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Starting preparation for USMLE? 8 things you must know before taking Step 1

Dec 25, 2015

What is USMLE, Step 1?

The United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) is a professional three step exam conducted and sponsored by the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) and the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME). Doctors with graduate medical degree are required to pass this examination in order to practice medicine in the United States.

Overview of the Tests

The USMLE is conducted in three steps:
  • Step 1 is a one day test, it can be taken at the end of the second year of medical school or after that. It lay emphasis on knowledge of basic sciences, including anatomy, behavioral sciences, biochemistry, immunology, microbiology, pathology, pharmacology and physiology. All questions are multiple choice.
  • Step 2 is a two day test, which can be taken in the fourth year of medical school or after that. It has two components.
  • Clinical Knowledge (CK) includes multiple–choice questions on clinical sciences like surgery, internal medicine, pediatrics and obstetrics and gynecology. Clinical Skills (CS), the second component is a practical test in which candidate has to examine and diagnose actors posing as patients. For this step (CS) students have to travel to one of five testing centers in USA. Which are Philadelphia, Chicago, Atlanta, Houston and Los Angeles.
  • Step 3 is a two day test, usually taken after the first year of residency. This is the final assessment of whether or not you're prepared to practice general medicine in an unsupervised setting. Likewise Step 2, Step 3 focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of patients. It includes both multiple choice questions and computer simulations of patient care.

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8 thins you must know before appearing for USMLE step 1

1.  Exam format for USMLE step 1

The Step 1 exam is a multiple choice question, computer-based test taken in a single day over an eight hour period. The test includes seven sections of 46 questions each for a total of 322 questions. One hour is allotted for each of the seven sections. That’s an average of one minute and 18 seconds per question. Candidates are allowed breaks of 45 minutes overall during the test for personal breaks. If a candidate finishes any section before the allotted hour, he/she can add that time to your personal break. Maximum of six breaks are allowed. There is an optional 15 minute tutorial period at the beginning of the exam. If one chooses to skip the tutorial then that time will be added to the total break time. Candidates are only allowed to bring soft foam earplugs into the examination room. Nothing else is allowed – no bags, electronics, phones, not even jackets are allowed. Be sure to check with the exam monitor prior to entering the test room for complete details.

2.  How to apply for Step 1 USMLE?

Student or graduates of a medical school in the United States and Canada must apply for the USMLE Step 1 exam with the NBME. Students or graduates of medical schools outside of the US or Canada register with the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG). Tests are administered by appointment year round.

3.  Test Fess for the Step 1

Step 1 costs $865 currently + $150 International test delivery surcharge for testing in India.

4.  Syllabus for step 1 USMLE

Step 1 mainly covers basic scientific principles including anatomy, behavioral sciences, biochemistry, microbiology, pathology, pharmacology, and physiology. Interdisciplinary topics are also covered including genetics, aging, nutrition, immunology, molecular and cell biology, epidemiology, and medical ethics. Some questions test your understanding of basic facts and definitions. But the most of the questions deal with your ability to solve problems using basic scientific principles.

5.  When to take the test?

Most people take the test between their second and third years in medical school, after finishing basic science courses and before a clinical clerkship. Many have success taking it within two months of finishing basic courses.

6.  Promising scores to pass Step 1

A score of 192 is needed to pass the Step 1 exam. The average score in 2013 was 228 with a standard deviation of 21.

7.  When the USMLE test results are declared?

Scores for Step 1 are released each Wednesday. It usually takes three to four weeks for scores to be released. A candidate receives an email from the entity he/she has registered with (NBME or ECFMG) at the time of availability of score. It will also be posted on official website. If a candidate does not receive an email within two months, it’s recommended that he/she should contact the registration entity directly. The current pass rate is about 85%.

8.  Can you retake Step 1 exam if you did not crack it the previous time?

Yes. A candidate may take the Step 1 exam a maximum of three times within a 12-month period. Your fourth attempt must be at least 12 months after your first attempt, and at least six months after your most recent attempt. But, a candidate cannot retake the test for 7 years in order to improve one’s score if he/ she is unhappy with the previous score Above given were the key points about the USMLE step 1 exam. Know more about AIIMS PG July 2016  Best Wishes!
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