You know you’ve got to take USMLE Step 1. The question is when.
It’s a dilemma medical students confront each year. One school of thought contends you should take the test immediately after you complete your second year of course work, while much of the information contained in the test is fresh in your mind. Another school of thought holds that postponing the test until July or later provides you more time to study.
So, what should you do? A 2002 study published by Academic Medicine seeks to shed light on the issue.
The study investigated some 627 medical students who took USMLE Step 1 between 1997 and 1999, organizing them in accordance with weekly test intervals between June 1 and July 12. Investigators discovered that more than two thirds of students scheduled test dates for the last two weeks in June. A small percentage – 2 percent – completed the test in early June while a larger percent – about 15 percent – waited until July to complete the test. Students with stronger academic performance tended to schedule earlier test dates than those with poorer academic performance. Not surprising, those students also scored better on the USMLE Step 1.
More interesting is the fact that when investigators employed a linear regression model they discovered no relationship between test date and test score.
So there you have it – evidence suggesting test dates don’t influence test results.
Here’s another bit of news. Neither does the amount of time you spend preparing for the test, according to a study performed by the USMLE Report. While most students begin preparing three months before their test dates, scores still tend to vary.
So, if test dates and study times don’t influence scores, what does?
That’s right, how you study.
Pohl CA, Robeson MR, Hojat M, Veloski JJ. Sooner or later? USMLE step 1 performance and test administration date at the end of the second year.
Acad Med. 2002 Oct; 77(10 Suppl):S17-9.