You are an ambitious student who dreams of becoming a doctor, and you are ready to work hard for it. However, now that you have entered med school, it's time to take the next step, i.e., start preparing for the USMLE Exams.

You will take the USMLE Step 1 at the end of the second year of med school. It is one of the most compelling exams you will take to become a physician. In addition, many residency programs use the USMLE Step 1 score to filter their candidates. Therefore, your scores in the exam will be one of the deciding factors for being selected for your favorite specialty and residency program. Hence, you must do your best and pass the exam on your first go. So here are some tips that will help you achieve your dream score in the exam.

  1. Understand the USMLE Step 1:

Before dedicating a minute to study, you first need to understand the USMLE Step 1. You need to know its format, length, type of questions, syllabus, passing criteria, and much more!

Understanding these parameters will help you set the right goal and plan accordingly. You can refer to our blog on understanding the USMLE Step 1 to get this information. Here is the link to the blog

2. Start Early:

Though you have to sit for the USMLE Step 1 at the end of the second year, it is wise to start preparing early. This is because the exam tests you on the knowledge you have acquired in the first 2 years of med school and not a few days before the exam. Hence, you must pay attention to your classes and study to learn and acquire knowledge, not just cram a day before to pass the exams.

You should study for the USMLE Step 1 from the first year of your med school. It will provide sufficient duration to cover all the material without burning out. Starting earlier doesn't mean that you have to start solving practice questions from day 1. Instead, it means allowing dedicated study time for USMLE Step 1 in your daily routine.

Starting earlier gives you the extra time for studying and helps you create a schedule that will allow you to have a healthy personal and social life.

3. Use Smart Studying Techniques:

Not all study techniques are equally effective. Ironically, the study techniques most used by students, like rereading, highlighting, and summarization, are the least effective in enabling retention. Using these techniques might have helped you reach med school, but they won't help you pass the USMLE Step 1. If you want to gain a high score, you will have to use active studying techniques that will help you better understand and retain the material.

Here are some of the most commonly used study techniques and their level of effectiveness in enabling elevated rates of understanding and retention-

Sr. No.Study TechniqueDescriptionEffectiveness/ Utility
1Elaborative interrogationCreating an explanation for why a fact or concept is actual.Moderate
2Self-explanationLinking newly learned information to known information or explaining steps solved during problem-solving.Moderate
3SummarizationWriting summaries of the known text.Low
4Highlighting/underliningMarking important portions of materials while readingLow
5Keyword mnemonicUsing keywords and imagery to learn and relate new materialsLow
6Imagery for textAttempting to form images of text materials while reading.Low
7RereadingRereading text material again after an initial readingLow
8Practice testingTaking practice tests over to-be-learned materialHigh
9Distributed practiceAdministering a schedule of practice that spreads out study activities over timeHigh
10Interleaved practiceImplementing a schedule of practice that mixes different kinds of problems or a plan of study that combines different types of material within a single study session.Moderate

From the above table, you can conclude that the best way to study is to have multiple practice tests distributed through your study schedule.

4. Select Suitable Resources:

First Aid for USMLE Step 1 and Pathoma are the most commonly used reading material to study for USMLE Step 1. The First Aid is a comprehensive review book, and Pathoma guides you through the fundamentals of pathology. However, there are also other additional resources that you can refer to. At the start of your preparation, you can study from multiple resources and stick with the ones that best suit your learning style.

Along with studying the material, you must also test yourself. But creating high yield practice questions for yourself can be tedious as it takes a lot of time and research. But this issue can be solved by using online question banks. ArcherReview provides a comprehensive set of question banks for USMLE Step 1 with 1000+ questions, in-depth explanations, performance tracking, customizable exams, and more! Our question banks consist of high-yield questions that will help you be prepared for any question that the exam might throw at you.

5. Don't Overlearn and Take Sufficient Breaks:

Even if the exams are approaching, having a daily session of 5 to 8 hours is enough to get a good score. Studying for less than 5 hours might not be enough for covering all the material and practice tests, and studying for more than 8 hours has diminishing returns and can lead to burnout.

Besides studying for the right amount of time, taking enough breaks to recharge yourself is also necessary. The best way of taking breaks is to use the Pomodoro technique, i.e., taking 5 min break after every 25 mins of studying or taking a 10 min break after every 50 mins of studying.

Along with breaks within the study session, it is also essential that you take a day off every week. This will help you avoid monotony in your schedule and let you participate in activities other than studying.

You have a long way to go, but if you work hard and focus on one step at a time, you earn the license to become a practicing physician in no time. ArcherReview is here to make your preparation effortless with our practice question banks and tests. Our exceptionally talented physicians create these to help you save time and focus on the critical material. You can check them out on our courses page.


  1. Dunlosky J, Rawson KA, Marsh EJ, Nathan MJ, Willingham DT. Improving Students' Learning With Effective Learning Techniques: Promising Directions From Cognitive and Educational Psychology. Psychol Sci Public Interest. 2013 Jan;14(1):4-58. doi: 10.1177/1529100612453266. PMID: 26173288.