How to do well on the USMLE

In this article, Dr. Yale Wang will share some secrets on how he placed in the top 3rd percentile on the USMLE.

Before I begin sharing my secrets, I want to mention the importance of doing well on the USMLE. If you are a medical student wishing to pursue residency training in the US, doing well on the USMLE is a must. It is one of the most important factors in assessing your application. If you are a Canadian medical student wishing to pursue fellowship training or eventually work in the US, you are only required to pass the exam. However, for competitive fellowships, a higher score will still give you an advantage.

Here are my three secrets:

1. Start studying EARLY and consistently, and make sure that your fundamental knowledge is solid from first year. I have seen some students start studying 5 months before the exam. It may let you pass the exam, but you probably won’t do very well. The process can be boring, but you must stay focused. Many students cancel their exam last minute because they have not been keep up with studying. It really a waste of your money and time.

One product that helped me stay focused was USMLE Firecracker (used to be called “Gunner Training”) which I used as soon as school started to consolidate my core knowledge from Day One. As someone had commented on the USMLE forum, the study schedule can be intense to follow at times and, after all, “this product is not Slacker Training” as they put it.

2. If you are in second year, you should already have started start studying at the beginning of the year. I would use one consolidated source, whether it be “Doctor in Training”, “Kaplan Lectures”, or even a question bank. I do not recommend Kaplan books (there is too much detail to absorb) or Kaplan Qbank (just of poor quality in my opinion). Also, I do not recommend studying from First Aid as a text. This book should only serve as an outline or a note book as to what you need to know. You cannot memorize everything on First Aid without understanding it. If you actually can recall everything in First Aid cold, that would indicate a score of 250+.

3. If you are 10 weeks away from writing the exam, you MUST start doing questions. The best Qbank in my opinion is UWorld, in the Timed Tutor mode, and with random blocks. I would also recommend reviewing Pathoma and Goljan lectures when you are not doing UWorld. Again, First Aid should serve as a reference as to how much you should know. After each exam, it is also crucial to review the answers with explanations to fully understand why you got a question right or wrong. The explanation may hint you what the high yield topics are, and why are certain questions structured in certain ways. It really helped me from repeating the same mistakes on the real exam day.

Best of luck guys! You will need it on the exam day!