Step 3

Most students think the USMLE Step 3 is easy, short, and a lot of what-evers they don't really understand. I took the USMLE Step 3 exam on February 2013 and it was damn tough. 

Why the USMLE Step 3 exam is tough:

1. CONTENT: There's a lot of content for the USMLE Step 3. Remember when you were at medschool and you asked your teacher what the exam was about, and she answered "everything"? Surprise! This is actually the case. You will be asked about Peds, IM, OBGYN, Surgery, etc. Everything. So why is this a problem? Because when you start looking for sources where to study from, you'll realize that there is no 1 optimum source of information. I used the MASTER OF THE BOARDS textbook, and it was pretty slick in letting me know what I needed to defeat the STEP 3. Still, I was fresh out of studying for the Steps 1-2, giving me an edge over those who have undergone residency and completely forgotten about everything else but their specialty. This is a really tough exam. So if you've forgotten most of your PEDS, IM, etc., you'll probably need to go back to your Step 2CK notes and whatnot.

2. LENGTH: Step 3 is LONG. By long I mean: we all thought Step 1 was long, right? Hell, Step 3 is LONGER. 2 days, man! 2 freaking days of exam, 8 hours per day. If getting hit by a baseball bat on the head when you were young didn't roast your brain, this exam surely will. This was my experience: DAY 1, I rocked the exam or at least I felt that way, which is what matters. DAY 2, I was wasted. I had such a hard time getting up from bed and going to the exam that I almost lost all hope. No, and it gets worse. Listen to this:

I go to the Prometric center, beat up of course, and as I arrive and check-in with the secretary, she tells me I can't take the exam. "But why?" I ask her full of fear, nervousness, and shear defeat, "Because your name on your passport and your name on your exam aren't --exactly-- the same." Damn. I bit my lip one too many times and felt my life being sucked out of me. "You mean, I have to take the exam on another date again?" I asked. "Yes. You'll have to reschedule." Holly molly. Kill me now. 

"I've prepared for this exam for months now! There must be something I can do!"
"I'm sorry."
After almost half and hour of struggling, the secretary calls me up and says, "You'll be able to take the Step. Sorry, but our system showed your names didn't match, but they do. You're clear to go!"

Oh man. After being beat up so badly by so many negative thoughts, I sat down at the chair and started the exam. I felt I sucked that entire day during the entire exam. In the end, I think it really affected my score. My psychological status was disgusting and quite frankly, taking a really difficult exam under such circumstances sucked. Anyway, lesson learned. ALWAYS be 100% your names match everywhere. Mine did, but just so you know, if they don't, it won't matter if you've studied for 1 whole year. You'll have to reschedule.

3. DIFFICULTY: Listen to no one who tells you this exam is easy. It isn't. It's just as hard as all other Steps, except that now it's 2 days long and has a CSS part at the end of the 2nd day, where you'll be exposed to live cases with "real life" scenarios while you take "real life" decisions.

CONCLUSION: You have to prepare yourself for this exam just as well and thouroughly as you did for any other step. 

TIP: Take Step 3 BEFORE RESIDENCY. Why? After 3 years of PEDS, IM, SURGERY, you'll forget your basics about every other specialty. Don't waste the edge you've won by preparing for Steps 1-2. Take some time off and then jump right into action and be done with Step 3. 


1. Buy USMLE World's Step 3 prep pack which will include:
- Qbank
- Simulated Exam
2. Buy any review book. I used MASTER OF THE BOARDS. It was OK. 
3. There is no perfect review book for Step 3. This means you'll have to be very honest with yourself. I you feel you need more prep, then go back to you Step2 notes and get back in the game. If you feel you only need refreshing your skills, then go ahead and study the review book and do LOADS of questions for Step 3.


Step 3 questions depend solely on the scenario given to you at the moment. The question may vary in 1 single word and you have an entirely different question. There is no optimal book because every situation is unique. The only way you'll get used to answering a 200-300 word long question in less then 1 minute is by practicing LOADS of questions until you're able to predict answers. 

I talk about this on my book: How to Utterly Defeat the USMLE. I also mention techniques and methods to defeat every single Step of the USMLE. It's NOT a review book, it's a book about methods, about pumping you up to get you ready to defeat the BEAST: The USMLE.

Get up and study. There are no short-cuts. Only you and the UMSLE. There is only one way and it's by sitting down and studying review material efficiently and inteligently. It's all about the Strategy. 

Only one of you will be called the victor. The USMLE is prepared to defeat you in every way and knows your every weakness. Be prepared.