How to Prepare for the USMLE: How Early Should I Start?

I have received a version of the following email half a dozen times in the last few weeks concerning when in the first two years of medical school it is best to begin preparing for the USMLE. Here is one response.

Hello,I wanted to thank you for that information regarding studying for the BEAST!. It is well informed and I loved the reasons behind your study schedule. I am going to start my first term at SGU this coming august. With your experience the past two years is there any advice that you can give me. Does using first aid while studying for exams help to prepare for USMLE. Is it too early to even use it as a reference. Also doing well in the classes help drastically on your performance in the exam. Did you find that having done well made you recall alot of things that you found on the exam or is the details very nitty that it isn’t and needs to be refreshed within the 6 weeks. Wanted to know if it would be a wast of time to use the First aid as a supplement and note margin for my regular classes to be familiar when it comes time too kick but those 6 weeks. Again, thank you for the information.


Hey Knight.As far as advice goes about starting early, I have only this: I couldn’t do it. It takes a certain amount of pressure and dread to study effectively for the USMLE, and that’s not just going to be absent, it’s going to be appropriately focused on your other courses. I’m sure you could annotate the FA during these classes, but you’ll soon find that the breadth and depth of your SGU classes will simply dwarf what’s in the FA. The best advice I could give is to work as hard as you can for as long as you can in your classes. While the game of getting A’s isn’t all there is to your education (and you will feel at times that you are learning stupid things to do it), I can think of no better long-term preparation for the USMLE. Those members of my class that have scored the highest were all very strong students from front to end in Grenada and not for being especially intelligent, but instead for their consistent hard work.

The extra mile here is tutoring. I tutored Anatomy, Biochemistry, Neuro and Physio. In this way, I had a full year’s exposure to each topic instead of the four month term. This was invaluable. What many people found while studying for the USMLE, I discovered in tutoring: it’s only the second time around that all the connections fall into place and the interrelationships become intuitive. I was a much stronger student for it.

In a nutshell: don’t buy a First Aid until it’s time (around 5th term, I’d say), do your absolute best in every class, regardless of how innane the material, and tutor with a friend for every class that you can. That, if done, should fetch you a fantastic score.

All the best, topher.


7 Responses to How to Prepare for the USMLE: How Early Should I Start?

  1. tatiana says:

    From what discipline do I have to start study???

  2. naaz says:

    where did you get the tutoring?

  3. jay says:

    Hi Topher,

    What exactly did you mean by tutoring?

    Having a study buddy to study with? TA’ing a course? Or actually being paid to teach someone?

    For example, I have the opportunity to be the TA for Biochemistry (a course which I completed last semester), and the requirements are that I hold TA sessions and answer questions a few hours per week to help out students.

    What do you think, should I TA courses?

  4. Dr.basma Faira says:

    Hello,Iwant to do i should admit usmle if iwant to stubdy subspeciality i already finished the board

  5. I just mentioned that a few days in the past!!!

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