10 Common Reasons YOU Might Fail the USMLE Step 1

Author : Emily Michael | Published On : 12 Mar 2021

10 Reasons Medical Students Fail the USMLE Step 1


1. Don’t Take It Seriously

It’s sad that with all the fuss about Step 1, some students still take it lightly. They do not see the seriousness of this exam. With this mentality, you will not prepare for the exam with all the vigor and seriousness that it deserves.

This exam is very important for your future medical career. It helps you when you’re trying to get the residency you so desire.

Studying just to pass will get you an average grade. Or you can fail. Instead, aim for the highest score. This will help you be more serious about your studies because you are studying towards a higher goal.

2. Don’t Use USMLE Resources

It’s normal to go to other students that have previously taken the Step 1 exam for guidance. They can advise you on what books to read and even give you a study plan.

But this may not work. Some of these students do not know the right way to prepare for the exam themselves. Remember that what works for one person will not automatically work for you.

There are 3 things that you need to prepare for the USMLE Step 1:

  1. Question banks
  2. NBME exams
  3. USMLE review courses

3. Don’t Practice Taking Step 1

Reading alone is not enough preparation for any USMLE. You have to practice for the exam itself. Learn how long it takes you to answer a question and how you are required to answer each one.

This will help you prepare for the exam. Students sometimes fail the USMLE Step 1 simply because they did not know how to answer the questions.

4. Don’t Use Active Reading Techniques

Most students prepare for Step 1 by reading through review materials. This is passive reading. You won’t retain a lot of the information that way.

Active reading is the way to go. This involves:

  1. Taking notes
  2. Making charts
  3. Drawing diagrams

Having a question bank is equally important. Use the information you have to answer questions. This will help you know what topics you are good at. And you will know which topics to emphasize more on.

Doing this increases your retentive memory. And you will positively benefit from your studying.

5. Don’t Use QBank Properly

The USMLE Step 1 Question Bank (QBank) is there to help you prepare. But this purpose will be lost if you use it incorrectly. Some ways students use the QBank in the wrong way is by:

  • Not answering enough questions
  • Failing to study the explanations to the answers
  • Not using the questions to learn how to take the exam

The QBank is supposed to help you understand how to take the Step 1 exam. It helps you familiarize yourself with:

  • The software used to take the exam
  • How to answer questions quickly
  • Question and answer format

6. Not Using the QBank at All

This is a big mistake. The QBank is there to prepare you for the exam.

Its questions are designed to test how much you remember from your studying. This USMLE study tool also familiarizes you with the exam itself. The more questions you answer on the QBank, the better for your Step 1 score.

7. Studying First Aid Too Soon

The First Aid (FA) book needs to be introduced into your Step 1 test preparation as well, but not in the beginning. Start using it a few weeks before your exam.

In the meantime, learn the bulk of information you are required to know to pass Step 1. Then, add First Aid into your studying.

8. Failing to Set an Exam Date

When you set an exam date, this gives you a deadline. That makes studying a priority because you must be prepped for the exam by that date.

Set an exam date and do not change it. Figure out how much time you have before the exam. And maximize it. The next time will help you do that.

9. Not Creating a Study Schedule

It’s dangerous to not have a study schedule. This leaves you studying around your social schedule. That’s a bad idea.

USMLE Step 1 exam prep should be your main priority. Don’t carve out time in your day to prepare for this exam.

Instead make a schedule for your study time. Designate study hours to your days. And stick to the plan. Unless it’s an emergency, do not fall off your schedule.

10. Not Using NBME Self-Assessment Exams

You risk forgetting most of what you’ve studied if you study longer than necessary. It’s best to start prepping only a few months before you plan to take the exam.

Once you feel like you’re prepared, use the National Board of Medical Examiners Self-Assessment Services to test yourself. When you get the desired results from NBME self-tests, you’re ready for the Step 1 exam.

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