How to study for USMLE step 1 Pharmacology

How to study for USMLE step 1 Pharmacology?

I took my USMLE step 1 a few months ago and I did fairly well on it, so I decided to share some of my experience with you.

First of all I want to say that like many of you, one of my biggest fears while I was preparing for USMLE step 1 exam was pharmacology. I am glad I prepared my self the way I did because USMLE step 1 pharmacology was a big chunk of the exam and I easily had about 35-40 questions just on pharmacology. Like most of you guys who still have not taken your step 1, I hated pharmacology because of all the different mechanism of actions, side effects, contraindications and most importantly the confusion from the similarity in the names of many drugs. So this is how I studied for USMLE step 1 pharmacology and I answered every single question right except for a  few (maybe 2-3):

  • ONLY study Kaplan pharmacology and First Aid! Do NOT waste your time on other resources.
  • I recommend watching Kaplan pharmacology videos only one time since it is too detailed for this test, but this will help you to get a general idea on what is going on.
  • Next, take as many days as you think you need and go through all of First Aid pharmacology sections,  it took me 7 days. I recommend that every morning to review what you have already studied a day before and also the previous days. This review should not take you more than 1 to 2 hours the most and it will eventually require less time as you do this every morning.

After you are done reviewing the entire First Aid pharmacology  you can start your normal study routine. Make sure that every week you put an entire day aside just to review pharmacology. By the time you are closer to your exam date,  you will be able to review the entire First Aid pharmacology within a few hrs.

The questions that I and most of my friends got on USMLE step 1 pharmacology were all straight forward and there was really nothing beyond First Aid. Make sure to put a lot of focus on pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics and be able to read and differentiate between all the different graphs, also put a lot of focus on the Drug’s mechanism of action and their side effects. Last but not least, do as many questions as you can. I like everybody else highly recommend USMLE World question bank.

My biggest advice to you is NOT listen to people who tell you the exam was hard. Those people either didn’t study as much as they should have or they have probably failed the exam before (Common sense).


Good luck to you all


Posted on: 08/16/2013
By: Ali Reza Feili

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