Investigating the Impact of Preparation Strategies on USMLE Step 1 Performance

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Background—The USMLE Step 1 score helps differentiate applicants for competitive residency programs. Students frequently ask medical educators how to prepare for this high-stakes exam. Multiple resources exist such as books, training programs, and question banks. The purpose of this study is to provide medical educators with data on which resources correlate with higher exam scores. Methods—164 medical students at West Virginia University School of Medicine were given a survey following the completion of Step 1. The survey contained questions about resources used and exam date. De-identified data was paired with class quartile rankings and Step 1 scores. Average Step 1 scores were calculated for each resource and a student's t-test was used to compare between groups. Test dates were also broken into quintiles and average Step 1 scores were compared between groups. Results—Students who used the USMLE World question bank had higher Step 1 scores (M=229, SE=1.4) compared to students who did not use this resource (M=215, SE=4.2). Commercial preparation courses were not associated with improved scores. The timing of when the exam was taken was also not associated with significant differences between scores. Conclusions—Interactive study options offer the best choice to improve USMLE Step 1 scores.