What Is the USMLE Step 1? Purpose, Benefits & Resources

How to Pass the USMLE Step 1

What is the USMLE Step 1? It’s a computerized exam taken by medical students after completing the second year of medical school. Passing allows you to begin practicing medicine while supervised.

What’s the point?

The main purpose of the US Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE) Step 1 is to test your general understanding of important science concepts. They also measure whether you can apply those concepts in different medical situations.

Step 1 is 8 hours long. It contains a total of 280 questions. These questions are broken down into blocks of a maximum of 40 questions each.

What are the benefits?

USMLE Step 1 is a really important exam. It’s used to determine whether you understand science within the clinical context.


Passing Step 1 means you can now practice medicine under supervision.

This is a broad and difficult exam that needs a lot of prepping to pass. But don’t let Step 1 scare you. There are things you can do that will help you succeed, including:

    • Going through review books
    • Study groups
    • Reviewing questions from previous USMLE exams

To pass the Step 1 exam you also need the right attitude. Have a positive mind and get organized with your test prep. Constantly go through the reviews and previous questions to familiarize yourself with what the exam will contain.

Make sure you maximize your study time. And remember, the right attitude and state of mind is what will help you get a good score.

What does the USMLE Step 1 Exam contain?

Step 1 tests the following topics:

    • Microbiology
    • Biochemistry
    • Microbiology
    • Physiology
    • Pathology
    • Pharmacology
    • Behavioral sciences
    • Biostatics
    • Epidemiology
    • Genetics
    • Nutrition
    • Immunology
    • Aging
    • Molecular biology
    • Cell Biology

Other topics include interpreting graphs and tables and identifying normal and pathologic specimens.

See also: The Basic Guide to Becoming a Doctor in the US

Video: Cardiac Cycle Part 1 of 2

Step 1 Cardiac Cycle from MedSmarter. We break down the Cardiac in simple terms in shorter videos so students can focus on the Educational Objective to get a deep understanding of the concept.

    • Dr. Syed N. Kamal
    • MedSmarter Instructor Resident
    • Rutgers Health Code: KAMAL

How to Score High on the USMLE Step 1

You should focus on these areas as you study. The exam is broad and challenging. It’s not about how much you can remember what you studied. But more of how you can apply your knowledge to medical situations.

The Step 1 exam contains application questions. These questions test whether the medical student can apply clinical concepts learned in class to different clinical circumstances.

Yes, you do need a lot of preparation. But do not panic. We here at MedSmarter have you covered. And will make sure to be with you at every phase of your Step 1 test prep.

Score high on Step 1 by applying proven test-taking strategies taught by board-certified physician instructors. Continuous enrollment is accepted on MedSmarter’s Suwanee, GA campus. Small class sizes. 6-7-week comprehensive review course.

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