When to Take Step 1: The Ultimate Guide

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Working your way through medical school is an extremely difficult process, and you want to make sure that you’re doing it as efficiently as possible. No one wants to be waiting around longer than they need to in order to get things done, and that’s one reason you’re likely wondering about when to take step 1 of the USMLE. You don’t want to waste time.

Well, in this article, we’re going to talk all about when to take your test, including the best months to take step 1 and even the best days to take step 1. Did you know that there are some that are better than others? All you need to do is take a look at this and then focus on your prep work. Creating a plan will be a lot easier when you know when your test is, after all.

The USMLE Step 1 consists of 280 questions, broken down over 7, 1-hour chunks of time. In order to take this exam you must be either a graduate or enrolled student of a medical program that leads to an M.D. designation and is accredited by the LCME in the U.S. or Canada or a graduate or enrolled student of a medical program that leads to a D.O. designation and is accredited by the AOA in the U.S.

Why is When You Take the Step 1 Exam Important?

Why is When You Take the Step 1 Exam Important?

Why is When You Take the Step 1 Exam Important?

When you take the Step 1 exam is essential because it’s going to help you get into the residency program that you want. If you take the Step 1 exam too late, you may not have enough time to get the results back and get them to the residency program of your choice. This means you may not get into the residency.

If you take the Step 1 exam too early, you may not have a thorough understanding of the material that will be tested. Most people take the test after their second year or at the end of their second year of medical school. This allows for more study time and more time in class to learn new concepts. If you don’t know those concepts, you may struggle in some portions of the exam.

How Early Do I Have to Register for My Step 1 Test Date?

How Early Do I Have to Register for My Step 1 Test Date?

You are allowed to register for the test up to six months in advance, which is generally the best option. The earlier you register, the better it will be for your studying as well. Knowing the end date gives you the ability to plan better. It also keeps you from putting off the test indefinitely if you feel you’re ‘not quite ready.’

When you register, you will actually be initially applying for a three-month test window that represents your preference of when to take the exam. You will then be assigned a specific period during which you can take the exam, and you will then be able to make a selection within that period. If you need to change the time period during which you are taking the exam, you may do so one time.

When you do register, keep in mind that you will need to check the deadlines for any programs that you are hoping to apply to. It’s entirely up to you to make sure that your test results will be back in time to submit. You should note that results take approximately 3 to 4 weeks to be returned after you have taken the test and are released on Wednesdays.

What Months Are Best for Taking the USMLE Step 1 Exam?

What Months Are Best for Taking the USMLE Step 1 Exam?

What Months Are Best for Taking the USMLE Step 1 Exam?

So, when do you take Step 1? In general, most people tend to take the USMLE Step 1 during the early part of summer or the end of spring. This means they’re taking the exam between April and July, with the two months in the middle being the most popular. The reason for this is likely because it’s right after school has finished for the year, which means there’s not enough time to lose the information you’ve gained through the term.

By taking the exam during this time, also it gets your ready for the next term without having to worry about Step 1. You can entirely focus on your classes and getting ready for Step 2. If you don’t make it the first time around with Step 1, it allows you time to keep studying and retake it without throwing off your schedule too much. That makes these the best times to take the step 1 exam.

The least popular times of the year to take the Step 1 exam are at the end of fall and beginning of winter, between September and November. This is likely because a new term is just starting, and students are getting prepared for the new school year.

Does the Day of the Week Matter for When to Take the USMLE Step 1 Exam?

Does the Day of the Week Matter for When to Take the USMLE Step 1 Exam?

Does the Day of the Week Matter for When to Take the USMLE Step 1 Exam?

While the day of the week isn’t necessarily important, it’s something you may want to consider. The main reason for this? Your own peace of mind. Some people prefer to take the test at the beginning of the week, meaning that they take it on Monday morning (or sometime during the day on Monday). This can be a benefit for those who want a little bit of extra time to study over the weekend, but it can also increase your stress over the weekend.

