NBME Free 120 Ultimate Guide

NBME Free 120 [Ultimate Guide]

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In this post, I will present everything you need to know about NBME Free 120 and some tips on how to ace your USMLE exam.

As a medical student, you know that right when you take this path, there will be a lot of books, exams, and some trial and error that you’ll have to go through. One of these is the USMLE, which can either make or break your medical career.

If you’re considering entering medical schools that don’t require the MCAT, then there will be pressure for you to do great for your USMLE as well.

The United States Medical Licensure Examination (USMLE) is necessary for residency and fellowship programs. If you don’t pass it, you will not get your medical license and you won’t be allowed to practice as a doctor.

As daunting as the USMLE may sound, there are available resources out there, such as the NBME Free 120, to help you prepare for this examination. Keep on reading as we discuss what the NBME Free 120 is in the first place and how you can maximize it to have better scores for your USMLE.

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What Is The NBME Free 120?

The NBME Free 120, also known as USMLE Free 120, is a set of 120 sample questions released every year by NBME. It simulates the USMLE Step 1, Step 2 CK, or Step 3 exam in terms of the question style and user interface.

Since the examination proper is computerized and will take several hours, you must learn the basics firsthand with the help of NBME so you’ll save more time on your exam.

The NBME Free 120 (Step 1 and Step 2 CK) includes three blocks filled with 40 questions that allow you to practice your knowledge and see whether you are prepared enough for the USMLE. It also comes with a tutorial and instructions for using the software that will deliver your exam.

It has an answer key, but no explanations are provided. Fortunately, some people provide good explanations for the answers online. 

Where Can I Find The NBME Free 120?

You can utilize the NBME Free 120 (for free!) at any time on the USMLE website. It is available in two formats: PDF format and interactive testing experience.

Here are the direct links:

Step 1: PDF format, interactive testing experience

Step 2 CK: PDF format, interactive testing experience

Step 3: PDF format, interactive testing experience

What Is The Purpose Of The NBME Free 120?

The main purpose of the NBME 120 is to help you boost your USMLE test score. Since USMLE is owned by the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME), rest assured that the questions in the sample questionnaires would be relevant for the examination proper.

The NBME Free 120 mirrors the actual USMLE exam in format and interface. This lets you refine time management, adapt to the question style, and identify areas for final polish, so you can walk into the exam room confidently and primed for your best performance. NBME Free 120 also aims to help students achieve the score they want on their USMLE test.

However, it would be best not to memorize the questions because there will be a low chance that you’ll encounter the same questions on your USMLE. I suggest that you focus more on learning and understanding the concepts in medicine to have a better chance of a high score.

Lastly, the beauty of NBME Free 120 is that it will also give you the chance to review your strengths and weaknesses. It will present to you which areas you need to focus on more and which ones you can improve for the better.

What Is A Good Score For NBME Free 120?

The minimum score that you should be getting for NBME Free 120 is 75%. Of course, it would be better if you aim higher.

Although it’s important that you score highly on the sample exam, remember that it’s better to understand the concepts and familiarize yourself with the terms and mechanics than memorize the questions per se.

How To Use The NBME Free 120

NBME Free 120 Ultimate Guide

Utilize It As A Simulation Before USMLE

Use your NBME Free 120 as a trial test 3 to 5 days before your scheduled exam.

Before the day of your exam, it’s better not to overload your brain with excessive studying. You would want to use this time to get some rest so you’ll have a relaxed mind and energy to take on the test.

Through the interactive testing experience, you will be able to familiarize yourself with the interface of the exam. You will also be able to read the tutorial, which will save you time on exam day.

Take the Free 120 as if you’re taking the real one so that on the exam day, you’ll be accustomed to the format of questions, how to use the software, and make good use of the break times.

Don’t Memorize The NBME Questionnaire

As said earlier, it’s better not to dissect the whole question. You won’t see the exact ones on the USMLE test.

You should identify your weakest areas and work on them, rather than memorizing the answers to the entire NBME.

For example, you had a question about a specific heart defect. Instead of focusing on what made your answer wrong or right, you’re better off using the time spent doing a thorough review of cardiology.

