How Long Should I Study For Step 1

How Long Should I Study For Step 1?

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Let’s talk about the big question: How long should I study for Step 1? Get ready , because we’re about to navigate this crucial part of your medical journey.

You might have heard that this test is really tough. And you’re correct, it’s a big challenge. But, here’s the thing: since January 26, 2022, Step 1 has changed. It’s not about getting a specific score anymore; it’s just about passing. Still, it’s a test that demands respect and thorough preparation.

We’ll break down how long you should study for Step 1 and the ideal study periods, discuss strategies for efficient study schedules, explore the resources that can enhance your prep, and share insights from those who have been on this path.

But remember, it’s not just about Step 1; it’s about the entire adventure of becoming a doctor.

P.S. If you want our entire guide on how to study for USMLE Step 1 – click here.

Let’s get into it!

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How Important Is USMLE Step 1?

First off, what exactly is it? USMLE Step 1 is like a giant knowledge checkpoint. It tests whether you’ve got a solid grip on the basic science concepts that form the foundation of medical practice.

Now, this exam isn’t just important; it’s like a golden ticket. Passing Step 1 means you’re ready to practice medicine under supervision, which is a big deal.

But let’s be real, this test isn’t a walk in the park. It’s broad, it’s tough, and it demands serious prep.

Traditionally, Step 1 has been a major milestone. I remember taking it at the end of my second year of med school, and it was considered one of the most critical tests for future doctors.

But things have changed. As of January 26, 2022, it’s now a pass/fail exam. That’s a big shift, and it raises questions about how it affects med school life and your career path.

Check out this video to understand the right strategies, resources, and approach now that Step 1 is pass/fail:

In the old days, your Step 1 score could make or break your dream specialty. If you didn’t score high enough, your plans might have to take a detour.

But with the new pass/fail system, that’s no longer the case. It’s part of a move to make the journey to becoming a doctor less stressful and more balanced.

So, while there’s a lot of pressure around Step 1, remember, it’s just a test. What matters most is passing. It’s one piece of the puzzle, not the whole picture.

Your hard work and dedication are what truly count and there’s a lot more to your medical training after this.

Maintaining perspective, especially during stressful times, can make all the difference.

[Free Download] Want to have everything you need to be a top student on your medical journey? Get FREE access to our Med School Success Handbook to get 60+ tips including the best study, time management, mindset tips you need to be a top student. Download it here. 

How Long Is Step 1?

Let’s tackle the question that’s probably been on your mind: How long is the USMLE Step 1 exam? Well, this is a crucial piece of information for your prep.

Step 1 is a grueling marathon. It’s a one-day examination:

  • Total of 8 hours broken down into seven 60-minute blocks
  • Each block contains around 40 questions
  • There is a minimum allotment of 45 minutes of break time. This may be increased if you finish a block of test items before the allotted time expires.
  • It also includes a 15-minute optional tutorial.

Now, don’t let this schedule intimidate you. I remember feeling overwhelmed too. But with the right strategies, you can tackle Step 1 in the best way you can.

Remember, it’s not just about how long the exam is; it’s about how well-prepared and focused you are throughout those hours. I’ll be sharing insights and advice to help you maximize your performance.

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How Long Should I Study For Step 1?

One of the most pressing questions of med students is, “How long should I study for Step 1?” It’s a decision that can shape your path to Step 1 success.

Let’s break it down. Ideally, you’d take Step 1 in the summer between your second and third year of med school. Most schools offer a study window of about 4 to 6 weeks leading up to the test. Some schools might even stretch that to 6 to 12 weeks.

Now, my recommendation, drawn from my own experience and what I’ve seen work for others, is to aim for a dedicated prep period of 5 to 6 weeks. During this time, your sole focus should be Step 1. It’s intense, but it allows for comprehensive preparation without too much distraction.

If you want to maximize your dedicated prep, the Step 1 tips in this video are definitely going to help you out:

However, we understand that everyone’s journey is unique. If you’ve faced challenges in pre-clinical courses or you’re an international student aiming for a residency in the U.S., you might want to extend your study period.

Consider giving yourself anywhere from 6 to 10 weeks. This extra time provides a buffer to ensure you’re not just ready but confident when you step into the exam room.

If those timeframes feel a bit tight or overly ambitious, no need to stress. We’ll delve into both the period before your dedicated study time and the dedicated study phase itself.

This article will give you 7 tips on how to study for USMLE Step 1 like a top med student!

The right study period for you depends on your strengths, weaknesses, and your foundation of knowledge. In the end, what matters most is crafting a study plan that aligns with your specific needs and circumstances.

