USMLE Prep Tips

Mike’s USMLE Prep Tips

USMLE Prep can be a daunting task. You want to do your best on each of these tests. You may be wondering what USMLE Exam Books to read, what’s the best way to prepare for USMLE CS and whether First Aid USMLE is all it’s cracked up to be.

You might also have questions about USMLE World or Kaplan for QBanks. Below you’ll find my answers to each of these questions. So far I’ve passed USMLE Step 1, USMLE CS, and USMLE Step 2 CK and USMLE Step 3. These are the strategies I used to succeed on these important exams.

usmle prep

USMLE Step 1

Of all the USMLE exams, this is the one where you should focus your USMLE Prep. There are really no two ways to say this: the USMLE Step 1 is one of the most important factors in determining your competitiveness for medical residencies.

For this reason, you should take USMLE prep for this particular exam very seriously. First Aid USMLE is a great resource for this test and is something you can use as a USMLE exam book throughout your first and second years of medical school.

You probably want to begin serious prep for this one 2-3 months before your USMLE Step 1 date. Most medical schools will give you time to study between your second and third years.

Make sure you schedule some vacation time after you take USMLE Step 1. Third year is very hard and you’ll be glad you took the time off when you could!

My full page about Step 1 covers my recommended USMLE exam books, my study schedule, what I studied, and my use of USMLE World. I also explain why I chose USMLE world over Kaplan QBank.

My result using these methods: 257 (about 97th percentile)

For my USMLE Prep Tips for USMLE Step 1, click here.


This is the practical portion of the USMLE. For all intents and purposes, your main USMLE prep for this test will be your third year of medical school. Personally, I recommend taking USMLE CS shortly after your third year finishes (like in August) so that your clinical skills of taking histories and doing physical exams are still crisp.

My recommended USMLE Exam book for this particular test is again First Aid USMLE. It has great clinical scenarios with checklists that help you know if you asked the right questions and did the right physical exam maneuvers. I recommend going through the clinical scenarios in this book with someone so that you can work on asking the right questions in the right amount of time.

English proficiency is part of this test, so if that is something you struggle with, practice with a native English speaker to help you work on your clinical English.

You can relax a little on this test, knowing that the pass rate is very high. However, this isn’t one you want to repeat since it will cost you about $1100 each time you take this test!

On my page, you’ll learn more about study strategies I used and mneumonics I used for USMLE Prep to help me pass this test.

My result using these methods: Pass (it’s just pass or fail)

For my tips on USMLE CS, click here.


Again, you can relax a little about this test compared to USMLE Step 1. However, if you didn’t perform particularly well on Step 1, Step 2 CK can be a chance to make up for that.

Compared to USMLE Step 1, Step 2 CK is much more clinically oriented. This means that you will be answering questions mainly about diagnosis and treatment of disease vs pathophysiology like in Step 1. Your best USMLE prep for this test will be the shelf exams you take after each rotation during your third year of medical school.

First Aid USMLE is also a good option. Personally, I only used USMLE World for my USMLE prep on this one and only got through about 30% of the questions. I made the mistake of scheduling it near our school’s deadline of December 31st (I took it on Dec 27th). The problem was that is was so close to Christmas and I had family in town, meaning that I didn’t get much studying done very close to the test. I signed up for a 1 month subscription.

Again, this test was not as important to me for a few reasons. One, I did well on Step 1. For another reason, I went into a specialty (psychiatry) that didn’t put too much emphasis on test scores in general, and particularly on Step 2 CK. However, at several of my interviews I was asked why I hadn’t taken the test yet. So, overall, I think it’s wise to take this one earlier than I did, maybe close to the time you take USMLE CS.

On my page I talk more about the specifics of the test and my USMLE prep, which was really just USMLE world.

My result using these methods: 247

That score was a pass and above average, which was good enough for me.

For a full page on USMLE Step 2 CK, click here.

Those are the USMLE tests I have taken to this point and my strategies I used to successfully pass each step so far. USMLE prep is extremely important, so read through the pages and take what works for you.

Good luck!

Also, if you struggle on standardized tests, private tutoring can be a good option. Med School Tutors, a newer group, is a good choice if you want to go the one on one tutoring route. You can read my full review here and see their site here.

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