How Long Should I Study for USMLE Step 1?

When you’re prepping to study for the USMLE Step 1 in 2023, you probably find yourself grappling with a bunch of questions. How much do I actually need to study? How do I study without burning myself out? When do I need to start studying in order to get the best score possible?

Even though the Step 1 exam has moved to a pass-fail scoring system, it’s important that you make the best use of your time as a first or second-year student and study as effectively and efficiently as possible. If you master USMLE Step 1 course topics now you will start from a better foundation of knowledge when Step 2CK rolls around (since a numeric score will still be given for Step 2CK, performance on this exam will become even more important for residency matches).

Of course, this is more difficult when you don’t even know how to begin studying. Let Picmonic be your BFF for the USMLE Step 1. Picmonic is a mnemonic study aid that can help you memorize everything you need to know to boost your USMLE Step 1 score, in a fast and fun way! With Picmonic, facts become pictures and studying becomes easier than ever. You can sign up for a free trial today!

So that answers one of your questions, but what about the rest? Read on to get the 411 on how to study for the USMLE Step 1.

Before you create your USMLE Step 1 Study Plan: Know where you stand

Have you already taken the NBME assessment exam? If you haven’t already taken this comprehensive, timed practice exam, take one at least two months before you the clock starts ticking on your USMLE Step 1 schedule. Your NBME results will help you prepare for USMLE Step 1 studying by knowing what you need to cover to achieve your desired score. If you scored 200 or better, you have a good knowledge base and your USMLE Step 1 preparation time should primarily focus on review and practice questions. If you scored below that, you’re going to have to put in a significant amount of effort to relearn topics to achieve a more competitive Step 1 score or to pass easily the first time. Be realistic about your baseline of knowledge as you set up your study schedule so you improve your odds of success!

Should I Postpone my USMLE ?

Most USMLE Step 1 test-takers suggest you should begin studying at least 3 months before the exam to get the best results, but 6 months is optimal. Alternatively, students who study internationally, had a tough time in their pre-clinical years, or who have taken extended breaks from their studies will want to start reviewing a year in advance. Remember that studying for Step 1 is easier with Picmonic Playlists. Audiovisual mnemonic videos and Spaced Repetition algorithms will automatically adjust your daily study queue to help you maximize retention for what you’re studying. Add Picmonic to your Step 1 study plan and you’ll be ready in time for test day!


GET READY FOR TEST DAY

Plan For The Score You Actually Want

When you get your NBME results, identify your personal strengths and weaknesses and identify the topics that should receive the most focus during your USMLE Step 1 preparation time. Then determine how you study the most effectively. At Picmonic we believe that studying for the USMLE doesn’t have to feel like a chore. Using Picmonic to study can make learning entertaining while pushing your brain to retain up to 331 percent more than just studying with USMLE Step 1 flashcards. Picmonic even has tailored-to-you, on-the-go mobile study apps that cover the tough concepts, major categories, key facts, and topics that you need to know to be a great doctor. So write down the test score you want and include Picmonic in your USMLE preparation!  Now more than ever, with most students’ learning in their own hands, goal setting and planning is of utmost importance. Goal setting is associated with higher levels of self-confidence, motivation, and achievement (Locke et all, 2006).  Successful doctors who aced their boards with Picmonic say it’s one of the best USMLE Step 1 prep course review resources they used during med school. Check out what students are saying about Picmonic and Sign up today!

Make a Date: When to take Step 1?

Once you have an idea of the considerations required to create a Step 1 preparation plan that will get you the best score possible, create a Step 1 study schedule. Allow enough preparation time to review the topics in your study plan, then set your USMLE Step 1 testing date. Remember that you don’t have to go through it alone. Picmonic is a great mnemonic study tool that will help you retain more in less time! In fact, it’s research-proven that Picmonic’s visual study guides help you retain more information by making learning efficient and effective. Plus, with Picmonic’s premium access, you can take your learning on-the-go with printable USMLE Step 1 flashcards and notes with Print & Go, or use our Picmonic mobile app to get your mnemonics fix from anywhere. Check out Picmonic’s best Step 1 prep resources today!

Study for USMLE Step 1

Check out this Mastering Medicine Q&A hosted by Ron Robertson (former med student and CEO of Picmonic) and Chris Tenore who scored a 268 on USMLE Step 1.

More Tips & Advice for Preparing for USMLE Step 1

Your guide to creating a USMLE Step 1 preparation plan is here! Figure out how long to study, when to start preparing, and what your time commitment should be when creating your USMLE prep plan.

How long does it take to prepare for Step 1 USMLE?

Preparation time is often unique to each and every med student. A dedicated four-to-six weeks of study is ideal. If you struggle with a few exam topics and want to dedicate more time to diligently prepare, do it. However, make sure you implement regular breaks to prevent burnout and overall frustration. The USMLE is a long exam, so you should prepare well in advance for it.

How many hours a day should you study for USMLE Step 1?

USLME prep time may take longer depending on your everyday schedule and other responsibilities. With a dedicated four-to-six week schedule, you can study up to 12 hours a day. If you’re not able to have a dedicated schedule, then cut down your daily study time and extend it over a longer period of time. For example, if you cut your study time to six hours a day, then extend your study schedule by an extra four weeks. 

How long do med students study for Step 1?

Studying for step 1 can a three-to-four months or four-to-six weeks. How rigorous your study plan is will determine how much time you spend preparing for the USMLE overall. Although, even with a rigorous study plan, you’ll want to take breaks and quiz yourself on materials throughout. We recommend dedicating a week to every topic and testing yourself at the end of each week.

The USMLE Step 1 encompasses your last two years of medical school, so cover all your bases to make sure you pass with flying colors.

Can I study for USMLE in 3 months?

You can definitely study for the USMLE in 3 months. It may even take you less time if you have a good understanding of your foundational medical knowledge! But, it’s better to be safe than sorry. With more study time, you can build your confidence and memory recall for the lengthy eight-hour exam day.

What’s the best study schedule timeline for USMLE Step 1?

The best study schedule timeline is one where you dedicate complete study time over the span of a few weeks before you take the exam. Study when you can dedicate your undivided attention, and schedule breaks in your study days. To create a complete schedule timeline and plan to pass the USMLE Step 1, we recommend using this 3-step guide

How much time do I really need to study for a pass/fail Step 1?

It’s a common misconception that you need way less time to study now that the USMLE Step 1 is pass or fail. The USMLE, even if its pass or fail, is still a challenging and extensive exam. Even if you’re a great med student, you need more than just a mere week or two of study time to receive a passing score. No matter your confidence level, review before you take the exam to make your chances of passing even higher!

How many days do you need to study for Step 1?

You’ll need 30 or more days to study for the Step 1 USMLE. Don’t study every day for 30 days straight, though. Chill on the weekends, have a fun night out, or venture on three-day getaway to give your mind a rest. Balance is important, so enough sleep, the right foods, some exercise, and taking care of your overall wellbeing before taking the exam will aid in your overall performance. 

No matter your study plan, you’re on the right track! Keep using Picmonic throughout your review and prep process, and good luck.

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