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5 USMLE Question Types As “Parks and Recreation” Characters

  • by Ami Shiddapur
  • Mar 09, 2023
  • Reviewed by: Amy Rontal

Have you ever wondered which USMLE question types you might encounter on your Step 1 exam, and how to tackle them? Do you also love a certain NBC sitcom about the mishaps of Parks and Recreation employees?

Read on for the perfect marriage of the two: matching each USMLE question type with its Parks and Rec avatar.

Memorization Questions: Ron SwansonRon Swanson is the embodiment of the USMLE’s memorization questions.

These questions are straightforward and to the point, just like Ron. You either know what step of glycolysis hexokinase catalyzes, or you don’t. Getting one of these questions wrong feels like Ron telling you he’s not angry, just disappointed. 

Don’t psych yourself out. To memorize (and retain!) the information required for these cut-and-dry questions, repetition is essential. We recommend starting Anki or another spaced repetition method as early as possible to hammer those minutiae home. 

Statistical Questions: Ben Wyatt

If you were to turn the USMLE’s statistical questions into a “Parks and Rec” character, you’d get Ben Wyatt!This one might be cheating a bit, but auditors love numbers, right? Just like Ben, these questions are always a bit too rational when you’d rather be home daydreaming. 

Memorizing the high-yield Step 1 statistics formulas and then completing practice questions is the key to success for these. As a Step tutor myself, I recommend this high-yield bio stats video to all my students to cement those formulas in their brains! 

Third-Order Questions: Chris Traeger

Chris Traeger is the only “Parks and Rec” character who captures the intensity of third order USMLE questions.Like Chris, these questions never run out of energy. They require you to figure out what diagnosis the patient has, what treatment is best, and THEN the side effects of that treatment. A la Chris, if you make one small mistake, the whole question falls apart. 

Deal with these questions just like Chris deals with his problems—look at it head-on, and don’t be intimidated. Channel his attention to detail and don’t skim—these questions require careful reading. 

Bait-and-Switch Questions: Jean-Ralphio Saperstein

Jean-Ralphio’s wild, fraudster antics are a perfect representation of the USMLE’s bait and switch questions.As you’re reading a Jean-Ralphio-esque question, you’ll feel confident you know the answer halfway through. The pitch sounds great! You love what he’s selling you—it’s definitely choice C! Overconfident, you invest and move on to the next question. 

However, the last sentence contained a detail that changed the entire meaning of the question. And just like that, you’ve been scammed. A great way to avoid this is to read the question and answer choice first—that way, you have a frame of reference when reading the question stem.  

Ethical Questions: Leslie Knope

What character embodies the USMLE’s ethical questions as well as Leslie Knope, the ethical pillar of Pawnee?These questions will have you channeling your inner ethicist, a la Leslie Knope. No moral dilemma is off-limits for Step 1. Be prepared to answer questions ranging from a patient offering you an expensive gift to a co-resident who you suspect may be struggling with substance abuse. 

For these, always err on the side of rule-following and caution, just like Leslie. And when possible, choose an answer where you find out more information (for example, asking your co-resident if something tough is going on in their life). 

Additional Resources

Now that we’ve had some fun pairing each USMLE question type with its Parks and Rec equivalent, let’s get down to business with even more USMLE Step 1 resources! Check out these tips and strategy guides to pass the exam with flying colors:

Image credits: NBC

About the Author

Ami is a fourth year medical student at the Nova Southeastern MD program in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. She has been tutoring for Step 1 and Step 2 with Blueprint for over a year! She is passionate about science writing and clinical research, with special interests in delirium and neurocognitive disorders in older adults. She is applying to psychiatry residency programs in the fall. Her LinkedIn can be found here: