USMLE Step 1: The First Step to Practicing Medicine in the USA

August 10, 2023

The world of medicine is ever-evolving and becoming more and more customer-centric. In order to stay ahead of the competition, medical professionals must keep up with the latest trends in retail innovation. For those looking to make a career out of practicing medicine in the United States, understanding the process and requirements can be overwhelming. Today, we're here to give you an inside look at what it takes to succeed in a US medical practice, from understanding the USMLE exam to getting certified by the ECFMG. So, if you're ready to take your career to the next level and embrace customer-centric retail innovation, let's get started!

The United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) is a three-step exam that is required for all medical students who want to practice medicine in the United States. The first step of the USMLE is known as Step 1, and it is designed to assess the basic medical knowledge of medical students.

Why is the USMLE Step 1 Important for International Medical Graduates?

The USMLE Step 1 is important for International Medical Graduates (IMGs) because it is a standardized exam that is used to assess medical knowledge and skills. It is a requirement for IMGs who wish to obtain a medical license to practice in the United States. A high score on the USMLE Step 1 can also increase an IMG's chances of being accepted into a competitive residency program.

For IMGs, a high score on the USMLE Step 1 can be particularly important because it can offset some of the challenges they may face in the residency application process. IMGs often have to compete with US medical graduates for residency positions, and a strong performance on the USMLE Step 1 can help demonstrate their qualifications and competency.

However, it's important to note that the USMLE Step 1 is just one component of the residency application process. Other factors such as clinical experience, research experience, and letters of recommendation are also taken into consideration by residency programs.

What are the Eligibility Requirements for the USMLE Step 1?

The eligibility requirements for the USMLE Step 1 are as follows:

  • Medical School Enrollment: To be eligible to take the USMLE Step 1, an individual must be currently enrolled in or have graduated from a medical school that is listed in the World Directory of Medical Schools.
  • Identification: The individual must provide two forms of identification, one of which must be a government-issued photo ID.
  • Scheduling: The individual must schedule their exam appointment through the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) website.
  • Payment: The individual must pay the exam fee, which is currently $645 (as of August 2023).
  • Examination History: An individual may not take the USMLE Step 1 more than six times, and there is a waiting period of at least seven days between attempts.
  • Eligibility Period: The individual must take the exam within their designated eligibility period, which is a three-month period that begins on the date they receive their scheduling permit.
  • ECFMG Certification: For international medical graduates, they must have a valid certification from the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) to be eligible for the USMLE Step 1.

It's important to note that these eligibility requirements are subject to change, and individuals should refer to the official USMLE website for the most up-to-date information.

The Content of the USMLE Step 1

The USMLE Step 1 covers a wide range of basic medical sciences, including:

  • Anatomy
  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology
  • Microbiology
  • Pathology
  • Pharmacology

The exam is divided into seven 60-minute blocks, and each block contains 40 multiple-choice questions. The questions are designed to assess your understanding of the basic concepts and principles of the medical sciences.

How the USMLE Step 1 is Scored

The USMLE Step 1 is scored on a scale of 1 to 300. The average score for US medical graduates is around 220, and the average score for IMGs is around 200. In order to pass the exam, you must score at least a 194.

How to Prepare for the USMLE Step 1

The best way to prepare for the USMLE Step 1 is to start studying early and to use a variety of study resources. Some of the best resources for studying for the USMLE Step 1 include:

  • Kaplan Medical
  • First Aid for the USMLE Step 1
  • Boards and Beyond
  • Pathoma
  • Sketchy Medical

It is also important to create a study plan and to stick to it. You should also make sure to get enough sleep and to take breaks when you need them.

Tips for Taking the USMLE Step 1

Here are some tips for taking the USMLE Step 1:

  • Start Early: The USMLE Step 1 covers a wide range of topics, and it can be difficult to fully prepare for the exam in a short amount of time. It's important to start studying early and give yourself enough time to review all the material.
  • Create a Study Plan: Develop a study plan that works for you and stick to it. Consider your strengths and weaknesses and allocate your study time accordingly. You may want to focus more on areas where you need improvement.
  • Use High-Quality Study Materials: There are many study materials available for the USMLE Step 1, including textbooks, review courses, and online resources. Choose materials that are high-quality and reputable.
  • Take Practice Exams: Practice exams can help you get a sense of what the real exam will be like and identify areas where you need to improve. Consider taking several practice exams throughout your study period.
  • Manage Your Time: The USMLE Step 1 is a long exam, and time management is key. Make sure you're pacing yourself during the exam and not spending too much time on any one question.
  • Stay Positive: The USMLE Step 1 can be a stressful experience, but it's important to stay positive and focused. Try to stay calm during the exam and remember that you've prepared for this moment.
  • Take Care of Yourself: It's important to take care of yourself both physically and mentally during the exam period. Make sure you're getting enough rest, eating well, and taking breaks when needed. Don't forget to take care of your mental health as well.

Remember, everyone's study process is different, so it's important to find what works best for you. Good luck with your USMLE Step 1 preparation!

Can I Become a Doctor in the USA Without Passing the USMLE?

In general, it is not possible to work as a doctor in the USA without passing the USMLE exams. The USMLE exams are a requirement for obtaining a medical license to practice medicine in the United States. If you're intrigued by the idea of working as a doctor in the USA without having to go through the USMLE process, I've delved deeper into this topic in my blog post: "Can Work as a Doctor in the USA Without USMLE?"

In this comprehensive article, I explore the alternatives and exceptions that might allow medical professionals to practice medicine in the United States without undergoing the standard USMLE examinations. You'll gain insights into various pathways, potential challenges, and the feasibility of pursuing a medical career in the USA as an international medical graduate.


As we conclude this discussion on the significance of the USMLE Step 1 and its role for international medical graduates, remember that preparation, dedication, and knowledge are key to achieving your goal of practicing medicine in the USA. By following the tips and information provided in this article, along with exploring the potential avenues outlined in my blog post, you can confidently navigate the intricate journey towards a fulfilling medical career in the United States.

Additional Information

  • The cost of the USMLE Step 1 exam is $645 for students and graduates of medical schools in the United States and Canada,and $965 for international medical graduates.
  • There are a number of financial aid programs available for international medical graduates who are taking the USMLE.
  • The process of applying for residency in the USA can be complex. It is important to start planning early and to get help from a residency advisor.
  • Networking with other international medical graduates can be helpful in the residency application process.
  • Practicing medicine in the USA as a foreign-trained doctor can be challenging. It is important to be prepared for the cultural differences and the competition.


Carlos Diaz
I believe in making the impossible possible because there’s no fun in giving up. Travel, design, fashion and current trends in the field of industrial construction are topics that I enjoy writing about.

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