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Maximizing UWorld During Your USMLE Dedicated Study Period

The UWorld question bank is undoubtedly the most recommended resource for any student taking the USMLE Step 1 or Step 2CK. I’ve never met an individual who hasn’t completed at least one pass through the UWorld question bank prior to taking the USMLE. Some schools even provide the question bank free of charge for their students, as they realize the impact of this resource on their students’ scores. UWorld covers nearly all of the material on the USMLE and presents it in a way that is reflective of the ways in which it will appear on the exam.

UWorld comes with many bells and whistles which allow you to control your test taking environment. It gives you the freedom to sub-select certain subjects, adjust the number of questions, and utilize tutor mode. It is easy to get lost in all of these settings and end up going through UWorld without maximizing your learning potential. Here are some simple guidelines you can use to gain the most out of UWorld questions:

1. Adjust your strategy based on how many questions you’ve completed 

When beginning to prepare for dedicated study for the USMLE you should think about where you stand with your UWorld questions. How many questions have you seen? Do you have enough questions unseen to adequately mimic a real block of the USMLE? If you have not completed the questions one time through then you should try and mimic examination conditions by doing your UWorld blocks in Random/Timed mode.

If you have completed the questions along with your medical school curriculum then it is acceptable if you start by sub-selecting subjects you are weak in. Additionally, tutor mode can be helpful. However you may benefit from another question bank which you haven’t seen, either Kaplan or USMLE Rx. You want to do questions that you have not seen before in random/timed mode. In doing this, you accurately replicate testing conditions.

USMLE Rx is another great resource (although the explanations aren’t as in depth as UWorld) if you have completed all of the UWorld questions. This question bank also has a random/timed mode.

During your dedicated study you should try and do at least 1 or 2 blocks per day, and increase the number of blocks as you continue to study. You should feel comfortable taking the USMLE once you can complete 4 UWorld blocks in a row, in random/timed mode, with sufficient focus.

2. Adjust the conditions in which you do questions.

While using UWorld or USMLERx as your primary question/study tool, you will need to also adjust the conditions under which you are taking your blocks. The most preferable is that you take them in the morning, around the same time you will most likely be taking your exam. Every day you should try and wake up and replicate your exam day by doing several blocks.

Changing your location while doing questions is also extremely helpful and often underrated. Try to replicate the testing center conditions by going to a library and setting up in a cubicle. This will all aid in preparing you for a smooth test day.

3. Do not do the question bank more than once. Instead take notes on the tough questions. 

A lot of people will disagree with me on this, but I see no point in repeating questions. Prior to my Step 2CK, I completed both UWorld and USMLE Rx. I was exposed to over 4000 questions testing me on the material from many different angles.

I kept a book where I would write a summary on the questions that were tricky or I got wrong. The most important thing is that you write no more than one line of notes per question. Writing excessive notes will only discourage you from re-reading them later.

The days prior to my exam I reviewed those two notebooks at least three times over, noticing the trends in the questions I got wrong and reviewing my weaknesses. I was also reminded of the mnemonics that I had written in my notebook. 

In summary, you want to use UWorld as a tool to prepare you for test day — not just to learn the material, but to learn how to take a long exam. You want to prime yourself by doing more and more questions every day. You should use UWorld to build your stamina and endurance. Using UWorld wisely can dramatically increase your test scores.