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I was wondering if anyone had advice as to when you should take the USMLE? Is it better to take it after your second year or wait until you've completed/partially completed your third year. I've heard that if you wait until your third year you can apply what you've learned in the first two years + your clinical experience and you'll do much better. Does clinical experience help you to better understand the first two years of school? Are you looked at differently(by competitive residencies) if you took the USMLE later as compared to May/June when everyone else takes it? Any help would be much appreciated.


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That's a good question. There was a study done a while back that showed that students with some clinical experience perform better on the USMLE Step 1, but I don't know how much better. Also, I think residency programs just care that you did take Step 1, not necessarily when.

That being said, there are a few considerations you have to take. First, does your school have a requirement that you have to take Step 1 by a certain time? Second, did you get any clinical experience during your preclinical years? If you did get some (for example -- case based discussions, PBL, ...), then I think that's more than sufficient clinical experience to help you on the exam. Third, does your school give you time scheduled in to study between the end of your preclinical classes and the start of your rotations? If so, that's probably the best time to prepare for Step 1, since you will have dedicated time to study.

In my opinion, I would NOT want to postpone Step 1 until clinics have started just to get my score up maybe 5 points. It's a pain in the a$$ to study for, and you will be SO HAPPY it's over with if you take it earlier. Clinical rotations have a way of tiring you out a lot so that it's very difficult to study diligently during them. I'm having similar issues trying to study for Step 2 right now during my rotations. You may even risk getting a lower score on Step 1 by waiting until clinics have started because your time will then be split and you will lose your dedicated study time. Not to mention that you will likely forget much of that crucial basic science information during you rotations.

Hope that helps!

Jim Picotte

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I would take it when you have some dedicated time to study only for that test. I studied for nearly 3 and a half weeks straight (8 hours a day) and if I was in clinics already, that would have been impossible. I did very well, not spectacular on it. For a lot of med schools this is an irrelevant question as you're required to take and pass Step I before they allow you to do clinicals. At least that's what it's like at my school.


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I have no input on this subject, but am very curious to know what more people think. I attend a school that does not have a specific time required to take the test, only three weeks available for study after the 2nd year, and not sure how much time to study in or after third year.

I guess what I am asking is what advice has anyone heard (and how reliable are the sources) about taking USMLE I after 2nd year compared to 3rd? AND, for those who took it after second year, do you think you would have done better by if you could have taken it during or after third year??? Thanks!
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