date that you last attempted the exam.

Before you make up your mind to sit the boards, you need to give the factors discussed above some thought. They will surely help you figure out the best plan of action to tackle the USMLE step 1 with good results. The exam isn’t very hard, but you need to be prepared thoroughly before you attempt to take it. After all, it’s the first step to achieving your postgraduate degree!

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