All Paths Lead to UWorld: IMG Advice for Acing the USMLE®

All Paths Lead to UWorld: IMG Advice for Acing the USMLE®

By: Zuka Zaalishvili

Are you an IMG (international medical graduate) hoping to continue your medical career in the United States? Have you found yourself overwhelmed by all the study resources available for USMLE® Step 1 and Step 2 CK? I’m an IMG too, and I’d like to share my experience with you—to show how you can ace your USMLE Step exams with the help of UWorld

International medical schools typically have a different curriculum from those in the United States. As a result, not all information taught in these schools is relevant for the USMLE Step exams. I have used several study resources to find out what’s high yield for these exams, and this is what I discovered: All paths lead to UWorld!

UWorld is the best resource for the USMLE Step exams because it clearly explains and summarizes high-yield information. UWorld provides a roadmap for what to focus on during your studies. Using only this resource, I earned a 269 on USMLE Step 1 and a 267 on USMLE Step 2 CK. Here is my advice on how you can make the best use of the UWorld question bank during your studies.

Read and Understand the UWorld Explanations

We medical students love to solve questions but often feel less enthusiastic about reading the explanations. However, in my experience, the explanations are at least as important as the questions. The questions give you an idea of how a particular medical concept can be tested on the exam, but the explanation strengthens your knowledge and can give you answers to other questions on the same topic. This is especially true with UWorld’s explanations because they clearly explain the correct answer AND the incorrect answers to the question. So read every explanation.

That said, even reading the explanations is not enough. While reading, continuously ask yourself: Why? This helps you prepare for the USMLE on an even deeper level, which tests your understanding of the concept, not just your memorization of facts. It’s okay if you take several hours to read and understand all the explanations in a practice test. Initially, it used to take me 7-8 hours to finish reviewing one 40-question UWorld set, but that time turned out to be well spent.

Manage Your Review Time Efficiently

Although any time spent reviewing UWorld explanations is worthwhile, the time you have is still inite. Therefore, knowing where to focus while reviewing a UWorld question set is essential to getting the most out of your time. Here’s my recommendation:

  • If you get the question right because you know the concept, you don’t necessarily have to spend much time reading the explanation. Do a brief read-through, keeping an eye out for any extra pearls of information you weren’t expecting.
  • If you get the question right thanks to an educated guess, you probably need more time reading the explanation to solidify your knowledge of that concept. 
  • If you get the question right by randomly guessing, or if you get it wrong, you lack sufficient understanding of the particular concept. This is when you need to invest significant time to read the explanation thoroughly and dig deeper into any points you don’t understand. 

This approach will help you spend less time on your strong areas and more time on your weak areas.

Take Time to Diagnose Why You Got the Question Wrong

If you saw my UWorld notes, you would think that I talk to myself. And I do when I review the UWorld question set. When I get a question wrong, I take a step back and ask myself why I got it wrong: Was it lack of knowledge, poor time management, anchoring bias, or inattentive reading? You not only want to learn from the question but also get the bigger picture of what went wrong while answering that question. This will make it easier for you to correctly answer similar questions in the future.

Do Timed, Random Question Sets During Your Dedicated Study Period

Doing timed, random question sets is crucial for acing your exams because the USMLE delivers questions in random order in a timed block. You want to mimic the exam while doing the UWorld question set. When you’re answering only cardiology questions, your brain expects questions about heart failure, myocardial infarction, angina, etc. But when you do random question sets, every question is from a different subject/specialty, forcing you to learn how to navigate through the breadth of your knowledge quickly.

UWorld is truly the best resource for preparing for the USMLE exams. If you read and understand the explanations, manage your review time efficiently, reflect on why you got the question wrong, and do the timed and random question sets, you will be getting the most out of this amazing resource.