Fail your USMLE Step 1 exam? Fret not. You’re in good company – Lots of it! And your chances at a great residency and a fulfilling medical career remain higher than you may think. New data from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) shows that a majority of the nation’s MD applicants who fail the USMLE Step 1 exam, the first of three required exams of medical licensure, on the first attempt still go on to a residency.
So what should you do if your first Step 1 attempt tanks?
- Don’t panic: Everyone knows that the transition from medical school to residency is stressful and USMLE scores can be a particularly tough source of angst, as program directors often use them to help choose among the thousands of students to apply for residency slots. But take heart in the fact that you have ample opportunity to retake the test for a new score. The National Board of Medical Examiners, one of the exam’s two sponsors, allows students to retake the USMLE Step 1 a maximum of six times. After your first failed attempt, you may retake the exam twice within one year.
- Practice: Multiple organizations and question bank websites such as UWorld.com offer thousands of practice questions and tests to help you prepare and gain confidence before your next test day.
- Join a study group: Study partners can help you identify your weak areas, offer advice on how they may have overcome those same issues and keep you accountable when it comes to your study schedule.
- Consider additional specialties: Talk with your advisors about your circumstances, academic experience and goals to see if testing in a different specialty could help you be more competitive. Both the AAMC and the National Resident Matching Program publish data on the number of US MD seniors per slot, which is generally far fewer than the number of slots available. Choosing a specialty with a lower number of competitors may help boost your chances of success.
- Take advantage of test review and prep resources: These include reference books and online study banks. But for a serious competitive edge, enroll at WOLFPACC. Our St. Augustine, FL-based center offers proprietary USMLE and COMLEX review courses designed to help you ace your exams by learning a unique approach to the study and practice of medicine. Tailored four- and eight-week programs plus one-one-one tutoring have helped WOLFPACC students land a USMLE Step 1 pass rate higher than the national average – 240 compared to 228, respectively.