Correlation of Medical College Admission Test Scores and Self-assessment Materials with the United States Medical Licensing Examination Step 1 Performance (2023)

Correlation of Medical College Admission Test Scores and Self-assessment Materials with the United States Medical Licensing Examination Step 1 Performance (1)

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Cureus. 2020 Apr; 12(4): e7519.

Published online 2020 Apr 2. doi:10.7759/cureus.7519

PMCID: PMC7198101

PMID: 32377467

Monitoring Editor: Alexander Muacevic and John R Adler

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Candidates' performance on the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 1 examination had been correlated with the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). However, in 2015, a new MCAT format was released and its correlation with Step 1 remains to be fully analyzed. Preparation for Step 1 typically involves purchasing and perusing practice tests from the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) and UWorld; however, their predictive value to performance on Step 1 remains to be ascertained, especially with the release of five new NBME practice tests. Additionally, there is a need for accurately predicting Step 1 scores to self-evaluate study progress and reduce student anxiety.


Program directors rank USMLE Step 1 scores as the number one criterion in selecting interviewees for residency. Step 1 scores are more important than Step 2 scores, Dean’s letter, or other letters of recommendation in determining the overall ranking of a candidate after interviews.


The authors hypothesized that the new MCAT scores correlated positively with Step 1 scores and that the new NBMEpractice tests were more predictive of performance on Step 1 as compared to old NBMEtests.


Linear regression analysis followed by either analysis of variance (ANOVA) or Student's t-tests were used to analyze 399 responses. Data obtained was used to update an existing Step 1 score predictor, which was then validated.


A positive correlation between the MCAT (average score: 510.1 ± 6.3) and Step 1 scores (average score: 246.1 ± 14.2) was observed. While new NBME practice tests were more predictive of Step 1 scores than old NBME tests, UWorldtest scores were the most predictive. Students who practiced with the new NBME practice tests scored significantly higher than students who did not use them. However, students using any of the UWorld practice tests did significantly better than students who practiced using only NBME practice tests but not UWorld practice tests. Ironically, NBME16,the second-most correlativetest to Step 1 performance, is no longer available for purchase. Overall, taking six or more practice tests significantly enhanced Step 1 scores; the optimal number of tests was found to be between six and nine. The predicted score by an updated Step 1 score predictor was within 3.8 points or 1.6% of the actual Step 1 score.


We believe this study will aid in the selection and purchase of appropriate self-assessment tests as preparatory material for the USMLE Step 1 examination. It will also introduce them to an existing Step 1 score predictor that will help determine their readiness for Step 1.

Keywords: usmle step 1, mcat, uworld, nbme, score predictor, question bank, residency


The United States Medical Licensing Examination(USMLE), sponsored by the Federation of State Medical Boards(FSMB) andthe National Board of Medical Examiners(NBME), consists of three examinations or “steps” that assess medical student and resident competency for practicing safe medicine in the United States [1].Step 1 tests basic science conceptswhile Step 2 evaluates clinical knowledge [2]. Step 3 is taken during the first year of residency and evaluates the application of medical knowledge to the supervised practice of medicine. Of these, Step 1 scores have been shown to play an important role in residency selection by standardizing academic achievements of students from different schools, in predicting success in clinical clerkshipsand Step 2 examinations, and in board examinations taken during residencies [3-9]. Therefore, parameters influencing student performance on Step 1 examinations such as the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and related preparatory materials are of interest to both students as well as medical schools.

The MCAT is a standardized examination that forms an integral part of the application process to medical schools across the United States. Along with undergraduate grade point average (GPA) and extracurricular activities such as shadowing physicians, recommendation letters, and a personal statement, the MCAT is a critical component of medical school admissions [10]. The MCAT not only provides the admissions committees with an objective leveling metric for evaluating candidates from different schools with variable GPAs but has also been shown to positively correlate with performance on USMLE Step 1 [11-13]. However, the format and scoring of the MCAT were modified extensively in April 2015 from a three-section test with a maximum possible score of 45 to a four-section test with a maximum possible score of 528. The fourth section in the 2015 editionfocused on psychology and sociology. While scores on the new MCAT format have been recently correlated with performance in the first year of medical school, only one recent study,at the University of Minnesota Medical School-Twin Cities, has correlated the scores on the new MCAT format with Step 1 scores[14,15].

