March news regarding changes in the USMLE examination.

A few changes will take place after May 9 2016. Some of them will change the scenario a bit  more then others.

For example, instead of the 308 questions, test takers will have to respond only to 280 in the same allotted time for each block (60 minutes). This means that you will have more time to answer the questions (40 questions/ block) but it will not impact scores.

This is due to the procedure of scoring on the USMLE Step 1. NBME clearly states that:

USMLE weights all multiple choice questions equally within each Step exam. Thus, answering relatively easy questions or relatively difficult questions correctly provides equal progress toward meeting the minimum passing score. This urban myth may derive from a misunderstanding about the statistical methods called equating that ensure that the 3-digit score is comparable regardless of what test form or what time of year a candidate tests. The statistical processes make small adjustments to scores achieved on test forms that contain relatively more or less difficult items. Scores on tests with relatively difficult items are adjusted up and those achieved on relatively easy items are adjusted down. These adjustments ensure that the scores that are awarded are comparable regardless of the particular combination of items on any examinee’s test form and ensures fairness for all test takers.

Some other changes include: text magnification and reverse color feature or image magnification when you click images and graphs.

You can find here a sample of questions to have a sense of what is the USMLE Step 1 all about.

Have a great weekend!



USMLE Step 1 Preparation Update 62 days left

I am up and running with my daily schedule and I found some time to write a small update.

Here are some advice for your difficult periods when you are studying .

Try to keep going and stay calm, focus only on your next step. Exercise and enjoy some free time also, it is as important as studying.

Besides the importance of a dedicated study time, more important I find the way I study. Here are my tips in how to tackle the vast resources at hand for the USMLE Step 1.

– do not focus on details when you start reviewing a subject. Read it from a single source and capture the „big picture”. Understand it superficially and do not try to memorize all the small pieces that make up the big mechanisms (you will do that after you comprehend the basics regarding it). Go from BIG pieces to SMALLER and smaller ones until you master them all.

– memorization. I do not know if it`s your style or not but it is unlikely to work for this exam. To put things into perspective, let`s say, for example, you only relay on Kaplan Lecture Notes and you will have ~3500 pages to memorize. If you can do it, go for it, but somewhere along the way things will become unclear and you will be prone to errors. Even the quintessential First Aid has more then 650 pages and even learning it by heart can`t get you a high score. [remember that the mean score is 230 – we (IMG`s) need more]

– instead, concentrate on learning the mechanisms behind everything and what you add afterwards will have a different feel. things will add up and become more clear.

– I am not saying that parts of anatomy do not have to be memorized but let`s think for example at the vascularization. If you know embryology you will know then why duodenal ulcers erode into the gastroduodenal artery or why testicular cancers are associated with para-aortic adenopathies, not with inguinal ones (they descend from the abdomen to their final position in the scrotum). Combine memorization with understanding because they complement each other and help you reduce the things that you will have to memorize (like chromosomes/genes and enzymes – who remembers them from the beginning?)

– the best way to quantify your progress is by using a Qbank, and I am sure that any one of the main choices (Elsevier, Kaplan or Usmle World) is good for this job. I use UWorld and not only that I find it useful as a mean of checking my daily progress but it offers reliable information also thru it`s answers so I don`t need to check my notes for explications every time.

-if you are like me and basic sciences were so far away when you started accumulating the clinical based way of thinking just start with them. You know that Biochemistry, Genetics, Immunology and Pharmacology where hard topics to master then, but now you will feel more ” acquainted ” with their role. START from the basics.

To finish it up the most important thing about preparing for almost any exam is that the amount of reading you put into it correlates with your final score so the more you read the more you get!

Have a great weekend and step it up!





Good news from USMLE. The number of questions for Step 1 went down.

The number of questions for the USMLE Step 1 dropped from 322 to 308:

Step 1 is a one-day examination. The testing day includes 308 multiple-choice items divided into 7 blocks of 44 items; 60 minutes are allotted for completion of each block of test items. On the test day, examinees have a minimum of 45 minutes of break time and a 15- minute optional tutorial. The amount of time available for breaks may be increased by finishing a block of test items or the optional tutorial before the allotted time expires. (

This means that you have 1 minute and 36 seconds to solve each question of the allotted 44 questions. As I have already mentioned, timing is key on your USMLE Step 1 Exam, as for every other questions based examinations that you will take during your career. Read more about my program and time management on my examination day here: My step 1 experience.