USMLE MBBS Preparing for USMLE during MBBS

Mohammad Umer

New member
Dec 18, 2021
The United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE)

USMLE; a three-step exam that should be passed to apply for residency in the USA. Step 1 is an MCQ-based test related to the basics of medical knowledge. Step 2 clinical knowledge (CK) and Step 3 are based on clinical knowledge and skills. During MBBS, your concern should be only Step 1.

Study material:
There are myriad sources that can be used to study for this exam but I will mention the high yield ones.

  • First Aid:

First Aid is a must for this exam, it is brief and covers the important concepts. You don’t have to memorize every line of this book. Study it smartly; grasp the concepts using other sources and then read the book.
  • Boards and Beyond (BnB):
BnB lectures are an all-in-one tool for this exam. It has videos from embryology to pathology. All the videos are to the point; they don’t go on to explain unnecessary details. High yield concepts important for the exam are highlighted and it also mentions the concepts which you can be asked about in the questions and also describes the key to solving such questions.
  • Pathoma:
It is an important source for general and special pathology. The information in this book is precise and covers all important concepts. The gross and histologic images of diseases are very helpful and the videos explain the important histologic points, which help you in solving the questions related to pathology.
  • Sketchy Microbiology and Pharmacology:
Sketchy Videos are very helpful, the special microbiology and pharmacology have too much information to retain, and these videos, through your photographic memory, help you retain the information.
  • Kaplan:
Kaplan series has books for physiology, biochemistry, pharmacology, and microbiology, etc. This should be used if your background knowledge is weak. The general principles of pharmacology however can be done from Kaplan which are explained in sufficient detail and are very important for the exam. Biochemistry lectures are also very helpful and the general principles of biochemistry and related syndromes are taught in detail. All the important concept of behavioral sciences is also covered.
  • Costanzo and BRS physiology:
For physiology, Costanzo explains the concepts of physiology from scratch. If you have ample knowledge of physiology then you can jump directly to BRS physiology which includes the key points of important information.
  • Osmosis:
It comprises short videos that are very useful to understand the complex concepts of biostatistics and epidemiology.
  • Uworld:
This is the highest yield stuff. This is a question bank that is a must-do if you want to comfortably pass the exam. There are system-wise blocks of questions that will consolidate your concepts. This resource is pure gold and I am not exaggerating.

  • Anki:
Since there is a lot of information to retain, Anki will be your companion on this journey. It helps you retain the knowledge through its spaced repetition algorithms. There are decks available on Anki like the Anking deck for STEP 1 and STEP 2 and especially a Deck named Zonku which has cards from Uworld. You can also make flashcards.

Tips and Tricks:
This section is based on my personal experience and is purely subjective:

  • The ideal time to start the preparation for USMLE Step 1 exam is 3rd the year MBBS, some people do it in the 4th year too. Your primary source should be FirstAid; it is divided into 2 sections: High Yield General Principles and High Yield Organ Systems. During my third year, I covered the high yield general principles portion which has basics of Biochemistry, Immunology, Behavioral Science and General Pathology. I also covered Pharmacology and General and Special Microbiology.
  • I had some knowledge of Biochemistry but to recall my knowledge I watched the Kaplan videos of biochemistry. I covered immunology from BnB videos, the Basics of Pathology from Pathoma, General Pharmacology from Kaplan and Special Pharmacology from Sketchy, General Microbiology concepts from Kaplan, and Special Microbiology from Sketchy Micro.
  • During my 4th year, I covered the high yield organ systems portion of FirstAid. I watched BnB videos and gave FirstAid a read and did my pathology from Pathoma. After completing a system, it would be preferable if you do a question bank e.g. Amboss or Rx. It improves your question-solving skills and also enables question-based learning. The additional information which was not covered in BnB, FirstAid, or Pathoma, I added that information on Anki Cards. After completing all the systems, do Uworld Q bank. It is the most important thing, and you should not miss any of its information or clues.
  • After you have completed Uworld, do NBMEs. These are replicas of the original exam and a source of evaluation. If your score on NBME is good, you can proceed to give the exam.
  • Try to be smart in your approach, don’t memorize every bit of information, you get a general idea or concept and then reach the right answer by derivation from the basics.
The Exam:
The exam is very lengthy, it consists of 7 blocks, 40 questions for each block. There are breaks in between, it would take a total of 8 hours. The key to acing the exam is to control your nerves, don’t lose confidence. Focus on the question, read it carefully, and then rule out the wrong options to reach the right answer. Don’t panic.