USMLE & COMLEX
Medical Student Links
Links for USMLE & COMLEX
USMLE Test-Taking Strategies
USMLE & COMLEX Official Sites
Federation of State Medical Boards
National Resident Matching Program
Medical Student Links
Anatomy & Histology
Science & Biostatistics
Microbiology & Immunology
Atlas of Medical Parasitology
Links for USMLE & COMLEX
-- USMLE site with files and a forum
-- Another USMLE site with files and a forum
Medical Images & Illustrations
-- Images & Illustrations for all medical subjects
Medical Mnemonics -- a huge list of mnemonics..very useful
of the Liver -- good stuff in here including slides
Test -- fun..some good anatomy, also some slides
USMLE Test-Taking Strategies
is no question that the best strategy for USMLE success is
to know the content tested. Without content knowledge, your
chances of passing, let alone doing well on, the Step 2 exam
are slim to none. However, knowing the medicine doesn't guarantee
a high score. You also need to be able to APPLY that knowledge
to USMLE-style questions. And you need to make sure you can
answer the questions in the allotted time! There is nothing
more frustrating than running out of time on a standardized
addition, to score well on the USMLE you'll need to keep your
composure. There will be many questions to which you won't
know the answer. Good test-takers won't panic! They will systematically
eliminate the distracters they know are wrong and will then
guess and move on.
page will contain an ever-growing library of articles focusing
on test-taking strategies. Some articles will be specific
for Step 1; others will apply to all the Steps of the USMLE.
of it this way: You have three chances to get each USMLE question
right. If you cannot arrive at an answer using these three
attempts, you do not know the answer. Mark your favorite letter
and move on to the next question. The key to this strategy
is that you always know what you are going to do next. This
helps you feel in control and reduces anxiety.
Read the Question
may seem trivial, but studies have shown that most students
look at the answers first. Questions cause anxiety and answers
provide the solution, so many people go right for the solutions.
However, you cannot pick the correct answer until you know
what you are being asked! Time reading the question is time
well spent. More time on the question means more time spent
the question and pick out key words. Key words are diagnostic
information, abnormal lab values, indications of gender or
race and any qualifying terms.
carefully enough so that you only have to read the question
once. Rereading takes time. Read for comprehension the first
The Prediction Pass
reading the question, stop. Before looking at the options,
try to generate an answer. We call this the PREDICTION PASS.
USMLE questions are written so that any expert in the field
can come up with the correct answer without having any options
present. While you may not be an expert in every field, you
should still try to predict the answer before venturing into
"answer choice land."
the correct answer in mind, you are less likely to be seduced
by distracters. Remember, they are supposed to distract you
and convince you to pick the wrong answer. Distracters aren't
just randomly generated; they are answers that sound like
they could be right.
The Selection Pass
you see the answer you predicted, scan the other answers to
be sure that it is the best. Then, pick it and move on to
the next question. This is the SELECTION PASS. If the answer
seems obvious and direct, good. Do not convince yourself into
thinking the question must be tricky or more difficult. Most
answers will be clearly correct. If you find yourself making
up a long story why one option is better than another, stop
yourself. You are probably wrong. The correct answer should
be clearly correct. If two answers seem to be almost the same,
then neither one is probably correct.
The Final Pass
after reading through the options, you are still not sure
of the answer, you have one final try, the FINAL PASS. At
this stage, rather than trying for a correct answer, you are
eliminating those you know to be incorrect. Using this strategy,
you can usually eliminate all but two of the options. When
you have narrowed your choices down to only two options, you
have now arrived at the most crucial moment. The correct action
at this point is to pick one and move on to the next question.
If you are really unsure of the correct answer, which one
you pick does not matter. With two options to choose from
you have a 50% chance of getting the question correct rather
than the 20% chance you started with.
a choice. Many people waste time at this point by not choosing.
Some people, when they have eliminated all but two answers,
go back and reread the question in hopes of finding some information
that will help them choose. Time spent talking with students
and watching their thought processes during the exam suggests
that this is the wrong strategy. When students reread a question
at this point, they tend to add to it or pick out single features
that help them feel better about choosing one of the answers.