For most, the best times to take step 1 exam are Fridays. This gives you the entire week to study and do your last-minute preparation. From there, you take the exam, and then you get the full weekend to relax. There’s nothing more that you can do about the exam anyway, so you might as well enjoy yourself at that point. It can really help to plan something fun with friends or a significant other over the weekend after your exam to really get your mind off it and recharge.

How Should I Time My Test Date to My Step 1 Study Schedule?

How Should I Time My Test Date to My Step 1 Study Schedule?

If you’re looking to time your test date based on your study schedule, you should focus on when you’re going to complete your test prep. Take a look at the Qbanks and other materials that you are using and the schedule that you are studying with. When will you run out of materials to study? Will you complete your Qbanks in June? Or you may finish your flashcards in January? When will you be finished with your second year of school?

These are all questions to ask yourself and will help you to determine when is the best time to take your test. You should take it very soon after you finish your study materials and close to the end of your second year, whether just before or just after. This will ensure you have a firm handle on the information without losing anything in the interim.

What Are Core Essentials for USMLE Step 1 Prep?

What Are Core Essentials for USMLE Step 1 Prep?

What Are Core Essentials for USMLE Step 1 Prep?

Now that we’ve taken a look at when you should be taking your test let’s also take a look at what you should be doing in order to prepare for it. While there are a number of different things that you should do to prepare, these are the ones that we believe are the most important. If you’re looking for even more tips and tricks, you should check out our article on preparing for the USMLE Step 1.

1. Know your weak spots early.

The first thing that you should know is where your weak spots are, and you should have them down pat as soon as possible. Go through some questions and some study materials and see where you’re struggling. Those are the areas where you need to spend the most time and knowing that early on prevents some of the stress later.

2. Utilize UWorld Qbank.

UWorld is the most popular USMLE prep system for a reason. They have the best variety of questions and a lot of them. You’re going to have a whole lot of study material by using this method, and for that reason, it’s one that you should not be missing. This is one area where the masses are definitely right.

3. Don’t get too caught up in all the study options.

There are a whole lot of different ways that you could be studying, and everyone will tell you about a different way that they think is ‘the best.’ Don’t get caught up in doing everything. Instead, just find one or two options that work for you and stick to them.

4. Make a study schedule that works for you, not everybody else.

Don’t worry about what your friends or your classmates are doing. If one person studies every day for five hours, that doesn’t mean you need to study that much. If one studies every other day for one hour, that doesn’t mean that’s the best strategy either. Focus on what works for you and what you feel comfortable with and stick with it.

5. Study only what’s on the exam.

Take a look at the topics that are on the exam, namely: anatomy, behavioral sciences, biochemistry, biostatistics & epidemiology, microbiology, pathology, pharmacology, physiology, aging, genetics, immunology, molecular & cellular biology and nutrition. Do not spend time studying other areas that aren’t on the test.

6. Practice time management.

You only get 8 hours to take the exam, which includes a 15-minute computer tutorial and 45 minutes of breaks. This means 7 hours to take 280 questions or 90 seconds per question. Practice hitting this time frame in order to make sure you’ll be able to answer all of the questions on test day.

7. Don’t stress yourself out.

This one may seem a little strange, but it’s vital. If you put too much stress on yourself, it can actually inversely affect your ability to remember. That means don’t study too hard, or too much. You need to create a balance that lets you still enjoy your life so that you don’t overwork yourself. That’s where you get burned out or can’t remember information that you know you knew.

Wrapping Things Up: When to Take the Step 1 Exam

When it comes time to take the Step 1 exam, you should be taking a look at the right time of year and even the right time of the week to get it done. Fridays in May or June will be the best option, giving you a full weekend to recover and the rest of your summer to enjoy. Just make sure that you’re paying attention to the study process that’s going to work for you along the way, and not someone else.

Did you like this post? This is just one of our When to Take guides. Be sure to also check out our ultimate guides on:

> When to Take Step 2

> When to Take Step 3

We also give a ton of free medical school study tips on our site that you can check out here.

Professor Conquer
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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