Another important factor influencing Step 1 scores is the use of specific study and evaluation materials while preparing for the examination, such as question banks. Indeed, the use of question banks has a positive effect on Step 1 scores, especially for those with lower MCAT scores [16-19]. Similarly, performance on self-assessment tests may also help predict Step 1 scores [18]. These practice tests are provided by NBME, known as Comprehensive Basic Science Self-Assessment (CBSSA), as well as other companies such as UWorld. While previous studies have established a positive correlation between NBME CBSSA scores and Step 1 scores, NBME discontinued several of these tests in spring 2019 and introduced five new practice examinations [18]. Specifically, five old practice examinations were retired (Forms 13, 15, 16, 17, and 19) and were replaced by five new practice examinations (Forms 20-24); the correlation of these new tests with Step 1 performance is not yet known. Similarly, UWorld also provides students with question banks such as QBank and practice tests such as UWorld Self Assessment 1 (UWSA1) and UWorld Self Assessment 2 (UWSA2), which are widely used. Correlations of these self-assessment tests with Step 1 scores will help identify specific tests that can closely predict performance on Step 1 examinations and allow students to gauge their progress during their preparations. Since there is a cost associated with each test, it also becomes important to determine the minimum number of practice tests required to optimize Step 1 performance.

Given the importance of Step 1 in matching residency and the consequent student anxiety, attempts have been made to create score predictors that use the correlation between MCAT and question banks with Step 1 scores [20]. For example, a model was developed using scores on the Comprehensive Basic Science Examination (CBSE; a scored test administered by NBME and taken by medical students to prepare for Step 1), UWorld QBank, first-year grades, and financial need [17]. This model was able to explain 62.3% of the variance in Step 1 scores and was a good first step; however, this model required values for each of these variables for prediction such that students at a school that did not offer CBSE or provided “Pass” or “Fail” grades instead of letter grades would be unable to benefit. Interestingly, a score predictor was posted on the web forum, Reddit (, that appeared to closely predict Step 1 scores without requiring a student to enter every variable. This score predictor took into account practice examination scores from NBME and UWorld, in addition to question bank scores from Kaplan, UWorld, and USMLE-Rx. However, the score predictor required the addition of the new NBME tests and remained to be validated.

In this study, we examined the correlation of Step 1 scores with the new MCAT format, question banks, and self-assessment tests; we also updated and validated an existing Step 1 score predictor, and identified the minimum number of tests required as well as an optimal study period to facilitate success in the Step 1 examinations.

(Video) NBME/UWorld Practice Test Score Correlations to USMLE Step 1 Exam (Score 259)

Materials and methods

Data collection and analysis

We posted an anonymous survey on Reddit requesting users who had already taken the USMLE Step 1 examination to submit their scores along with all relevant practice test scores as well as their MCAT score and the dates when the tests were taken. All accrued data were downloaded and compiled into a single Excel sheet. A total of 466 responses were received. Reddit usernames were used to determine duplicity of information; duplicate values were found and deleted. This was followed by deleting responses that only listed the USMLE Step 1 scores but not practice test scores such that a total of 399 scores could be used. However, the number of responses for each test varied based on the number of students using that particular test.Data were then de-identified by removing Reddit usernames and used for statistical analysis.


Linear regression analysis was used to determine the correlation between scores on the new MCAT format and Step 1 score as well as between the old MCAT format and Step 1 score received by the student. Similarly, linear regression analysis was again used to determine the correlation between each of the selected practice testsand question banks with the Step 1 score. Multiple regression analysis could not be performed since students differed in the number and type of practice tests and questions banks; therefore, p-values for practice tests or question banks were adjusted using the Holm-Sidak test. One-way analysis of variance (ANOVA)or Student’s t-tests were used to determine significance using GraphPad Prism version 8.03 (GraphPad Software, San Diego, CA) as appropriate. The Shapiro-Wilktest was used to determine normality. A p-value of <0.05 was considered statistically significant.

