Surviving Step 1: Scheduling & Attempt Limits

By Walter Wiggins

To 2nd years and others planning to take the USMLE Step 1 this year, below is a list of a few things you should do ASAP, if you haven’t already.

  1. Register for Step 1 – Some schools have a process to do this through Student Services. Find out from other students at your institution what the process is at your school (if there is one) and register. You want to do so about six months prior to your planned test date in order to get priority scheduling and seating. If your school does not have a dedicated process for registering, peruse the links at the end of this post to get the info you need to get registered.
  2. Start shopping for a question bank – One of the keys to success in consolidating information into your memory is repeated, focused review. Practice questions help you identify what you don’t know and consolidate what you do know into your memory. See my recent post for a comparison of select Q-banks.
  3. Design a preliminary study schedule – At this point, you don’t have to have your final study schedule in place. But it is important to start thinking about how you want to divide up your dedicated study period amongst the different subjects on the exam. Check back soon for a more detailed post on study schedules. Until then, talk to other students at your institution about their schedules and ask them why they chose to spend a certain amount of time on a particular subject.

USMLE website:

NBME Application Service for Step 1 & 2:

First Aid for USMLE Step 1 (2012 edition) on Amazon:

You have six chances to pass the USMLE Step 1. This includes incomplete attempts where you either don’t finish the test in the allotted time or leave the test before you have finished. If you do not pass by your 6th attempt, you will no longer be able to register for subsequent exams. Some medical schools may require you to repeat portions of your preclinical curriculum if you fail more than once. If your school has this rule in place, it’s to ensure that you get a solid chance to learn the material before trying again. On a related note, once you receive a passing score…your score is your score. Unlike the MCAT or the SAT, you will not be able to make subsequent attempts to improve your score. These are all reasons to make absolutely sure that you’ve prepared well for your first attempt.


Related Articles