However, it does not help them pick the right answer. By adding
assumptions to the question, students may feel more confident,
but they are really mentally rewriting the question to be
one that they feel more comfortable answering. The answer
they pick is then the right answer to the question that they
envision, but not for the actual question presented.
after these three passes: Prediction Pass, Selection Pass,
and the Final Pass, you still are not sure of the answer,
your best option is to guess. At this point, click any letter
and move on to the next question. Remember, the key to doing
well on this exam is to train yourself to make choices. If
you do not know an answer, admit it, make your best guess
and move on to the next question.
ANSWER COUNTS THE SAME AS A WRONG ANSWER !
out this four-step method as you do practice questions in
the weeks before the exam. If it helps you feel in control
of the questions, that's great. If you find it doesn't work
for your test-taking style, it might be too late to adopt
it now. Remember, you need to do what works for YOU.
for Exam Day
the USMLE is NOT the most important day of your career; it's
just another hurdle on your way to becoming a licensed physician.
Keep it in perspective. Treat the exam like what it is, a
routine mechanical exercise. Deal with each question as you
come to it, make your choice, and then move on.
matter how well prepared you are for the USMLE exam, you will
get many questions wrong. Be prepared to feel stupid. This
is not an exam where you should expect to know every answer.
Remember, 70% correct puts you well over the mean! Knowing
this, your test-taking strategy should be somewhat different
than it may be when you take other exams.
Arrive at the Sylvan Center 30 minutes early so you are not
rushed and have time to get organized.
will be given a locker to store your personal items and then
assigned a computer station. Remember that you have a total
of seven hours to complete 350 questions, and a total of one
hour to be used throughout the day for breaks and lunch.
To cope with fatigue, you will need to schedule breaks.
recommended schedule for the exam is:
Question Block Break time at end of Block
1 ------------------------ No break
Block 2 ------------------------ 5 minute break
Block 3 ------------------------ 5 minute break
Block 4 ------------------------ 30 minute lunch break
Block 5 ------------------------ No break
Block 6 ------------------------ 10 minute break
Block 7 ------------------------ Done!This allows you 10 minutes
extra to use as needed.
that you will need to sign in and out when you take breaks.
You should also be aware that if you leave the exam room during
a block, it will be marked as an irregularity in your testing
session. Therefore, you need to consider after each block
whether you want to take a bathroom break.
Start with the beginning of the question block and work your
way to the end.
The idea here is to get into a rhythm that will help create
what one psychologist calls a "Flow" experience.
The flow experience is a state of optimal concentration and
Do not skip any questions.
If you don't know it when you come to it, you are not likely
to know it later. Skipping around wastes time and can end
up confusing you. Deal with each question as you come to it,
answer it as best you can, and move on to the next question.
Limit your use of the marking feature to no more than two
or three questions per block.
Of course you should answer each question as you come to it,
but you may want to double check yourself on a few questions.
The marking feature lets you return to review and reconsider
questions if you have time left over. Used correctly, marking
will help you revisit questions where you have a high probability
of getting the answer correct. Misused, marking causes you
to not give a question your full attention the first time
around. You simply may not have time to go back and look at
questions you have marked, especially if you mark a lot of
Be cautious about changing answers.
In general, your odds of changing a correct answer to a wrong
one are so much higher than the reverse that it is simply
not worth the risk. If you change an answer, you are most
likely making it wrong! Your first impulse is usually the
correct one. Stay with it unless some clear insight occurs
If you finish a question block with time left over, go back
and "check" only those answers that you have previously
Checking almost always leads to changing and tends to reduce
your score. If you have a spare moment, make sure that you
have entered an answer for every question in the block and
then, relax. Sit, take a break, and mentally prepare yourself
for the next block of questions. Focus on the questions to
come, not the ones that are past.
Monitor your time.
Know how much you have left, so you do not find yourself rushed
at the end. Work on your pacing from the beginning of the
question block. Check your watch every 10 questions to make
sure you are on the correct pace to finish. If you pace yourself
throughout the block, you should not be squeezed for time
at the end.
During the breaks between question blocks, try to relax and
not think back over the exam. The desire to recall questions
is strong, but not helpful. Those questions are in the past;
you will never see them again. Focus on relaxing and making
the most of your break. Remember, you will always tend to
remember those questions you get wrong.
Luck in your Board Exams !
Last Updated August 1, 2009