Is UWorld harder than Step 1 (1)

Is UWORLD Harder than Step 1?

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Medical students use reviewers like UWorld to help them prepare for their USMLE exams. Sometimes, these question banks have challenging questions that test your medical knowledge.

Is UWorld harder than Step 1? This article will compare the question bank to the actual exam to see how they differ. Let’s talk about how you can use UWorld for a better Step 1 prep.

Is Uworld harder than Step 1

Is UWorld Harder Than Step 1?

UWorld seems to be more difficult than the actual Step 1 exam because Step 1 questions tend to be more straightforward compared to tricky UWorld questions.

UWorld includes more than 3,600 questions in its reviewer package. It has explanations and extra information to help you understand the concepts. However, this additional content may confuse some medical students and make them feel like the reviewer is too complicated.

On the other hand, some students say that Step 1 questions are most similar to UWorld questions compared to those in other question banks like the NBME practice exams.

Why Is UWorld Harder Than Step 1?

Some UWorld questions have unnecessary information that’s why students have a hard time choosing the right answer.

There is a concept of “signal” and “noise” for question banks.

  • “Signal” content directly leads you to the correct answer. These questions only include essential knowledge for the case study.
  • “Noise” content may mislead you from getting the correct answer. Some students may find “noise” distracting as it doesn’t give helpful information about the diagnosis.

Step 1 questions are “signal” focused and straightforward, so all the information you read is essential for patient diagnosis.

Some UWorld questions in the Q-bank have “noise” content, distracting students from reaching an accurate conclusion. This is one of the reasons why some students find UWorld questions harder than the actual Step 1 exam.

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Are UWorld Questions Similar To Step 1?

UWorld and Step 1 cover the same topics, have the same question format, and require you to apply knowledge to clinical scenarios.

The difference between the two lies in the difficulty, style, and focus of the questions.

Let’s have a closer look at the similarities and differences:


Content and Focus: Both UWorld and Step 1 cover the same breadth of basic science and clinical science topics relevant to Step 1. You’ll encounter questions across anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pathology, pharmacology, and clinical medicine.

Question format: Both utilize single-best-answer multiple-choice questions (MCQs) and other formats like image-based questions.

Depth of knowledge: Both test your understanding of medical concepts at a deep level, requiring you to apply knowledge to clinical scenarios.


Difficulty: UWorld questions are generally considered harder than Step 1 questions. While Step 1 may have some challenging questions, overall it tends to be more straightforward.

Style: UWorld questions can be trickier and more wordy than Step 1 questions. They often introduce distractor answer choices that are plausible but ultimately incorrect.

Focus: UWorld focuses on teaching and learning, providing detailed explanations and rationale for each answer choice. Step 1, on the other hand, is purely an assessment.

Overall, UWorld serves as an excellent preparation tool for Step 1. By regularly practicing with UWorld questions, you’ll solidify your understanding of key concepts, learn to think critically, and develop strong test-taking skills.

However, don’t expect the actual exam to be a carbon copy of UWorld. Remember to supplement your UWorld practice with other resources and focus on truly understanding the underlying concepts, not just memorizing trivia.

Is UWorld harder than Step 1 (2)

Common Study Mistakes With UWorld

Some medical students perform poorly on the Step 1 exam even when they study with question banks. What is a possible reason for poor performance?

Sometimes, medical students don’t use their study materials to their full potential and they need a better learning approach.

Here are some common mistakes medical students make when using UWorld:

Mistake #1 Only Completing One Pass

We may feel relief when we pass one round with a decent score. But it’s always best to do a second pass to ensure you remember and understand the information.

Mistake #2 Not Reading The Explanations

We know some students need clarification on the explanation layout, but the information in these texts can significantly help your studying. UWorld is a high-quality study material because of its thorough explanations for each item.

Mistake #3 Ignoring Question Blocks

Step 1 is a challenging exam; we may feel mental blocks with some questions. Try to face these questions and learn new information with each item.

You can use flashcards to review complicated concepts better. UWorld is a complete resource that helps medical students perform well on the Step 1 test.

Can You Pass Step 1 With Just UWorld?

UWorld is a helpful and informative study guide medical students use for the Step 1 exam, but it can’t stand alone as your only study resource.

While UWorld is a valuable resource for USMLE Step 1 preparation, no single resource can guarantee success. Supplement your study prep with other helpful resources like First Aid, Sketchy, and NBME practice exams.

