How to Prepare for the USMLE: USMLE WORLD

When choosing a QBank, I went with USMLE WORLD (UW). It is much cheaper than the competitors Kaplan and USMLE Rx, it gets higher reviews from students that have used more than one QBank, and everything else (interface, online stats) was equal. Something of a no-brainer.

After using it for almost a month, I can say a few non-comparative things.

It’s fair. I haven’t had a question yet where I felt the wording was ambiguous or the answer was a stretch. Every time that I have looked at the options and thought to myself, “I have no idea,” it was because I really didn’t know (instead of knowing the answer and not knowing how to apply it).

It’s interesting. Each question has a full explanation (usually with an illustration or table) for right and wrong choices with a summary “Learning Objective” at the bottom. This is just a smart thing for the company to do, as every wrong answer leads to a new concept learned. I regularly go through my incorrect responses and copy down the new objective into my notes.

It’s hard. While at SGU, my favorite tests were in Pathology. Whoever wrote those tests was a sadist of the fourth order. For example:

  1. The test stem would have symptoms. [appendicitis with Hx of appendectomy]
  2. You’d have to figure out the disease. [Crohn's]
  3. You’d then have to realize what the appropriate treatment was. [Cortisol]
  4. You’d have to know the side effects of that treatment. [abd striae, bull neck]
  5. Finally, you can answer the question: Given this patient’s symptoms, what is the most likely side effect of his treatment? [weight gain]

Everyone complained about how hard those tests were, but I had been waiting for that type of challenge in a course my whole life. I loved those tests, and for similar reasons, I love the questions in the UW Qbank. There have been a few times where, after reading a question and figuring out the answer have thought, “That was the coolest way I have ever seen that asked.” I couldn’t give it higher praise.

If you’ve decided to use UW and are working through the questions, it might help to know how you’re doing. With each question, it will tell you the percentage of people that answer it correctly. With each subject, it will tell you your percentile against other test takers. Useful, right? I’m having a few problems with this.

The stat for “percentage that answer correctly” doesn’t say if that is on the first try or includes all attempts, including repeats. I wish there was a separate statistic for this. Your overall percentile is based on your test average against the mob, but again this can be manipulated by taking the same questions over and over (I’ve tested this myself). For the person going through the questions once without repeating, you may feel that your percentile is a little low (or just hope that it is).

Here are my percentiles on first past through all the available questions in a section. I will expand this list as I continue to cover material. You’ll notice that the scores are very low. As I mentioned before, these aren’t true percentiles as they are not compared against the mob’s first attempt and I list them here just so that people don’t feel so defeated when they take the questions themselves.

  • Biostatistics (74th) – I felt very well prepared
  • Behavioral Science (waiting to do Psych until later)
  • Embryology (71st) – I felt well prepared
  • Genetics (48th) – Curse you, Dudek and your horrible book.
  • Biochemistry (79th) – I felt very well prepared
  • Immunology (70th) – I felt well prepared
  • Histology (32nd) – I wrote this off. Maybe I should look at it.
  • Anatomy (74th) – Just for fun. I’m an Anatomy geek.

ADDENDUM: I sent an email to the USMLE WORLD team about these questions and I was pleasently surprised to see them respond the next day.

The “percentage that answer correctly” only records the first attempt of the user if the question in taken in the unused mode.

The cumulative performance is based on the entire test percentage and you are correct in assuming that the percentile might be manipulated if a person repeatedly takes the test and answers all the questions correctly. However for the percentile to skew greatly, a large number of users will have to “cheat” the system this way by repeatedly taking the same questions.

However, most of our users take the test first in unused mode and then they use other modes like incorrect or marked questions if they have sufficient time left. This might skew their overall percent by 2-3 % but over a significantly large data set this offset becomes negligible.

Hence, the presented percentile should only be used as a rough indication of where the user stands and preferably should be ignored during the initial tests.

Return to USMLE Step 1 page.

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28 Responses to How to Prepare for the USMLE: USMLE WORLD

  1. Thanks for the help. I’m looking for good sources right now. DOWN WITH KAPLAN!

  2. jarrad says:

    Topher this series on your preperation for the boards is extremely helpful. I had been planning on just following the rest of the flock towards Kaplan, but the more I read your well reasoned approach to it, the more I think that UW will be the way I go when I start studying during spring break. I really appreciate all the insight. Keep it up.

  3. [...] I had never heard of this program, but three people that I consider intelligent (each scored 95+) told me that UW’s questions were more difficult than the actual USMLE. Each of them also subscribed to Kaplan, used its program, and found the programs to offer the same features. After hearing this, visiting their site, and considering the prices, I had to take them seriously. It seemed like a great deal (less than half of Kaplan with a higher rating). The reviews at Prep4Usmle were positive as well. I also like that UW let’s you try their product for a month and if you like it, you can buy more months at a discount. My review of UW Qbank. [...]