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Use The Test Tutorial Beforehand

The NBME Free 120 will also show you how the interface will look like on your USMLE test day. Even though the tutorial is optional, I recommend using it to save time on your scheduled exam.

The tutorial includes instructions on audio calibrations, keyboard functions, screen layout, and other vital features in the test. It would be best if you make sure you understand the content.

Doing this can save you approximately 15 minutes of break time. That extra time can be crucial if you want to break down those blocks of questions.

When To Start AAMC Practice Exams

Understand How NBME Is Scored

It’s important to note that the NBME Free 120 does not give a three-digit score, but it generates a percentage of what you got right.

The NBME offers an answer key to their sample questions so you can check which ones you got right or wrong.

There is no clear data on how your NBME score will correlate to your USMLE score, but a score of 75% or higher is good and will more likely get you a passing rate.

Although they don’t offer explanations for the answers, some people provide detailed and free explanations for all aspiring USMLE examiners. You’ll just have to find them online.

Step 1 Tips

When To Take The NBME Free 120?

It is best to take the NBME Free 120 three to five days before your scheduled exam.

The NBME 120 is free to use for everyone on USMLE’s website. It depends on the examiner when they feel like taking the NBME.

Many students like to take the sample questionnaire at the beginning of their study period for USMLE. It can help them identify their weaknesses and know which areas they need to study more.

However, the NBME is not an unlimited resource. It would be best to keep them until you’re confident that you are ready to maximize the benefits.

It would be best to use other resources beforehand, like UWorld, the NBME practice tests, First Aid, and Sketchy, to practice on topics you are weak at and understand the basic concepts.

Three to five days before your USMLE exam, schedule a timed practice run using the NBME Free 120. This simulation will help you get acclimated to the exam format, timing, and difficulty level, setting you up for success.

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Should I Do Both The Old And New NBME Free 120?

As you prepare for your exam, you might be wondering if tackling both the old and new NBME Free 120s is worth your time. No one is stopping you from taking old NBME Free 120s, but my advice is to take only the newest one.

Whether you take only the new Free 120 or also use the old ones, here are things you should consider:

More practice can be great

Doubling down on NBME’s unique question style and exposure to diverse question types can increase your understanding. Analyzing two exams gives you more data to fine-tune your study.

But beware of overdoing it

Remember, burnout is a real threat. Doing back-to-back intense practice exams can drain your energy. Besides, there are also a lot of other practice exams that you can use, like UWorld and the NBME practice tests. Focus on quality over quantity, and prioritize thorough review over rushing through freebies.

Consider your learning style and needs

If you’re already confident and just want extra polish, different versions might be beneficial. But if you’re pressed for time, stick to one and dedicate the extra hours to target weak areas or study other high-yield resources. 

Tips On Acing The USMLE

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Tip #1 Start Studying Early On

My first and best advice on having a high score on USMLE is to start studying as early as your first year. Be active during your freshman year and learn as much as you can.

The USMLE Step 1 will mainly include topics during your preclinical years.

Tip #2 Talk To Colleagues Who Took The Exam

In order to know how much you’ll need to study and where to focus, it would be best to consult with friends and colleagues who took the exam. They can give you pointers and some tips to help you with the test.

Tip #3 Make A Good Study Schedule

The next tip is to make an effective schedule plan and stick with it. In order to pass USMLE, you need to be dedicated to your studies.

Making a study schedule will help you keep track of things you need to concentrate on and the time you have left before your USMLE test.

Tip #4. Remember When To Take A Rest

As much as you want to spend all your time studying, it’s equally important to know when to take a rest. Remember that you learn faster and more efficiently when your brain is well-rested.

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Preparing for USMLE is never going to be easy. After all, this is for your medical license we’re talking about!

A medical license proves that a practicing medical professional is qualified and competent enough to be in the field. It’s also a legal requirement to practice medicine in the United States.

Although getting a license is hard, there are many resources that you can use to achieve it. One of them is the NBME Free 120.

Knowing how to maximize your Free 120 can significantly influence your USMLE score. However, it’s important to note that the NBME’s sample questionnaire shouldn’t be your sole resource. It’s a great tool, but you’ll need more than that to achieve a decent score in USMLE.

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