Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Preparing to take the USMLE Step 1: a survey on medical students’ self-reported study habits
  1. Andre D Kumar1,2,
  2. Monisha K Shah3,
  3. Jason H Maley2,4,
  4. Joshua Evron2,5,
  5. Alex Gyftopoulos2,6,
  6. Chad Miller7
  1. 1Department of Medicine, Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA
  2. 2School of Medicine, Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
  3. 3University of California, San Francisco, San Francisco, California, USA
  4. 4Department of Medicine, Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA
  5. 5Department of Medicine, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA
  6. 6Department of Medicine, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, USA
  7. 7Department of Medicine, Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Andre D Kumar, Department of Medicine, Stanford University Hospital, 300 Pasteur Drive, Lane 154, Stanford, CA 94305-5133, USA; Akumar3{at}


Background The USA Medical Licensing Examination Step 1 is a computerised multiple-choice examination that tests the basic biomedical sciences. It is administered after the second year in a traditional four-year MD programme. Most Step 1 scores fall between 140 and 260, with a mean (SD) of 227 (22). Step 1 scores are an important selection criterion for residency choice. Little is known about which study habits are associated with a higher score.

Objective To identify which self-reported study habits correlate with a higher Step 1 score.

Methods A survey regarding Step 1 study habits was sent to third year medical students at Tulane University School of Medicine every year between 2009 and 2011. The survey was sent approximately 3 months after the examination.

Results 256 out of 475 students (54%) responded. The mean (SD) Step 1 score was 229.5 (22.1). Students who estimated studying more than 8–11 h per day had higher scores (p<0.05), but there was no added benefit with additional study time. Those who reported studying <40 days achieved higher scores (p<0.05). Those who estimated completing >2000 practice questions also obtained higher scores (p<0.01). Students who reported studying in a group, spending the majority of study time on practice questions or taking >40 preparation days did not achieve higher scores.

Conclusions Certain self-reported study habits may correlate with a higher Step 1 score compared with others. Given the importance of achieving a high Step 1 score on residency choice, it is important to further identify which characteristics may lead to a higher score.

  • EDUCATION & TRAINING (see Medical Education & Training)

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.