  4. [...] early and do a lot of practice questions in addition to reviewing material. On the advice of The Rumors Were True I think I will subscribe to USMLE World Q-bank. These Qbanks are expensive, but they are just as [...]

  5. [...] I had never heard of this program, but three people that I consider intelligent (each scored 95+) told me that UW’s questions were more difficult than the actual USMLE. Each of them also subscribed to Kaplan, used its program, and found the programs to offer the same features. After hearing this, visiting their site, and considering the prices, I had to take them seriously. It seemed like a great deal (less than half of Kaplan with a higher rating). The reviews at Prep4Usmle were positive as well. I also like that UW let’s you try their product for a month and if you like it, you can buy more months at a discount. My review of UW Qbank. [...]

  6. hafz says:

    thank you topher for your effort to post this messsage on board

  7. [...] I had never heard of this program, but three people that I consider intelligent (each scored 95+) told me that UW’s questions were more difficult than the actual USMLE. Each of them also subscribed to Kaplan, used its program, and found the programs to offer the same features. After hearing this, visiting their site, and considering the prices, I had to take them seriously. It seemed like a great deal (less than half of Kaplan with a higher rating). The reviews at Prep4Usmle were positive as well. I also like that UW let’s you try their product for a month and if you like it, you can buy more months at a discount. My review of UW Qbank. [...]

  8. ASIF says:

    HI THIS INFO IS AMAZING…… IM CURIOUS TO KNO IF U TOOK THE EXAM…AND WAT U GOT IF U DONT MIND TELLING…..

  9. Shreyansh says:

    i think, usmle world is the best but one should do kaplan q-b before doing it

  10. inder says:

    i have done kaplan q bank..have started usmleworld..
    i think these questions are challenging and close to the exam..
    one should use it as to asess his/her strengths and weakness..

  11. SE580 says:

    Hi! Now that the prices of UW, Kaplan and qbank are similar, which one do you think is worth it? Thanks! Also, how far into studying should I start doing questions (qbank)?

    Your website is very very informative! Thanks for the help!

  12. Rahul says:

    Personally, I prefer to use at least 2 Qbanks. I tend to fall asleep while reading those thick Kaplan books; I did manage to read them twice, but chose to study from Rx and world. UW focuses only on the material tested and I feel it is the best way to prepare for the Step 1 instead of trying to memorize abstract tables and charts off a thick textbook.

  13. noone says:

    Here u can download all USMLE materials , Videos , Lecture Notes , three steps 1 , 2, 3 tested and working 100 % http://www.feedurbrain.com/forum/boards-usmle-mterials/

  14. I agree with the above post. Personally I cannot understand why you would not want to make an effort in this regard anyway. Only the other day, at work we had exactly the same conversation and came to a similar closing

  15. shruti says:

    I have just started preparing for usmle. so still not very sure what to prepare… i have started with kaplan materials but is it enough? or what else i need to study? where do i get those study materials and q books. can you please help me for this

  16. Dr.Aps says:

    I ve just started doing usmle world.done with biochem.averaging around 75% cum.i m worried if this is just a fluke cos i m doing the questions after reviewing the entire subject?

  17. Sara says:

    Hey,
    This is a great site. Thanks. You mentioned that you scored 70%-80% on your first try on those specific subjects on UW?? That’s great but a bit discouraging for me bc I did not start that high while learning the material in the beginning. They say you learn from your mistakes. My friend started with somewhere in the 50′s when she started to study and ended up doing better and better and scoring well on the real test. It’s not where you start off I guess but where you end up. Thanks again.

  18. Dr.Aps says:

    Yes.its my first try and i dont know how it correlates with the actual exam performance.i ve finished anatomy,embryo,genetics and my cumulative is 72%.it feels too good to be true.

  19. cj says:

    I just got my kaplan medical notes, and i am really at a loss as to how to start to prepare for step 1. I am an IMG , hoping to write the exams in november 2011. pls advice needed.

  20. bow says:

    i am also an IMG wanting to write the exams in oct2011, wht does anyone think about the pass program is it helpful…..and are the kaplan videos just d same as the notes?

  21. dr.vika says:

    HI found ur site intersting,my total percentage in uworld in 70,in the middle i i retook some exams in uworld,so for some i used to get in 85….does this incresed my percentage

  22. beach says:

    beach…

    [...]How to Prepare for the USMLE: USMLE WORLD « the rumors were true[...]…

  23. archana says:

    hi
    i m planing to start my usmle step1.where i can find kaplan books,kap Qbank and usmle world bank

  24. archana says:

    hi
    where i can find kaplan books qbank and UW qbank

  25. archana says:

    can somebody tell me what is FA? most of u r using this abbreviation while telling about books to refer.is it for FALCON

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