Step 3

How To Study For USMLE Step 3

In my prior post, When You Should Take Step 3,  I went over the importance of USMLE step 3 with regard to fellowships moving forward and gave some insight into figuring out the right time to take the exam. The following post covers the nitty gritty details about how to actually study for the exam including study strategies and resources. Of course, this is not the only way to study for step 3 but its the most common and the most successful way.



Format of the test

Day one is the prototypical USMLE step exam consisting of 6 blocks of 38-40 items plus 45 minutes of break time leaving you with a 7 hour test on day 1. Day 2 is a little different. It’s a 9 hour day split up into two main sections. First you start off with another 6 blocks of multiple choice questions. They only give you about 30 per section on day 2 compared to about 38-40 questions per section on day 1. After you complete all 6 sections you move on to the simulation cases. These are 13 cases that are meant to simulate how you would treat a patient in the real world. Check out the details on the USMLE website here.



How to study for it- USMLE World

I’m not kidding when I tell you that the one and only resource I used to study for my step 3 exam was UWorld. Okay, and my Master The Boards book for USMLE Step 2 CK when I couldn’t remember some obscure fact or mnemonic. Okay, and I guess I also used Picmonic cards here or there for those super rare and hard to memorize tumors from my step 1 days. But I rarely used secondary resources. I mostly jotted notes down in a moleskin notebook. UWorld or bust!



Brush up on your biostats

On day one of the exam expect to have at least 6-8 biostatistics questions per section. 3-4 of those questions are from drug advertisements. It sounds daunting but you truly just need to know the basics. I’m talking about number needed to treat (NNT), number needed to harm (NNH), odds ratio, and different forms of bias. All that jazz. Know it cold and you’ll do fine.



Interactive cases- practice, practice, practice

Half of doing well on the 13 interactive cases on day 2 is knowing how to use the interface. The medicine is actually the easy part. Personally, I did a third of the cases over the span of a few weeks and then the remaining two-thirds over the course of the weekend prior to my exam and I felt adequately prepared. A few colleagues of mine did all of them the weekend prior to their exam. They are annoying and frustrating to get through but as long as you don’t kill too many imaginary patients you should be fine.




Still have some burning questions about how to study for step 3? Leave a question in the comments section below! And don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss my next blog post!!

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