The USMLE Step 1 consists of multiple-choice questions prepared by examination committees composed of faculty members, teachers, investigators, and clinicians. Committee members are selected to provide broad representation from the academic, practice, and licensing communities across the United States and Canada.
The test is designed to measure basic science knowledge. Some questions test the examinee's fund of information per se, but the majority of questions require the examinee to interpret graphic and tabular material, to identify gross and microscopic pathologic and normal specimens, and to solve problems through application of basic science principles.
Step 1 is constructed from an integrated content outline that organizes basic science content according to general principles and individual organ systems. Test questions are classified in one of these major areas depending on whether they focus on concepts and principles that are important across organ systems or within individual organ systems. Sections focusing on individual organ systems are subdivided according to normal and abnormal processes, principles of therapy, and psychosocial, cultural, and environmental considerations.
Each examination covers content related to the traditionally defined disciplines of anatomy, behavioral sciences, biochemistry, microbiology, pathology, pharmacology, and physiology, as well as interdisciplinary areas including genetics, aging, immunology, nutrition, and molecular and cell biology. While not all topics listed in the content outline are included in every examination, overall content coverage is comparable in the various examination forms that will be taken by different examinees.
The Step 1 Content Outline describes the scope of the examination in detail, but it is not intended as a guide for curriculum development or examinee preparation. It provides a flexible structure for test construction that can readily accommodate new topics, emerging content domains, and shifts in emphasis.
The categorizations and content coverage are subject to change. Broadly based learning that establishes a strong general understanding of the concepts and principles in the basic sciences is the best preparation for the examination.
The most popular and most used resource that students currently use to prepare for the USMLE is the First Aid to the USMLE Step 1.