USMLE Step 1 Percentiles: What You Need to Know

As a medical student you need to have a solid understanding of the USMLE Step 1 percentiles. We understand that this exam may be one of your biggest fears. It’s that big hurdle you just want to be over and done with! But, USMLE Step 1 is the first in three exams leading up to the end of your residency internship. So let’s explore what you need to know about USMLE Step 1 and how you can get your best score!

The Importance of Having the Right Mindset

Being an aspiring medical professional is difficult. You will need to focus on passing your medical school course requirements. And doing this often means sacrificing your leisure time, social relationships, and other activities.

However, in spite of this extremely challenging path, the rewards that await you are great. Becoming a doctor (or any medical professional) is truly commendable. It’s a noble profession that allows you to serve humanity and it is rewarding in many aspects. But, making this dream a reality, means that you need to put in the necessary effort.

usmle medical school


The path of a medical professional is filled with many arduous tests. I will not mince words here. If you really want to become a physician, then you should be aware of what you’re getting yourself into. I’m sure that you don’t want to waste your time, effort, and other valuable resources. You will need to dedicate every waking moment of your life to honing your medical skills. And these examinations are meant to test your resolve and commitment to medicine. How far will you go? How much effort are you willing to expend?


To get into medical school, you have to pass the MCAT exam. This exam covers the basic sciences and is meant to determine your aptitude for the medical field. But, I’m sure that it was still a nerve-wracking exam for you. The great news is that you passed MCAT! So that should strengthen your resolve as you prepare for your USMLE Step 1 exam.

For those of you thinking of medical school, you should note that schools have different cut-off scores for the MCAT. Some would only accept students on the upper 10th percentile or 20th percentile. You have to meet the score that is standardized by your medical school of choice. After which, you need to prepare a detailed and sincere letter of intent and submit it with your CV. While your undergraduate course may have some weight on your application, your exam results and letter of application (as well as your interviews) will matter the most. So make sure that you do great on all of them!

Getting into medical school is a great accomplishment. However, now you need to focus on acing the USMLE test series!

Why is the USMLE Called a Test Series?

The United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) is not just a single exam. It’s a series of multiple tests conducted at different times in the course of your medical studies. The main purpose of the USMLE exams is to make sure that each student is able to assume the role of a practicing physician in the future. After all, medicine is a sensitive and intricate discipline. It’s not enough to just “want” to become a doctor. You have to be qualified to become a doctor.

There are three parts to the USMLE. Well, four, if we count the two sections in USMLE Step 2 separately. These tests are USMLE Step 1, USMLE Step 2-CK, USMLE Step 2-CS, and USMLE Step 3. They are administered at different times throughout your study, with the last one being taken after you’ve completed your internship residency. Each test has a different set of objectives. However, each test seeks to measure your capacity and aptitude to further pursue the profession. And if you think that you can take it easy just because you’re still at USMLE Step 1, you’re completely wrong. If anything, you should go all out on the very first step to avoid problems later on.

What’s Included in the USMLE Step 1 Exam?

The USMLE Step 1 exam is a knowledge test. It’s a multiple choice exam consisting of 280 items in total, and is divided into 7 sections, each having 40 questions. The examinee has 1 hour to complete each section (about 1 minute and 30 seconds per question). The exam is 7 hours long, and you get a 45-minute break to eat and another 15-minute break to review. So USMLE Step 1 lasts for a full work day (or  8 hours).

Is USMLE Step 1 going to be difficult? Well, yes, but not in the way you think it’ll be.

The USMLE Step 1 exam evaluates how much you’ve learned in your first two years of medical school. It covers basic sciences as well as all the subjects you have taken in these two years. So what makes the USMLE Step 1 exam difficult is the volume of material to cover. You must plan your study schedule well so that you can cover all the material that is included in the exam. We have a quick guide to help your study schedule so be sure to check it out!


What’s the Score to Pass USMLE Step 1?

For the USMLE Step 1 exam, the score you should aim for should depends on the medical sub-discipline that you intend to practice. We all know by now that USMLE Step 1 weighs heavily among all the USMLE exams, as it is what impacts your internship application for residency the most. When students score well on this first test, they are advised to avoid taking USMLE Step 2 right away. It would be better to send out your applications first before taking the second step. This is because the new scores may affect the overall impact of your application. It’s not that we don’t believe that you will score well in the additional exams. It’s just best to be very cautious.

For USMLE Step 1, a good score to aim for is 240. Yes, it’s a little high, but that’s exactly what you want. Being in the upper 15th percentile is a goal to focus on. It will make your application look promising no matter which sub-discipline or specialized practice you enter later on. If you’re thinking of getting into general practice (or becoming a family doctor), then a score of around 220 is also okay. But, if you intend to go into surgical practice, the you need to aim for and even higher score.

You Can Ace Your USMLE Step 1 Exam!

It’s important that you get the best score in the USMLE Step 1 percentiles. Many students work very hard each day to get that perfect score. If that’s you, then you’re going to need all the help that you can get. At Medlearnity, we have many expert physicians available to guide you in preparing for USMLE Step 1. Our exceptional tutorial services are just what you need to ace the exam. Book your free 1-hour session today to see how we can help to make your perfect USMLE Step 1 score a reality!

About the author 

Medlearnity Staff

Medlearnity is an elite tutoring and consulting company that specializes in medical school and residency test preparation, coursework, and admission applications. We pride ourselves on offering the highest quality medical tutoring and consulting in the industry, which starts with our incredibly accomplished, experienced and compassionate tutors who deeply care about student success. For over 8 years, we have helped hundreds of aspiring doctors accomplish their goals on USMLE, COMLEX, Shelf Exams and NBME, Residency Board Exams, Residency Admissions, MCAT, Medical School Admissions, and Medical Coursework.

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