Step 1 score predictor

A Step 1 score predictorthat utilizes performance on practice tests and on question banks to predict the USMLE Step 1 scores has been available on Reddit for the past several years ( The calculator utilizes the lines of best fit for each practice test to give an estimated score. The adjusted R2 value of the line of best fit for each practice test is then used to weight the estimated scores used in the calculation. The average of all such weighted estimated scores is used towards predicting the USMLE Step 1 score. In addition to the scores themselves, the date of the practice tests is also included in the calculations such that practice tests that are taken closer to the actual USMLE examination are weighted more heavily than those taken much earlier. However, with the introduction of the new NBME practice tests (NBME Forms 20-24), it was necessary to modify the calculator ( The modified calculator was tested using 19 scores that were not part of the original 466 responses.


The positivecorrelation ofMCAT scores with USMLE Step 1 scores

The mean score of survey participants on the new MCAT was 510.1 ± 6.3 (range: 490-526); this score is similar to the average MCAT score of matriculants to United States allopathic medical schools in the year 2017-2018 (510.4 ± 6.6) [21,22]. The mean Step 1 score of survey participants was 246.1 ± 14.2 (range: 202-271); the national average is 231 [22]. The mean score of survey participants on the old MCAT was 31.3 ± 4.0 (range: 490-526). While the old MCATpositively correlated with USMLE Step 1, the new MCAT correlated better with performance on Step 1 (Figure (Figure11).

Correlation of Medical College Admission Test Scores and Self-assessment Materials with the United States Medical Licensing Examination Step 1 Performance (3)

Correlation of MCAT scores with USMLE Step 1 scores

A: linear regression analysis of scores obtained on the new format of the MCAT and USMLE Step 1 scores (R2= 0.208; slope = 0.9873 ± 0.116; 95% CI = 0.761-1.214; p: 8.301e-16; n = 281); B: linear regression analysis of scores obtained on the old format of the MCAT and USMLE Step 1 scores (R2= 0.130; slope = 1.366 ± 0.296; 95% CI = 0.779-1.953; p: 1.11e-05; n = 141)

MCAT:Medical College Admission Test;USMLE:United States Medical Licensing Examination

The association of new NBME CBSSA testswith improved USMLE Step 1 scores

New NBME CBSSA tests (Forms 20-24) were released in Spring 2019 with concurrent removal of practice tests 13, 15, 16, 17 and 19. The contributions of the new NBME tests towards USMLE Step 1 scores have never been assessed. Of students who participated in this survey, those who did not take any of the new NBME practice tests scored 239.8 ± 15.7, and those who took at least one new NBME practice tests scored 247.1 ± 13.7. A two-tailed t-test analysis revealed a t-value of -3.69 [degree of freedom (df) = 397] with a p-value of 0.0003, indicating that students who took at least one of the new NBME practice tests scored better than their counterparts who did not. Interestingly, individuals who took four or all of the new NBME practice tests (mean = 249.6 ± 13.8) scored significantly higher than those who took between one and three examinations (mean = 245.8 ± 13.5) respectively (t-value: -2.48, p: 0.007). A simple regression analysis indicated that there was no significant difference between students taking one or more of the new NBME practice tests (R2= 0.023; p: 0.099).

To determine if those students who used the new NBME practice tests also used greater numbers of other practice tests, we divided our cohort into six groupsof students who took from zero to all five of the new NBME tests. We then determined the average number of other tests (excluding the new NBME tests) taken by these groups. Those who did not use any of the new NBME tests took an average of 3.448 ± 2.429 other tests (n = 58), those who used one of the new NBME tests took an average of 3.804 ± 1.586 (n = 46), those who used two of the new NBME tests took an average of 3.607 ±- 1.276 tests (n = 89), those who used three of the new NBME tests took an average of 3.659 ± 1.492 tests (n = 85), those who used four of the new NBME tests took an average of 3.489 ± 1.098 tests (n = 45), and those who used all five new NBME tests took an average of 4.750 ±2.198 tests (n = 76). While there was no statistically significant difference between those who took none of the new NBME tests and those who took between one to four of the new NBME tests, there was a significant difference between those took all five of the new NBME tests and those who took none of the new NBME tests (p: 0.0015). These data suggest that while most students did not avail of other additional practice tests, those who took all five of the new NBME tests were also more likely to utilize as many practice tests as available.

