What You Need To Know About The USMLE Step 1 Percentiles

As a med student, we get that one of your biggest fears is dealing with the United States Medical Licensing Examination or USMLE or short. It’s that big hurdle you just want to be over and done with. Unfortunately, it doesn’t get to be done until after your residency internship – what, with having three-parts and all.

Being an aspiring medical professional is hard. Every single day, you face constant defeat. Many aspects of your life are thrown into disarray because your focus is entirely set on passing the course requirements for a medical student. You let go of family time, you don’t have time to look for or establish meaningful relationships, and you can rarely even treat yourself to a day off. The life of a med student is hard but if it’s really your dream, what are you to do about it?

Despite being an extremely challenging path, however, what waits on the other side is greatly rewarding – I’ll give you that. You get to help people, save lives – and hey, the pay isn’t so bad either. Anyway, I believe most people would agree with me when I say that becoming a doctor, or any medical professional for that matter, is truly commendable. It’s a noble profession that is financially, emotionally, and psychologically rewarding. But in order to make this dream a reality, one just has to put in the extra effort. And by that, I do mean a whole load of extra.

One very discomforting fact about treading the path of a medical professional is that it is ridden with strenuous, intensive, and arduous tests. I will not mince words here. After all, I figured that if you really want to become a physician, you should be fully aware of what you’re getting yourself into. Otherwise, you’ll only be wasting time, effort, and your parents’ money. If you’re going to do this, then you really have to be into it. You have to dedicate every waking moment of your life to honing and bettering your skills as a man of medicine. And these examinations are meant to really put your determination to the test. How far will you go? How much effort are you willing to expend?

Anyhow, these tests are put in place for good reason – especially the USMLE.

Well, before the USMLE, what aspiring med professionals need to worry about is the MCAT or Medical College Admission Test administered by the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) as a prerequisite to entering medical school. While the MCAT covers basic sciences and is meant to determine your aptitude for the medical field, it is still a pretty nerve-wracking exam that puts many students on edge. After all, this is when first impressions are formed. Whatever becomes of this exam basically propels or dwindles down your morale for pursuing this field of study.

Medical schools have differing cut off scores for the MCAT. Some would only accept students on the upper 10 percentile or 20 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 CVV. While your undergraduate course may have some weight on your application, your exam results and letter of application (as well as your succeeding interviews) will matter most so make sure that you do great on all of them!

Getting into medical school is one load of your chest, at the very least. The real hurdle (or should I say hurdles) come right after. Yes, that’s right. For the rest of your time in medical school, you have the USMLE test series to think about.

Why Is The USMLE Called A Test Series?

Well, for many of you, what I am about to say may not sound like terrific news. The United States Medical Licensing Examination, after all, is not just a single exam. It’s a series of multiple tests conducted during different times in the course of your stay in medical school. The main purpose of the USMLE exams is to make sure that each and every student has got what it takes to assume the role of practicing physicians in the future. Medicine, after all, is a sensitive and intricate discipline. It’s not enough to just “want” to become a doctor. You have to be qualified to be one.

To be specific, there are three parts to the USMLE. Well, four, if we are to count the two sections in the second step separately. These tests are Step 1, 2-CK and 2-CS, and 3. They are administered at different times throughout your medical school years, with the last one being taken after you’ve completed your internship residency. Each test has a different objective but each objective has something to do with measuring 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 Step 1, you’re completely wrong. If anything, you should go all out on the very first step to avoid problems later on.

What Is Included In The USMLE Step 1 Test?

Step 1 is basically a knowledge test. It’s a multiple choice exam consisting of 280 items in total which is divided into 7 sections, each having 40 questions each. The examinee is allotted 1 hour to finish answering each section which means that they roughly have 1 minute and 30 seconds to accomplish each question. The examiner must keep this up for 7 hours so they are given a 45-minute break to eat and another 15-minute break to review which makes the total testing time last up to 8 hours.

Is the test going to be difficult? Well, it is – but not in the way you think it’ll be.

The USMLE Step 1 is a knowledge test that is meant to evaluate just how much you’ve learned in the course of two years in medical school. In other words, it covers basic sciences as well as all the subjects you have taken up two years prior. So the thing that really makes the USMLE exam hard is not the material but the amount of it. If you do not plan out your study schedule well, you might end up not covering all the material that is included in the exam. Luckily, we have a guide to boost your study schedule and you can find it on this site as well.      

How Much Do You Need To Score In Order To Pass The USMLE Step 1 Exam?

For the USMLE Step 1, the score you should be aiming for should depend on the sub-discipline of medicine you’ll be practicing by the time you graduate. We all know by now that Step 1 weighs heavily among all the USMLE exams as it is what impacts your internship application for residency the most. In fact, when students score well on this first test, they are advised to avoid taking Step 2 right away. It would be better to send out applications first before taking the second step as the new scores may affect the overall impact of the application – not that we don’t trust you enough to score well on the succeeding steps too. We’re just saying that it’s a fairly safe route to take.

Anyway, for Step 1, a good score to aim for is 240. A little high, yes, but that’s exactly what you want. Being in the upper 15 percentile is a goal to focus on and should 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 aka “becoming a family doctor” then a score of around 220 is okay as well. Students who are aiming for surgical practice are advised to aim for higher scores.

Many students work day in and day out to get that perfect Step 1 in perfect score. If you wish the same, then you’re going to need all the help that you can get. Checking out our article about how to create a better study schedule might help you out so be sure to read it. Also, we offer tutorial services that may just be your ticket to acing the exams. Anyhow, best of luck to you, test taker!

November 12, 2019

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