The Best USMLE Step 1 Resources: What Gets Results

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Are you looking to take the USMLE Step 1? If you are, then you’re going to want to be as prepared as you possibly can be and learn how to get a 260+ on Step 1, right? That starts with things like prep courses, a prep plan, and question banks. You’ll also want things like apps and tools to use along the way.

We’re going to take a look at the most recommended Step 1 resources to see what you should be doing and how you should be studying to get the best score you can on the USMLE. It all depends on you and how you learn most efficiently. You’ll likely get the best results from doing a combination of several of these different steps. Start by taking a look at our best USMLE Step 1 resources and see what you can do to get the best score.

Introduction: What is the USMLE Step 1, and Why is it Important? Introduction: What is the USMLE Step 1, and Why is it Important?

First, let’s start by taking a look at just what the USMLE Step 1 is. USMLE is the United States Medical Licensing Examination, and it’s a requirement for second-year medical students who are looking to complete a residency. Those who take this exam must be enrolled in or must have completed either a licensed MD program in the US or Canada or a DO in the United States.

This exam is essential because, without it, you are not allowed to apply for your medical license. The USMLE is broken down into three parts, which are taken at different phases of your medical training. Step 1 is taken at the end of your second year and evaluates the more basic sciences. Without this first step, however, you will not be able to take the remaining two USMLE Steps. You also will not be able to match with a residency program or apply for your license to practice.

How to Study for USMLE Step 1?

How to Study for USMLE Step 1?

Next, let’s take a look at some tips that you can use to study for the USMLE Step 1. There are going to be several steps in here, and not every one of them is going to work for everyone. Look them over and see which tips and methods will help you in the long run and start from there.

Start early

Many people don’t start studying for the USMLE until they get partway through their second year. This is definitely too late and means you’ll need to do a lot of further review of what you learned in your first year. Instead, start right away (but slower) so you keep that first-year information fresh in your mind.

Choose a question bank day one

When you first start medical school is a great time to start looking at question banks and working on your study materials. You may not want to start out with UWorld, however. Look at Kaplan, BoardVitals, or USMLERx as a starter option and save UWorld for a little later.

Study with others

Studying with a group of others who are also planning to take the USMLE Step 1 about the same time as you is a good idea. You can help each other to remember different topics and can quiz one another on areas that you may not be as skilled in.

Get a mobile option

You want a question bank, a prep course, or some form of study materials that you can use on a mobile device. You do not want to be tied to your laptop at all times when you want to study. Mobile gives you the freedom to study on a train or bus or even between classes when you don’t have a lot of time.

Take the NBME

This is actually a self-assessment that will help you figure out where you are on your studying progress. Though some have found that the results aren’t quite as close to actual USMLE results as they expected, this practice test really can help you get a good idea of how you’re doing.

Pay attention in class

Pay attention to everything that you’re being taught from the very start of your medical school time. You want to absorb as much of the information the first time around as you can because this cuts down the amount you’ll need to study later. Start this right from day one as well because those first classes are also on your exam.

How to Make a USMLE Preparation Plan That Works For You

How to Make a USMLE Preparation Plan That Works For You

When it comes to figuring out how to prepare for USMLE Step 1, you want to have a plan that’s actually going to work for you. This is going to vary slightly from one person to the next, so take a look at these tips and ideas and then figure out how you can adapt them to make the best fit for your studying needs.

Know how long you have

How long do you actually have to study? How long to study for Step 1 is different for everyone. Are you going to review the entire time you’re in medical school? Are you going to study for only a few months? Having a clear idea of the amount of time you plan to devote is going to make creating that plan easier.

Block out time in the day

You’ll be better off if you can block out periods of time every day to study, but that doesn’t mean you need several hours. Even a single hour can be useful. The whole point is to keep your test front of mind at all times. Going over even a little of the material each day will help with that and keep your brain working at the problems.

Try different study methods

Go ahead and try out each of the various popular study methods for the USMLE. Check out the free trial questions on a question bank, so you get an idea of the style and format. Look at a couple of study books (you can usually get them from the library or look through them at the bookstore) and check out a trial of a prep course. You want to give each method a try so you can figure out which one (or couple) you like the best.

