As you know, all medical students and residents must pass the three-part United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE) in order to be licensed to practice medicine in the United States. The first part of the USMLE, affectionately known as Step 1, is usually taken at the end of the second year of medical school. It's a one-day, computer-based exam that tests a broad range of topics covered during the first two years of medical school. In fact, most medical schools require students to pass the USMLE Step 1 before continuing on to their third-year clinical rotations, so this is a high-stakes test that you'll only want to take once! International medical students and graduates must also pass the USMLE Step 1 to practice medicine in the United States.
Step 1 emphasizes basic science principles in Anatomy, Biochemistry, Physiology, Pathology, Micro-Immunology, Pharmacology, and Behavioral Science. The test contains 350 questions and requires 8 hours of testing time, including 1 hour of break. You'll have to complete 7 one-hour sections that contain 50 questions each. Once you finish answering questions from a particular section, you will not be able to go back to that section.
Questions on the USMLE Step 1 are randomly grouped by subject within each section, which means that you'll see questions from different topics (anatomy, biochemistry, physiology, etc.) within any one section.
The test questions consist of a statement or question followed by three to eleven response options arranged in alphabetical or logical order. The response options for all questions are lettered. Your job is to choose the best answer to the question. Even though other choices might be partially correct, in order to get the question right, you will have to choose the best answer choice among those given.
In 2001, the pass rates for first-time takers were 91% from US and Canadian allopathic medical schools, and 72% from US osteopathic schools. Among foreign medical graduates, 66% passed the examination on their first attempt.
For licensure, your actual score is not as important as whether or not you pass. However, if you are competing for a specific residency program, you'll want to get the highest score possible on this exam - it's an important factor in the match process.
Step 1 is a one-day computerized exam that you may schedule and take anytime. Most medical schools require that you pass Step 1 to continue on to your third-year clinical rotations. If you have completed medical school but need licensure in the United States, you may schedule your exam when it is most convenient for you. However, the most popular times of year to take the exam are May, June and July.
Last Updated: 04/23/2014