The close match between UWSA2performanceand USMLE Step 1 scores

Among all the practice tests analyzed (Figure (Figure2),2), scores on the UWSA2 exhibited the highest correlation with USMLE Step 1 scores, with an R2 value of 0.680 (Table (Table1).The1).The next-best correlation with Step 1 scores was NBME CBSSA Form 16, with an R2 value of 0.660. UWorld QBank ranked third, with an R2 value of 0.656. Since NBME 16 has been discontinued since March 2019, the UWSA2 and QBank now rank at the top. Interestingly, the highest R2 value for any of the newer NBME practice tests (20-24) was only 0.620 even though the number of responses for these tests was far greatercompared to NBME Form 16.

Correlation of Medical College Admission Test Scores and Self-assessment Materials with the United States Medical Licensing Examination Step 1 Performance (4)

Figure 2

(Video) NBME & UWSA USMLE Practice test Guide - Ways to Optimize your Practice tests for your USMLE

Correlation of practice tests with USMLE Step 1 scores

A: NBME 13; B: NBME 15; C: NBME 16; D: NBME 17; E: NBME 18; F: NBME 19; G: NBME 20; H: NBME 21; I: NBME 22; J: NBME 23; K: NBME 24; L: Free 120; M: UWorld QBank; N: UWSA1; O: UWSA2

Lines shown are lines of best fit as well as lines demonstrating 95% confidence limit

USMLE: United States Medical Licensing Examination; NBME:National Board of Medical Examiners; UWSA: UWorld Self Assessment

Table 1

Correlation of question banks and self-assessment tests with USMLE Step 1 scores

NBME: National Board of Medical Examiners; UWSA: UWorld Self Assessment; SEM: structural equation modeling

Test nameResponses, nCoefficient of determination, R2Holm-Sidak, adj. p-valueAverage scoreSlope ± SEM95% confidence interval of slope
NBME 13640.3054.454e-006222.00.351 ± 0.0670.217–0.486
NBME 15730.4522.164e-010222.40.424 ± 0.0550.313–0.534
NBME 161230.6600.000230.10.535 ± 0.0350.466–0.603
NBME 171300.4138.882e-016248.20.461 ± 0.0470.366–0.556
NBME 183330.5890.000236.10.531 ± 0.0240.483–0.579
NBME 19640.1873.549e-004233.40.325 ± 0.0860.153–0.496
NBME 202420.5550.000228.10.528 ± 0.0310.468–0.588
NBME 212800.5630.000231.50.543 ± 0.0290.487–0.599
NBME 221880.6180.000235.40.627 ± 0.0360.556–0.698
NBME 231630.6200.000235.70.670 ± 0.0410.589–0.751
NBME 241660.5820.000237.40.561 ± 0.0370.489–0.634
Free 1203510.5670.000*84.7%1.589 ± 0.0741.444–1.735
UWSA 13600.6190.000248.10.486 ± 0.0200.446–0.525
UWSA 23690.6800.000248.20.694 ± 0.0250.646–0.743
UWorld QBank3830.6560.000*72.8%1.191 ± 0.0441.104–1.277

Additionally, a comparison of the difference between the scores on each practice test with the actual Step 1 scores showed that UWSA2 scores were closest to Step 1 scores (average difference = 6.9 points; Table Table22).

Table 2

Difference between scores on practice tests and Step 1 scores

*Average difference refers to the average of the differences between each student’s USMLE Step 1 score and their NBME or UWorld practice test

NBME: National Board of Medical Examiners; UWSA: UWorld Self Assessment;USMLE:United States Medical Licensing Examination

Test NameAverage practice test scoreAverage Step 1 scoreAverage difference*Responses, n
NBME 13222.0250.128.664
NBME 15222.4247.325.473
NBME 16230.1248.819.1123
NBME 17233.9248.217.1130
NBME 18236.1246.912.8333
NBME 19233.4249.719.564
NBME 20228.1248.120.7242
NBME 21231.5247.116.8280
NBME 22235.4248.714.8188
NBME 23235.7248.313.8163
NBME 24237.4247.411.9166
UWSA 1248.1246.710.5360
UWSA 2248.2246.76.9369

To assess the relationship between sample size and the correlation between practice materials and Step 1 scores, a line of best fit correlating the R2 values as well as the “n” for each group was created; the R2 for that line was 0.245, indicating that while sample size did have a slight effect on correlation, it was not the only factor.

