Is Step 1 Harder Than MCAT

Is Step 1 Harder Than MCAT?

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Medical students must take several exams before becoming formal doctors, and we all wonder, is Step 1 harder than MCAT? These two tests are significant during your medical journey, and it’s always best to mentally prepare yourself for the study period.

We will explain the differences between these two exams and how medical students perceive the content. Read on to learn more about the USMLE Step 1 and MCAT exams.

How long should I study for Step 1 (3)

MCAT vs. Step 1: What’s The Difference?

The MCAT and USMLE Step 1 exams differ in content, duration, and time allotment. Medical students should know the difference between these two tests to help with their study preparation.

Here’s a quick look at the differences:

Exam FeaturesMCATUSMLE Step 1
Time Allotment7 hours and 30 minutes8 hours Divided into seven 60-minute blocks
Exam Delivery ModeComputer-basedComputer-based
Exam Sections4 sections with 50+ questions per section:

  • Biochemical and Biological Foundations in Living Systems
  • Physical and Chemical Foundations in Biological Systems
  • Biological, Social, and Psychological Behaviour Foundations
  • Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS)
  • Biochemistry and Nutrition
  • Behavioral Science
  • Genetics
  • Histology and Cell Biology
  • Gross Anatomy and Embryology
  • Microbiology
  • Pathology
  • Immunology
  • Pharmacy
  • Physiology
Number of Questions230Maximum of 280
ScoringRanges from 472 to 528

The average MCAT score is about 500.

A good MCAT score is 511.

Pass / Fail

Achieve a passing score by answering approximately 60% of the items correctly.

MCAT

Potential medical students take the Medical College Admission Test before they apply to medical school. The MCAT assesses your understanding of critical thinking and problem-solving skills in the medical field.

The MCAT computer-based exam lasts for seven hours and thirty minutes. The test has four sections with 50+ questions per section.

This exam uses score points in their grading system, which total between 472 and 528 grade points. You need a 511 score or higher to pass the MCAT.

MCAT Test Sections

This exam contains four sections relating to medical school knowledge.

1. Biochemical and Biological Foundations in Living Systems

You will answer questions about the cell, DNA/RNA, body systems, genetics, embryogenesis, and metabolism.

2. Physical and Chemical Foundations in Biological Systems

Students will solve problems relating to physics, organic chemistry, biochemistry, and basic math without using a calculator. Here are some topics you should study before you do the exam:

  • Chemical interactions
  • Stoichiometry
  • Redox Interactions
  • Work and energy
  • Chemical kinetics
  • Thermodynamics
  • Isomers
  • Nucleophiles and Electrophiles
  • Enzyme kinetics
  • Laboratory techniques
  • Waves and sounds

3. Biological, Social, and Psychological Behaviour Foundations

You will assess psychological disorders, consciousness and sensation, motivation, stress, identity, social inequities, and demographics.

4. Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS)

For critical analysis and reasoning, you will read a question, interpret the information, and form a response about the topic. This part of the exam tests your general knowledge, and memorization is unnecessary before the test.

If you’re looking for good MCAT resources, then check out this article: The Best Review Books For MCAT

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Step 1

The Step 1 test forms part of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). This exam focuses on the essential concepts needed to practice medicine, which you take during medical school. Your results in the step 1 exam determine where you can do your residency after medical school.

The Step 1 test is the first of the three-part USMLE exams. After this test, you will do the Step 2 CK, and Step 3 exams. The step 1 test lasts eight hours and is divided into seven blocks with forty questions each.

The USMLE Step 1 test uses a “pass or fail” criteria to determine your results.

These are the topics you must review for the USMLE Step 1 exam:

  • Biochemistry and Nutrition
  • Behavioral Science
  • Genetics
  • Histology and Cell Biology
  • Gross Anatomy and Embryology
  • Microbiology
  • Pathology
  • Immunology
  • Pharmacy
  • Physiology

If you’re curious about how to study for Step 1 now that it’s pass/fail, then check out this video:

Is Step 1 Harder Than MCAT?

Several medical students say that Step 1 is harder than MCAT. You take the MCAT to enter medical school, so this exam covers basic science skills and principles. The Step 1 test is a licensure exam that tests your capacity to study and apply medicine in a real-world setting.

Several reasons determine why the USMLE Step 1 is a challenging exam:

1. Extensive exam range

You must review all your scientific and medical school knowledge before you take this exam. You will study several medical disciplines, so you must memorize all the information about these topics.

2. Time pressure

The Step 1 test has seven parts, and you only have eight hours to complete it. USMLE allows you 60 minutes per part with a one-hour break for lunch.

Medical students usually take this exam at the end of their second year in medical school, so they have a tight study schedule to cover the various exam topics.