Choose your study materials

You’re the only one who knows how you study best. Do you do better with flashcards and question banks? Is it easier for you to study directly from a book? How about a prep course? Choose the materials that are easiest for you to learn from, not the ones that everyone else is recommending. Once you’ve tried out different methods, you’ll know the best choice. Don’t try to force yourself to study in a way that doesn’t work for you.

Our Favorites for the Best USMLE Step 1 Question Banks

Our Favorites for the Best USMLE Step 1 Question Banks

Kaplan Question Bank

Kaplan Medical is one of the best qbanks for Step 1 and offers a simple to use system that makes it easy for you to find anything that you’re looking for on their platform. This includes your progress reports and test simulations. Not to mention, it’s one of the least expensive options, with plans as low as $20 per month. Add in the fact that you can try out 100 questions and a diagnostic test before you have to pay for anything, and you’re definitely in a good spot here.

UWorld Question Bank

This is one of the most popular question banks around and one that you’ll likely always hear about from fellow med students and graduates. But you may wonder ‘is UWorld enough for Step 1?’ UWorld has over 2,400 questions in their question bank, making it one of the most extensive options you’ll find. On top of that, the system can be used on any mobile device or desktop device, which makes it more versatile for studying while you’re on the go. Plus, the questions are more similar to the actual exam for better preparation. So, it may not be enough on its own, but it’s a great start.

Our Most Helpful USMLE Step 1 Apps and Tools

Our Most Helpful USMLE Step 1 Apps and Tools

First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 2024

This app is designed to make it easy for you to search for topics that you need and also to memorize the information required for your exam. It uses mnemonics, color photos, and illustrations, and the entire thing is actually written by students who did very well on their Step 1 test. Overall, the app provides an opportunity to study without the need for internet, so you can study anywhere and anytime. It also has a rapid study option to help you prepare last minute.

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First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 2024
  • Le, Tao (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 848 Pages - 04/01/2024 (Publication Date) - McGraw Hill / Medical (Publisher)

Last update: 2024-05-21


Sometimes it takes a little trick to be able to remember things, and that’s where mnemonics come in. With this system, you’re actually getting images of ordinary things that you can tie in to help you remember the difficult subjects and processes you need to know. You can take quizzes with these and even add comments to your study so you can boost your memory even more. They claim this method increases exam scores by 50% after a week and increases long-term retention by 331%. By the way, you get two weeks free and 20% off when you sign up with our link!


Study pathology with several different options through this program. There’s actually a full course review that offers overview and information on various disciplines as well as color images and 35 hours of videos. All of this information and the different formats makes it easier for different types of learners to really know what they’re doing. It’s all written and created by an actual doctor, so you know you’re getting real, high-quality information.


Need high-quality flashcards that are going to help you actually remember the information you need? Well, this system is all about that. These flashcards are entirely up to you to create, but they do have compatibility with scientific markup, images, audio, videos, and more. That means you can create cards that are actually designed for your needs. They also sync across different devices, and you can have over 100,000 cards.


If you’re not sure what to study or when you can absolutely use this system to help. It actually takes the guesswork out of planning. All you have to do is tell it when you’re taking the test, what resources you’re using, and what type of studying you do. From there, it will create a schedule for you that tells you what to study and how much to study each day from now until your exam day. That way, you’re prepared, and you don’t have to go through the process of setting up a schedule you’re not sure you can stick to.

Boards and Beyond

Boards and Beyond offers a range of different modules that you can use to get even more information about various topics that you may be struggling with. They consider themselves the most complete online resource for the USMLE Step 1, offering quizzes alongside the videos to make sure that you’re absorbing the information and staying on top of what they’re teaching.

Our Top Picks for the Best USMLE Step 1 Prep Courses

Our Top Picks for the Best USMLE Step 1 Prep Courses

BoardVitals USMLE Step 1

With this prep course, you’re going to have the ability to create your own practice tests by different subjects and a series of analytics and reports to help you keep track of progress. You’ll also have the option to time yourself to get a more realistic test-taking experience, and you can see how you’re doing compared to the average. On top of that, you’ll have detailed explanations to go along with every question and a 100% pass guarantee, which is definitely something to consider (not to mention the vaccine they donate with every purchase).


