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Which NBMEs & UWorld exams are the most predictive of actual Step 1 scores?

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This topic contains 1 reply, has 2 voices, and was last updated by Avatar Dan S., MST USMLE Tutor 2 years, 3 months ago.

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    One of the most common questions that I get asked as a USMLE tutor is which NBMEs and UWorld exams are the most predictive of actual Step 1 scores, as well as how often and how many exams are necessary to complete before the exam.

    I’ll start by saying that the NBMEs are notorious for “underpredicting,” so I would take those scores with a grain of salt. Most if not all of my students have done better on the real exam than the average of their NBME scores! They’re retired questions for a reason, and I think you’ll find that discrepancy is less rare than you think. If forced to pick the best ones, though, I would say 17 and 21. (I still tend to think they underpredict, though).

    I’ve found the UWorld exams to be much closer to the actual scores of most of my students — if you take the average of 1 and 2, I think that will give you a better idea of where you might end up score wise.

    Having said that, I have found the NBME prompts are generally far shorter, and involve more cognitive leaps. UWorld will usually spell out a disease for you with fairly good clarity, and the NBMEs rely on you making certain associations, remembering small facts about different pathologies, and having done google image searches on some of their disease skin and histo descriptions. I think the best way to approach those questions is to really map out how they are getting from A->B for certain questions (really the ones that test the big diseases) and focus on nailing those small details in FA!

    As far as taking the exams — depends purely on how much time you have. If you have 8 weeks, I would say it’s reasonable to do one weekly. If you have 2 weeks, I might just do one. Most NBMEs certainly won’t hurt IF you have the time. Try to avoid falling into the trap of trying to predict your score and continuing to reassess without actually spending the time on FA to actually bring up the score with content review.

    If you have any additional questions regarding practice tests for Step 1, please comment below and I will try to help out as best I can!

    Dan S., MST USMLE Tutor
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    USMLE ExpertMD or DOContributor

    Great post! Not sure if you would agree, but one thing I warn students of is not to spend too much time reviewing NBMEs. I think they can be a good marker of progress, especially when compared to previous NBME scores, but because there aren’t explanations built into the NBME review system (and because the NBME review system is generally pretty confusing), trying to review all of the questions can be a huge time sink. I think most peoples’ time is better spent giving the NBME questions a quick once-over to note big picture subject areas that are still a struggle, then getting back to UWorld and other question banks where answer explanations are well thought out and designed for learning.

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