If you want to know more about my own experience and view on the timeline for your Step 1 review, you should definitely check out this YouTube Video: How Many Weeks Should You Study For Step 1

[Free Download] Want to have everything you need to be a top student on your medical journey? Get FREE access to our Med School Success Handbook to get 60+ tips including the best study, time management, mindset tips you need to be a top student. Download it here. 

Before You Create Your USMLE Study Plan

Now, don’t rush into creating your study schedule just yet. There’s a vital step that’s often overlooked: practice exams. These aren’t just any exams; they’re your dress rehearsals, your chance to troubleshoot before the big show.

So, what makes the best practice exams? Look no further than the NBME Practice Exams.

These are the gold standard for Step 1 preparation. Developed by committees of content experts across the U.S., these self-assessment exams give you a baseline understanding of Step 1 content and provide highly accurate score estimations.

Why start early with these exams? Because they’re your compass.

Taking them as soon as possible helps you track your progress, identify your strengths and weaknesses, and fine-tune your study plan accordingly.

P.S. For a more in-depth guide on NBME self-assessment exams for Step 1, check out this article.

And if you’re wondering if the new NBMEs are predictive, rest assured they are, staying aligned with the latest Step 1 version. So, use these practice exams wisely!

Prepare Early For Your Step 1 Exam

As your USMLE Step 1 exam date looms closer, it’s time to start your preparation journey. The first step? Count the days.

Starting early is the secret sauce to success. Allocate a dedicated study period, typically ranging from 6 to 12 weeks. However, your journey isn’t just about the duration; it’s about making each day count.

Efficient and focused study sessions can make a world of difference. So, mark your calendar, set your goals, and get ready to conquer Step 1.

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Choose The Right Resources For Your Step 1 Journey

Selecting the best tools to help you study for Step 1 is really important. There are many choices, so it’s vital to choose the ones that fit your way of learning and what you need.

Here’s a list of top-notch Step 1 resources:

Remember, the key is not to overwhelm yourself by trying to use all these resources. Instead, focus on a select few that resonate with your learning style and goals.

If you want to know the actual resources that have helped me with my Step 1 journey, check it out here: The Best Step 1 Resources

By choosing wisely and tailoring your resource selection to your strengths and weaknesses, you’ll set yourself up for a more efficient and effective Step 1 preparation journey.

P.S. Curious whether you can pass Step 1 with UWorld as your only resource? Check out this article: Can You Pass Step 1 With UWorld Only?

[Free Download] Want to have everything you need to be a top student on your medical journey? Get FREE access to our Med School Success Handbook to get 60+ tips including the best study, time management, mindset tips you need to be a top student. Download it here. 

Create A Step 1 Study Schedule

Creating a study schedule for your USMLE Step 1 journey is like plotting a course for a long voyage. Before you start, it’s crucial to understand your own learning habits:

Learning Habits

  • Study Frequency: Determine how many days a week you can devote to Step 1 preparation.
  • Daily Study Hours: Assess the number of hours you can dedicate to concentrated study each day.
  • Learning Style: Identify whether you excel in longer study sessions or shorter, more focused intervals.
  • Peak Productivity: Consider your most productive times of day for studying.
  • Preferred Learning Mode: Decide whether you learn better through reading or listening to lectures.
  • Visual Learning: Reflect on whether you retain information more effectively with visual aids such as diagrams and flow charts.

For a more detailed discussion on how to create an effective study schedule for Step 1, check out this video:

Pre-dedicated And Dedicated Periods

Now, let’s dive into scheduling during your pre-dedicated and dedicated periods. In the pre-dedicated phase, you can tackle time-intensive resources, particularly those rich in video content.

Popular choices include Pathoma, Sketchy, Picmonic, OnlineMedEd, and Goljan Lectures.

Working through these video-heavy materials before your dedicated period can be a smart strategy. It allows you to free up more time for practice questions and flashcards during the crucial dedicated study phase.

Speaking of the dedicated period, it typically ranges from 5 to 14 weeks, with most students falling in the 5 to 8-week range. During these weeks, it’s beneficial to break down your study time into thirds.

For example, if you plan to study for 6 weeks, the initial two weeks can be dedicated to completing all your study materials, especially those hefty video resources. Simultaneously, aim to cover all the topics in First Aid during this period.

Adjust the duration according to your pace and needs; if you require more time, don’t hesitate to extend it. After this content-heavy phase, you can take your first practice exam to gauge your progress.

While the NBME practice exams typically provide a pass/fail result, other resources can offer more detailed feedback.

Personalized Scheduler

To streamline your scheduling process, consider using personalized tools like Cram Fighter. This can help you automate your study schedule, making it easier to stay on track throughout your Step 1 preparation journey.