3. Challenging test format

The USMLE is a computer-based test that uses various question types per section. Here are some question examples:

  • Clinical case questions
  • Two-step questions
  • “Bait and switch” questions
  • Conjunction questions
  • Visual questions

USMLE randomizes the content of its exam questions, so you will get various exam topics in one section. The MCAT only uses multiple-choice questions in their exam.

These are the reasons why medical students consider the Step 1 test more complicated than the MCAT.

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Is There A Correlation Between MCAT And Step 1 Scores?

Imagine you got a high score on the MCAT. Does that mean you’re sure to pass the USMLE Step 1 exam? These tests assess your medical knowledge and skills, and a high MCAT score may help with your Step 1 test results.

Based on a study from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), there is a 0.61 correlation between MCAT scores and Step 1 scores, meaning, there is a moderate positive relationship between a student’s MCAT score and Step 1 score.

Another study also showed a positive correlation between the two exams. But it’s important to note that these two studies were published in 2020, when Step 1 was not yet a pass/fail exam.

Though there isn’t a strong correlation, your MCAT performance can still be related to your Step 1 performance.

MCAT and Med School Performance

Your MCAT results may have a maximum shelf life. A study from the Military Medicine journal stated that when medical students became residents, their MCAT score was less of a success predictor than when they first entered medical school.

Your grade-point average (GPA) may also help predict your future medical school performance, but you must consider this data with your MCAT scores.

Your MCAT performance can help determine your capability in medical school, as it shows how you can memorize various information.

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FAQS

Here are frequently asked questions about MCAT and Step 1:

How Hard Is The MCAT?

The MCAT isn’t the most challenging exam you will take during your medical school journey, but it’s a complicated test you will take after your graduate studies. Several students find it difficult because it helps determine if you can get into medical school, and you must hit a particular score to pass.

Here are some reasons why potential medical students may find the MCAT challenging:

It’s a lengthy test

The MCAT is a long standardized test compared to others like the SATs. This exam lasts seven hours, and all the questions are multiple-choice.

It covers vast information

The MCAT tests your general science knowledge to determine if you can enter medical school. You will apply this information to situational questions to test your problem-solving skills.

The MCAT is the longest and most complicated standardized test for students, but this exam serves as the introduction to the medical school world.

How Rare Is A Perfect MCAT?

The perfect MCAT score is 528. It’s challenging to get this score, but it is possible. About 30 to 70 students get a perfect MCAT score annually. Luckily, you can get a perfect score even if you miss some questions on the exam.

This test is a scaled exam, so the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) can adjust your score based on the exam’s difficulty.

Getting 511 is already a good score for the MCAT, but you can follow these tips to get a perfect 528 score.

  • Start studying early: You should start studying at least three months before the exam to ensure you get the best results.
  • Study with your college coursework: Enroll in some physics, biology, biochemistry, psychology, and humanities courses to help you prepare for the test content.
  • Simulate the real test: Do a simulated practice test to build your endurance for the test day. Take food and leisure breaks at the same time you would during the actual test.
  • Get enough rest before the test: Allow yourself to rest so you don’t get burned out and feel refreshed the next day. Eat healthy food, and get enough rest on the days leading up to the exam.

What Are The Consequences Of The Step 1 Pass-Fail System

How Common Is It To Fail Step 1?

The USMLE Step 1 is a complicated exam that several students fail annually. For the year 2022, 9% of the test takers failed for US/Canadian schools.

However, you shouldn’t worry. You aren’t alone if you fail this test, and you have several choices to make when this happens.

You can retake the exam at a different time, but you must adjust your study habits and avoid cramming. Make time to develop your study routine and use dependable materials.

If all else fails, remember that failing Step 1 is not uncommon. Use it as additional motivation to pursue your dream career. Explore helpful tips on what to do if you fail Step 1.

Is Step 1 The Hardest Test In The World?

The Step 1 exam is one of the most challenging tests you will take in medical school. It is more complex than the other USMLE tests as it covers vast information, and the exam time can be draining.

The USMLE Step 1 might not be the most complicated exam in the world, but it’s a complex test that medical students must take for their residency programs. Ultimately, the test difficulty depends on the person and how much they prepared for the test.

[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. 

Conclusion

The MCAT and USMLE Step 1 are two essential exams for medical school. You take the MCAT before you start medical school and Step 1 while you’re in your second year to determine your residency.

Is Step 1 harder than MCAT? Most medical students think it is. It covers more content and asks students to apply their knowledge to real-world situations.

However, every medical student has a different experience, and the exam difficulty depends on their knowledge and study preparation.

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). 

We hope you enjoyed reading this content. If you want to learn more medical school tips, you can read our other articles:

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