A comparison between the performance of students who took UWorld practice tests and students who did not take a single UWorld practice test

Considering that UWSA2 had the highest single practice test correlation with USMLE Step 1 scores, it was important to determine if students who took either UWSA1 or UWSA2 practice tests or both obtained higher scores in the Step 1 examination as compared to those students who did not use UWorld. A two-tailed t-test indicated a significant difference (t-value: -3.056; p: 0.001) between the mean Step 1 scores of those who took at least one UWorld practice test (246.5 ± 13.9) and those who did not take a single UWorld practice test (236.4 ± 17.2). Similarly, a two-tailed t-test comparing those who took only one UWSA test (242.4 ± 13.2) to those taking both UWSA tests (246.9 ± 13.9) revealed a significant difference (t-value: -1.74; p: 0.042), indicating the importance of UWSA tests in maximizing USMLE Step 1 scores.

To determine if those students who used the UWSA tests took greater numbers of other practice tests, we divided our cohort into three groups: students who tookzero, one, or both of the UWSA tests. Students who did not take any of the UWorld tests took 1.632 ± 2.006 other additional tests (n=19); students who took one of the UWorld tests took 3.258 ± 2.236 additional tests (n=31), and students who took both of the UWorld tests took 4.880 ± 2.345 additional tests (n=349). The difference between the groupswho took none of the UWorld tests and the groups who took at least one of the UWorld tests was statistically significant (p: 0.013); similarly, there was a statistically significant difference between the groups that took none of the UWorld tests and the groups who took both of the UWorld tests (p: 0.0001). Since the difference between those students who took one UWorld test and those who took both UWorld tests was also statistically significant (p: 0.0002), these data suggest that students who took more UWorld practice tests were also more willing to practice using multiple tests.

The optimal number of tests to maximize USMLE Step 1 scores

This study enabled us to determinethe optimal number of practice tests for maximizing USMLE Step 1 score. Because the average number of tests taken by participants in this study was 6.4 ± 2.7 tests, we divided the responses into three categories: those whose used between 0-5 tests (n = 139; mean = 242.5 ± 14.0; median = 246), those who used 6-9 practice tests (n = 217; mean = 247.6 ± 13.7; median = 250) and those who used 10-14 tests (n = 43; mean = 249.6 ± 15.7; median = 253). Because the data within each of the groups were not normally distributed (Shapiro-Wilk normality test), non-parametric Kruskal-Wallis ANOVA was used to compare the medians of the groups (p: 0.000). The Mann-Whitney test indicated a significant difference between those taking zero-five tests and those taking six-nine tests (p: 0.006); however, there was no difference between those taking six-nine tests and those taking 10-14 tests (p; 0.158), suggesting that the optimal number of practice tests was between six and nine. Since the average number of tests taken by participants in this study was six, this may have partly accounted for the relatively high mean USMLE Step 1 score of the participants (246.1 ± 14.2) compared to the national average of 231 in 2018[22].

Prediction of scores based on performance on practice tests

With the responses collected from the initial survey, we updated an existing Step 1 score predictor found onReddit. This predictor utilized lines of best fit correlating practice test and question bank scores with Step 1 scores, and weighted the outputs by R2 value of each line of best fit as well as by the date taken. Therefore, tests that had a higher correlation with Step 1 score were weighted more heavily than those with lower correlations, and practice tests that were taken closer to actual test dates were weighted more heavily as well. After updating the predictor, 19 responses that were not used in creating lines of best fit for the predictor were used to test its accuracy (Table (Table33).

Table 3

Predicted USMLE Step 1 score vs. actual score

USMLE:United States Medical Licensing Examination

StudentPredicted scoreActual scoreDifference between predicted and actual scores

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(Video) What Students Say: Teekz Yenpasook and the AMBOSS Step 1 Self-Assessment

The linear regression of predicted Step 1 score outputs from the predictor to actual Step 1 scores showed a high correlation (Figure (Figure3).3). Residuals were normally distributed.