Lecturio is a way to get additional support and information about any medical topics. It’s actually useful for medical students, nursing students, and those in other forms of medical professions. They’re designed as a type of tutoring station to offer help from professionals in every area of medicine and more (including calculus, chemistry, and physics). You’ll get video lectures, repetition quizzes, question banks, and a book match option that shows you lectures related to what you’re reading in your text.

Smash USMLE Step 1

The Smash prep course offers private coaching as well as study strategies. It’s also a full USMLE review course, which is designed to make it easier for you to get a higher score. It has a range of different formats for study, including over 250 hours of video, over 4000 questions, over 1,000 flashcards, and an app that you can use to study while you’re on the go. They also boast a 99% pass rate for the USMLE, which makes it possibly the best USMLE Step 1 prep course.

Kaplan USMLE Step 1 Course

With Kaplan, you have the option of just the question bank that we mentioned above, but you can also check out the on-demand content, which includes videos, quizzes, and additional content review. On top of that, there’s an additional option that offers lectures directly from doctors. Each of these advanced options allows you to get more in-depth study and review with a comprehensive course that also allows you to study when you want and skip around to different sections as needed.

When To and When Not to Take a USMLE Step 1 Prep Course

When To and When Not to Take a USMLE Step 1 Prep Course

Are you not really sure if you should be taking a USMLE Step 1 prep course? Maybe you’re thinking that your question bank is enough for you. Perhaps you’re thinking that you have books and that’s enough. Well, let’s take a closer look at when you should be using a USMLE prep course and when you may actually be overloading yourself and making a mistake with the process.

You aren’t sure you’re studying right. 

If you’re not quite sure what you should be studying and what you shouldn’t, or you don’t know if you’re even studying in the right manner, then a prep course is an excellent idea for you. These courses make it easier for you to understand the material and generally provide feedback on questions you may have or more complicated areas of understanding.

You took it once and didn’t do well.

If you already took the USMLE Step 1 once and did not get the score you wanted or you didn’t pass, then you should definitely look at a prep course. These will help you understand the material more thoroughly and focus your attention on what you need to know.

You learn better with structure. 

Some people just like the idea of a course because it provides them with a structured learning process. If you learn better in class than studying on your own, you’ll likely do better learning from a prep course than trying it on your own as well. These courses provide a situation similar to that of a classroom where you’re told what to read and given a review.

You are incredibly focused and dedicated. 

If you’re the type of person, who is extremely dedicated and extremely focused, it’s entirely possible that you don’t need a prep course. If you are going to take the time to study entirely on your own and you know how to study the right material, you may not need to take an official prep course.

You have one-on-one help from a pro. 

If you know someone who is a doctor or who took the USMLE Step 1 within the last year or couple of years (and got a good score), you may not need to take a prep course. If this individual is going to help you directly and give you one-on-one tutoring, training, and assistance, then you may not need an official prep course. You may be able to just work with them (regularly) to get the help you need.

Wrapping Things Up: The Best USMLE Step 1 Resources

When it comes to studying for your USMLE Step 1, you definitely want to look at the question banks out there and see which one works best for you. While UWorld is one of the most popular, Kaplan also provides a great deal of support for a reasonable price point. Of course, you’ll also want to take a closer look at some of the other apps and tools available to see which ones work best for your study needs. And finally, make sure you’re taking a prep course. You don’t want to miss out on the extra studying.

If you found this post helpful, you’ll love our other Step 1 review materials:

> How to Study for Step 1: The Ultimate Guide

> When to Take Step 1: The Ultimate Guide

> Average USMLE Step 1 Scores: What is Good?

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Professor Conquer

Professor Conquer started Conquer Your Exam in 2018 to help students feel more confident and better prepared for their tough tests. Prof excelled in high school, graduating top of his class and receiving admissions into several Ivy League and top 15 schools. He has helped many students through the years tutoring and mentoring K-12, consulting seniors through the college admissions process, and writing extensive how-to guides for school.

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