Question banks are a powerful study resource to incorporate early on in your USMLE study schedule. Here are five reasons for why starting questions earlier is ideal.

1. You will be able to work through more questions

By starting early, you will be able to review more questions at a manageable pace and you will have more to time to review explanations to the questions you answered incorrectly.

Ethan Young of the University of South Dakota, who scored an impressive 250 on Step 1, told us he started using question banks six months prior to his test. For Ethan, starting early had a two-pronged benefit in his preparation. “I began trying to do about 10 questions per day from the USMLE-Rx question bank,” Ethan told us, “This doesn’t seem like much, but it really helped me become acquainted with the format of board questions and boosted my knowledge.”

Ethan Young10 questions per day doesn’t seem like much, but it really helped me become acquainted with the format of board questions and boosted my knowledge.

Ethan Young, University of South Dakota School of Medicine, USMLE Step 1 Score: 250

2. You will increase the speed at which you are able to answer questions

Increasing your knowledge is obviously the main priority, but don’t overlook the importance of honing your test-taking skills. We asked Loma Linda medical student Michael Douglas if he had any advice for future Step 1 test-takers, and his number one piece of advice was “Try to increase your pace.”

Michael recalls being surprised by the challenge of time constraints on the actual exam. Michael shared with us his thoughts on test day. “When it came to the real thing, I was running out of time,” he said, “That was totally new. I usually finished sections on the practice tests with 20 minutes to spare.”

Use question banks as a way to train for the exam in terms of pacing. University of Pittsburgh medical student Thomas Mike reserved a weeklong study block at the very end of his schedule in order to focus on his pace.

“I did 1500 more questions in this final week in a crazy rapid-fire fashion just to work on my speed and thought process,” said Thomas, “I knew the information was there in my brain, I just needed work on improving my recall.”

Thomas Mike I did 1500 more questions in this final week in a crazy rapid-fire fashion just to work on my speed and thought process.

Thomas Mike, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine

3. You will have time to use multiple Qbanks

Some of our customers have shared with us that they developed a false sense of confidence with their ability to answer questions when they relied only on one Qbank. By incorporating question banks when you first start studying rather than later on in your schedule, you have additional time to include more than one Qbank. Using multiple Qbanks allows you to experience greater variation in the authorship of the content and may provide a more representative sample of questions that you will see on the actual exam. Michael Douglas, a medical student from Linda Loma School of Medicine told us that his mistake was that he only used UWorld, and thus he thought he would score higher than he actually did. He said, “I faked myself out with the tests I took. I should have taken more of the NBME exams. The ones from UWorld are not really representative of the test. They’re a lot more mild.”

4. A longer study plan will allow for more variation

We find that most students go through around 2000 questions from their Qbanks before their exam date - that’s a lot of questions to have to get through. The later you wait to incorporate this large number of questions into your study schedule, the less flexibility you will have in creating a schedule with some variety. If you have little or no variation in the way you review your resources, your study plan is more likely to feel monotonous. Students like Katie Williams, encourage test takers to use some kind of schedule variation (e.g. video before Qbank, Qbank before video) when scheduling questions during their schedule.

5. You can get more bang for your buck

By starting early, not only will you get through more of the questions in the Qbank you purchased, you will also be able to take advantage of the various discounted payment options from publishers such as UWorld. For many resources, you can pay less per month by signing up for a longer period of time. The lesson here: start early and save.

If you are still not sure how to use a Qbank in the most effective manner, then check out the following this article from Doctors in Training and this article from Med School Tutors.