[Free Download] Want to have everything you need to be a top student on your medical journey? Get FREE access to our Med School Success Handbook to get 60+ tips including the best study, time management, mindset tips you need to be a top student. Download it here. 

If You Could Go Back And Study For Step 1 Again, What Would You Do Differently?

It’s a question that often lingers in the minds of medical students: “If you could go back and study for Step 1 again, what would you do differently?” The wisdom gained from hindsight can provide valuable insights for those currently on this challenging journey.

From the experiences of students at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, here are some helpful responses:

  • “I would attempt to identify my weak spots early and drill them down. For me there were always certain subjects (like Nephritic & Nephrotic syndromes, biochemical pathways…) that I just struggled with. If you see yourself continually getting questions wrong, or not knowing why they’re right, take extra time to utilize a different resource for those subjects.”
  • Start UWorld a little before dedicated so as to not have to study as many hours each day as I did. I started in dedicated, but I would have started to chip away starting in March”
  • I would take it sooner. There is a sense of “think how much more I could learn in that extra week” but when it all comes down to it, I don’t actually think that is the case. There is a finite amount of material to learn and after that it’s just spinning your wheels and trying not to forget faster than you learn. I had three and a half weeks and two and a half to three weeks would have been adequate.”

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And here’s some no-nonsense advice from a recent Step 1 test taker in the era of pass/fail:

  • The key is doing as many questions as you can and spending time reviewing all the answers (correct and incorrect). Even though it will take more time to review the blocks thoroughly, it’s important to spend that time since it allows you to identify what went wrong if you got the question wrong. When you get a question wrong try to reflect on the reason why, i.e., missed a detail, went through it too fast, didn’t know the factoid, confused by some lab finding, careless mistake, etc. In that way, you can assess where the problem is and get insights into your test-taking skills and where you should focus your attention.”

Now, if you ask me for my top tips on how to study for USMLE Step 1, you should check out this article.


Here are frequently asked questions on “How Long Should I Study For Step 1?

How Long Does It Take To Prepare For USMLE Step 1?

On average, medical students spend about 6-8 weeks preparing for Step 1, but the duration can vary depending on individual factors and study habits.

Is 2 Months Enough To Pass Step 1?

While it’s possible to pass with a 2-month study period, it’s essential to consider your existing knowledge and the depth of preparation needed.

If you have a solid foundation and can commit to intense, focused study, it’s possible to pass in 2 months of preparation. However, for many, a longer study period offers a more comprehensive understanding.

Ensure you practice with realistic questions, review thoroughly, and assess your progress regularly to gauge your readiness.

Remember, while passing is the primary goal, striving for a strong understanding of the content is equally important.

How about if you only have 4 weeks for Step 1 prep? Is it possible to pass? Learn more about it here: Can I Pass Step 1 In 4 Weeks?

How Many Hours A Day Should You Study For USMLE Step 1?

Aiming for 6-8 hours of focused study per day during your dedicated period is a common goal, but adapt this based on your individual pace and comfort.

How Should I Begin Preparing For USMLE Step 1?

To kickstart your USMLE Step 1 journey, begin by figuring out what you already know and what needs more attention. Then, make a study schedule that matches your daily life, like when you’re most alert.

Pick the study materials that suit you best, like books or online stuff, and start studying consistently. Don’t forget to check how you’re doing as you go along and tweak your plan if needed. This way, you’ll be on the right track for Step 1 success.

Here’s a list of the actual Step 1 resources that helped me a lot during my Step 1 prep: The Best Step 1 Resources


As you’re preparing for Step 1, keep in mind that everyone’s journey is unique.

Take the advice in this article, adapt it to your own way of doing things, and always stick to what works best for you.

Enjoy the process, face your challenges with determination, and understand that with each step, you’re building the foundation for your medical career.

Whenever you’re ready, there are 4 ways I can help you:

1. The Med School Handbook:  Join thousands of other students who have taken advantage of the hundreds of FREE tips & strategies I wish I were given on the first day of medical school to crush it with less stress. 

2. The Med School BlueprintJoin the hundreds of students who have used our A-Z blueprint and playbook for EVERY phase of the medical journey so you can start to see grades like these. 

3. Med Ignite Study ProgramGet personalized help to create the perfect study system for yourself so you can see better grades ASAP on your medical journey & see results like these. 

4. Learn the one study strategy that saved my grades in medical school here (viewed by more than a million students like you). 

I hope you learned some helpful exam advice from this article! If you want more Step 1 content, here are a few more blog posts you can check out:

Until the next one, my friend…

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