Do You Want a 260 on USMLE Step 1?

Mar 19, 2020

It’s the Holy Grail whether you’re starting your medical licensing board preparation or nearing completion of your dedicated time. Scoring a 260 isn’t easy but it’s also not impossible. Every year the average USMLE score performance data continues to rise, while the roadmap to scoring higher has become foggy and confusing.

You’ve probably been inundated with new resources asserting claiming to get you that 260+ or streamline your study strategy. But here’s a special little secret: There is no one stop shop for how to succeed as a medical student, how to master medical education, or even how to get inside the minds of the board of medical examiners. 

You must customize your approach studying. And we have some recommendations for you.

The strongest recommendation that we have, based on what we’ve experienced ourselves and witnessed in our classmates and colleagues is the use of question banks. Acclimating yourself to the USMLE by using questions is paramount to your ability to handle test day. Whether question bank you use (Kaplan, UWorld, or nbme parts exams), don’t underestimate this step in your preparation. When you finally walk into a test centers and sit down to take your exams, you need to know you’re ready for the questions. The content will be there if you study right, but the questions are what makes or breaks test takers.

Besides question banks we recommend that you trust your instincts. People often get frustrated with the USMLE claiming it detracts away from true patient care and/or has nothing to do with a physician’s true clinical skills. The honest truth is that these tests are necessary to clarify what you’ve learned from the basic sciences so you can correlate it with your clinical practice. Take a breath and dive into the tests, committing to this simple principle - your only job is to know everything you can about as much as you can. Every year of medical school is meant to challenge and educate so you ultimately become a competent physician. You’ve gotten this far using your natural given intellect. Don’t stray away from that now.

You may be wondering what the heck question banks and trusting your gut have to do test success. The answer is the way you approach studying and test taking makes all the difference. Don’t get overwhelmed. Don’t let stress consume you. Make sure to stick to a schedule. Have a healthy outlet. When you approach he question banks, trust your test taking skills. Make sure you’re clear what exactly is being asked.

When I was in your shoes, me and my classmates knew that if we could figure out what each question wanted to teach us and what it was asking, that was half the battle. If it came down to knowing the question but not knowing the answer, it was still a victory because at that point it had just become a knowledge problem. I can’t stress enough that your goal in preparing is to determine what the question is asking you. The clinical vignette is designed to trip you up, but at the end of the vignette is a question with an answer. Even on your worse day you might be able to guess the correct answer. Don’t let this overwhelm you.

If you can’t figure out what the clinical vignette is asking, don’t be afraid to ask for professional help. Reach out to DaVinci Academy and you’ll be reading questions like an expert.

To summarize:

  • Practice questions
  • Learn what each question is asking you
  • Develop a schedule to cover the content in a time that fits your and only your study habits
  • When in doubt ask for help. 

You can and will succeed when that test is administered. Have faith, don’t give up, reach out to us if you want more direction -  we’ll see you on the other side.


Best of luck,

DaVinci Academy Team


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