Your USMLE 12-Week Sample Study Schedule

Those of you taking the USMLE Step 1 exam in the coming months are likely to be stepping up your prep and getting organized for the big day. To help you apply some focus – and hopefully ease the nerves – Pastest partner and study plan experts Cram Fighter have outlined a 12-week sample study schedule, just for our Qbank users. We hope you find it useful! 

At Cram Fighter, we’re often asked the question: “how long should I take to study for the USMLE Step 1?” The truth is, there is no ideal length of time to study. How long you take to prepare and to feel confident in taking your Step 1 exam will vary depending on a couple of factors, including: your personal study style, the amount of time you have in your dedicated study period, and the number of resources you use for Step 1 prep. Some people need to pack their studying into a short four-week window before their exam, while others can spread their studying over six months. At Cram Fighter, according to our stats, our customers spend about 14 weeks (or 102 days) studying for Step 1. With that in mind, here are some recommendations, along with a sample template, for building a 12-week study schedule.

Twelve weeks is a long time to prepare for the Step 1 exam, and not everyone has the luxury of this much time. But, if you can get it, a longer study period will give you the benefit of not having to cram your study time into marathon-length days as your exam date gets closer. At the beginning of a longer study period, you can spend more time immersing yourself in your coursework to really understand it (which is invaluable), then spend just a few hours a day reviewing questions from a Qbank. Then, as your Step 1 exam date approaches, you can increase the hours per day you study, and incorporate more resources, building on the foundation in the early weeks of your 12-week study schedule. A longer Step 1 study plan also gives you time to take practice exams to identify your weak areas and revisit them to try to improve your score.

The one thing we do believe very strongly is to see your schedule as very fluid and changeable. Life happens. You may miss a study day due to an illness or another unforeseen event. You may just fall behind due to other coursework. This means the Step 1 study schedule you start with won’t be the schedule you end up with. In fact, at Cram Fighter, our customers make 10 major changes to their Step 1 study schedules as they progress towards their exam!

This 12-week sample study schedule employs a tactic that we find students often use — organizing their USMLE study schedule into “study blocks”:

  1. The first study block includes question bank tasks only
  2. The second study block is a dedicated study period using the First Aid book plus questions from Qbanks

In your first study block, we suggest you use the first 53 days for questions from a Qbank such as Pastest. We recommend spending two hours on 20 questions each weekday, and four hours each weekend day on 40 questions. Even though your workload during this period is light, we also recommend you schedule a catch-up day at least once every two weeks to finish any overdue tasks and revisit questions that gave you trouble.

After 53 days, this schedule bakes in a three-day break before you start your second study block (your dedicated study block).

Your second, dedicated study block will span 27 days. The bulk of your dedicated study block time will be devoted to studying the First Aid book. We also recommend increasing the number of daily Qbank questions — either reviewing the Pastest Qbank again, or supplementing Pastest with UWorld. During the second study block, take two practice exams before your exam date, and be sure to plan for at least two catch-up days so that you can stay on schedule by completing any overdue study tasks, or to re-review problematic subjects.

If you’d like to download a PDF or Excel version of our sample 12-week Step 1 study plan, download it here.  Remember, this sample Step 1 USMLE study schedule is intended to be a starting point for how you might craft a 12-week study schedule. In general, however, we recommend having a detailed daily study plan as provided by Cram Fighter, to ensure you cover all the material you need to before your Step 1 exam.

Good luck!

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