Correlation of Medical College Admission Test Scores and Self-assessment Materials with the United States Medical Licensing Examination Step 1 Performance (5)

Correlation of predicted USMLE Step 1 scores with actual scores

A: linear regression analysis of predicted scores using the score predictor and actual scores obtained on the USMLE Step 1 examination (R2= 0.845; slope = 1.131 ± 0.117; 95% confidence interval = 0.884 ± 1.379; n = 19); B: normal Q-Q plot indicating residuals were normally distributed; C: frequency distribution histogram of residual scores

USMLE:United States Medical Licensing Examination


Previous studies have indicated a significant but weak (17%) correlation between performance on the older version ofMCAT and performance on USMLE Step examinations [12]. So far, only the University of Minnesota Medical School-Twin Cities has correlated scores on the new MCAT format with USMLE Step 1 scores (n = 220; multiple R = 0.44). This study, which sampled scores from students across the United States rather than a specific school (n = 282), corroborates their findings by finding a small but significant correlation between scores obtained on the new MCAT format and Step 1 performance (21%).

While enrolling in commercial coaching classes does not improve Step 1 performance,the importance of self-assessment practice questions and question banks in improving student understanding of the subject while simultaneously enhancing performance on standardized tests is well-known [23,24]. For example, students who self-assessed with 4,001-6,000 practice questions scored higher on USMLE Step 1 than those who took less than 2,000 questions [19]. Out of 399 usable responses in this study, 390 participants (97.7%) elected to use at least one practice test; 383 participants (96%) used UWorld QBank as a resource. While the number of practice tests varied between participants (mean: six tests; range: 0-14), there was a very clear association between the number of practice tests taken and Step 1 scores, with participants who took between six and nine practice examinations receiving the highest scores.

Arguably, the most fascinating result of this study, however, was the finding that UWSA2 scores might be best correlated with Step 1 scores. Considering that UWSA2 is produced by a company that is not directly involved with the development of Step 1 examinations, it was surprising to note that it more closely matched Step 1 scores as compared to self-assessment tests released by the NBME.While the sample size did have a slight effect on correlation, it was not the only factor.An alternative explanation could be the use of different grading curves on the NBME CBSSA tests as compared to the UWSAtests. It is possible that the UWSA2 grading curve more closely matches the grading curve on Step 1 examinations and, therefore, correlates better. However, correlating the average score of each selected practice test with the R2 value of its line of best fit revealed an R2 value of 0.256, suggesting that additional factors besides the grading curve contribute to the higher predictive value of UWSA2.

Another surprising finding of this study was the efficacy of the predictive model. A previous model used performance on CBSE and UWorld QBank, obtaining a grade of A during preclinical years, and receiving a need-based scholarship to predict Step 1 scores [17]. However, for this model to be viable, answers to all variables needed to be entered; any missing data would significantly hamper its ability to predict Step 1 scores. In contrast, data from our study showed that performance on practice tests are sufficient to predict Step 1 scores accurately. Additionally, the Step 1 score predictor used in our study allowed reporting but did not require the scores of the 14 different NBME CBSSA and UWorld practice assessments, UWorld QBank, andthe NBME Free 120 questions. Given the high correlation between predicted and actual Step 1 scores, this score predictor becomes a useful tool to self-assess progress when studying for Step 1.

There were several limitations to this retrospective study. The study required students to volunteer and report their scores, and this may have resulted in a selection bias.Although the mean MCAT score of participants was similar to the national mean of matriculants who would appear for Step 1 examination in 2019, the mean Step 1 score was significantly higher than the national average. This indicated that the cohort of participants was significantly skewed towards higher-scoring students, possibly because students who score higher are more likely to volunteer to report their scores. We were also unaware of other preparatory materials the students may have used that could have a significant effect on their performance. Nevertheless, this study provides further evidence that correlates scores on the new MCAT format with Step 1 scores; It also delineates the contributions of specific self-assessment tests and question banks towards performance on Step 1 examinations and highlights their predictive value.


This study utilized a cohort not restricted to a particular university to correlate scores on the new MCAT format with USMLE Step 1 scores as well as to analyze widely used self-assessment resources currently available for Step 1 preparation. Our results confirm the importance of MCAT not only as a stratifying factor for medical school admissions but also as a significant predictor of Step 1 outcomes. Importantly, data obtained from this study allowed an existing score predictor to be updated and validated. The results of this study will help cost-conscious students and undergraduate medical institutions to select appropriate self-assessment tests for evaluating their preparation for the USMLE Step 1 examination and remove the ambiguous interpretation of practice test scores with perceived progress. Additionally, the updated USMLE Step 1 score predictor will allow students to self-evaluate and gauge their progress in real-time. Given the ever-increasing competition in obtaining residency positions, it is hoped that the results of this research will help prepare and assess the readiness of students prior to taking the examination and thereby help reduce student stress and improve student wellness.