P.S. Here, I talked about the best Step 1 resources that have helped me and other students with Step 1 prep: The Best Step 1 Resources

You should start reviewing a small question pool before your study session. This question pool will help you determine the concepts that need more review time. It would help if you understood the ideas in the question bank to know how to answer them on the test day.

To crush Step 1, create a personalized study plan that aligns with your learning style. Here are study schedules that have worked for me and other students: Study Schedule For Step 1 (Actual Examples)

[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. 

Why Should You Study With UWorld?

UWorld is a trusted study material for medical students. It has several study resources and guide questions that emulate the actual Step 1 tests. Here are some reasons why medical students use UWorld for their Step 1 exams.

The Questions Are Challenging

Difficult questions sound bad, but you should get used to studying items similar to the actual exam. Step 1 is a challenging test, so the UWorld questions expose you to the possible exam content.

UWorld Provides Explanations

The question bank includes explanations for your possible answers. We love how UWorld expounds on the correct and wrong answers, explaining why they are so. You should finish at least two sets of the question bank to ensure you understand the information.

UWorld Is A Student-centered Reviewer

UWorld uses a user-friendly interface that allows medical students to create customized practice tests. You can study the exam content in your preferred style and pace to ensure quality learning.

Is UWorld harder than Step 1 (3)


You may have a question or two about how to use UWorld for Step 1. Check out these frequently asked questions:

When To Start Studying For UWorld?

Medical students have different study strategies, so you must determine the best time to start studying with UWorld. You can approach this study schedule in two ways.

Option #1: Study UWorld at the beginning of medical school

Some medical students prefer to start studying with UWorld once they start medical school. This method gives you enough time to finish the question bank and learn the content, but there may be some topics you need help understanding.

But note that studying the concepts you don’t have a background in may waste your time. Sometimes, you need real-time medical school experience to learn some principles.

Option #2: Study UWorld during your Step 1 dedicated study period

Some medical students prefer setting a dedicated study schedule before the Step 1 test. The duration of the dedicated prep is usually 5 to 8 weeks.

You will understand more abstract medical concepts after spending time in medical school. This understanding will make your dedicated study sessions more productive.

In this case, focus on topics that you are weak at by utilizing the explanations that UWorld provides.

Out of the two, I recommend option #2. Go through UWorld after studying the necessary foundational concepts. UWorld has high-quality questions, and using them all up too early would leave you with nothing else closer to test day.

Here’s my take on when to start UWorld for Step 1:

How Long Does It Take To Get Through UWorld For Step 1?

The UWorld reviewer has more than 3,500 items in their question bank, so you need significant time to review the content. You can finish this review in six to eight weeks if you do 80 questions daily.

You can finish more than 80 questions per day to cover more items but don’t study more than you’re capable of. It would be helpful if you allowed more than eight weeks to learn so you can review previous mistakes.

You can use other exam reviewers like Anki, Sketchy, and FirstAid while studying with UWorld. These different exam materials can help you fully understand the content of the actual test.

Can I Do 100 UWorld Questions A Day?

Yes, you can do 100 UWorld questions a day if you have time and if you already have the necessary foundational knowledge. Doing more questions per day allows you to do more rounds and correct your previous mistakes.

Medical students can answer any number of UWorld questions daily, depending on their schedule and needs. You can start with 20 questions per day if you’re busy with schoolwork and then go higher if you have more free time.

The most reasonable study limit per day is 80 to 120 questions. If you do more, you might need more time to fully understand the content in the question bank.

Make sure you balance your study time. Don’t aim to “perfect” your knowledge by spending too much time on a question. Instead, focus on the topics you are weak at.

By creating a study schedule, you can maximize the use of UWorld and be more efficient with your Step 1 prep.

Here is an in-depth discussion on this topic: How Many Questions A Day Should I Do On UWorld 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. 


Is UWorld harder than Step 1? UWorld is a helpful study guide for the Step 1 exams since it has extensive content that covers science principles. However, some medical students believe this reviewer is more complex than the actual exam because of the sheer content you study.

Most people think the UWorld question bank has too much “noise” because every item has an explanation. These explanations can help medical students understand the concepts and why they should choose specific answers for the exam.

Your study style affects how well you’ll understand the UWorld question bank information. Dedicate enough time and ensure you use supplementary materials to ensure a good study experience.

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 this article helped you with any exam period concerns. If you need help answering your medical school questions, try and check out some of our other content:

Until the next one my friend…

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