In February 2020, FSMB and NBME announced pass/fail reporting forStep 1 examinations held after January 2022 to decrease the emphasis on USMLE in medical schools. Due to the imminent loss of Step 1 as a screening tool for residency selection, residency directors will need to develop novel methods to select interviewees, such as a standardized video interview, to help bolster a holistic approach to resident selection.However, since Step 1 scores significantly correlate with student performance in medical clerkships, Step 2, and residency, adequate preparation for Step 1 needs to continue for achieving overall success in medical education.


The content published in Cureus is the result of clinical experience and/or research by independent individuals or organizations. Cureus is not responsible for the scientific accuracy or reliability of data or conclusions published herein. All content published within Cureus is intended only for educational, research and reference purposes. Additionally, articles published within Cureus should not be deemed a suitable substitute for the advice of a qualified health care professional. Do not disregard or avoid professional medical advice due to content published within Cureus.

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

Human Ethics

Consent was obtained by all participants in this study. University of Texas Health San Antonio issued approval HSC20190517N. This study was considered to be not human research as defined by DHHS regulations 45 CFR 46 and FDA regulations 21 CFR 56 by the Institutional Review Board at the University of Texas Health San Antonio.

Animal Ethics

Animal subjects: All authors have confirmed that this study did not involve animal subjects or tissue.


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Is there a correlation between MCAT and step scores? ›

We found that MCAT component scores, taken together in a multiple linear regression model, were predictive of USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 CK scores. The three components together accounted for 17.7% of the variance in Step 1 scores and 12.0% of the variance of Step 2 CK scores.

Do Step 1 and Step 2 scores correlate? ›

According to research, the predominant opinion is that the Step 1 score has a strong positive correlation with the Step 2 CK score [15,16]. There was also a significant correlation (r = 0.684, p ≤ 0.0001) between scoring higher than 208 on Step 1 and passing Step 2 CK on the first attempt [15].

How accurate is UWorld Self Assessment Step 1? ›

Are UWorld Self Assessments accurate. These exams are incredibly accurate if you will put all your best effort into them! They will predict your scores very accurately. The trouble is a lot of students don't sit down and take them very serious.

How predictive is UWorld self assessment? ›

Your score on UWorld questions may feel like a marker of your progress, however your percentile on UWorld is not an accurate predictor of how you should expect to perform on Step 2 CK. As a reminder, UWorld is a learning resource, not a testing resource.

How many questions can you get wrong on the MCAT to get a 528? ›

What Is a Perfect MCAT Score? Each section of the MCAT is scored from 118 to 132. The score you can get from these four sections is something between 472 to 528. If you score a 132 in all four areas, you will achieve a 528—the perfect score.

Does 528 MCAT mean you got every question right? ›

It is very difficult to get a perfect MCAT score, but achieving a 528 on the MCAT does not mean you have to be perfect. Let us explain. The MCAT is a scaled exam, meaning each exam is graded slightly differently to account for small variations in how well students perform on different test days.

Can you match if you fail Step 2? ›

Your chances of matching to a residency reduce by 20 to 25% if you fail the USMLE Step 2 exam. However, it's not the end of the world – retakes are available. In the past, 6 retakes were available. As of July 1st, 2021, USMLE amended the amount allowed to 4 retakes.

Can you still match if you fail Step 1? ›

There are a fair number of programs that will reject an application that has a USMLE fail. That said, many programs will still consider you if you do better on a subsequent attempt.
What Do Residency Programs Do When You Fail Step 1.
Family Medicine (141)
23 more columns

What is a good score on medical Boards Step 2? ›

Although the highest possible score on the USMLE Step 2 CK is 300, no one has ever achieved that. A score of around 280 is considered the best. However, even if you score something between 240 to 260, you would be able to apply for the field of your choice.

What is a good score on UWorld NCLEX self assessment? ›

Learners with an average QBank score of 56% pass the NCLEX at a 92% rate. While your average UWorld QBank score gives you important information, studying each question's explanation is the most valuable way to spend your time.

Is UWorld assessment harder than NCLEX? ›

90% of users report that UWorld's questions are the same level of difficulty or more difficult than the questions they encountered on the NCLEX.

Can I pass Step 1 by only doing UWorld? ›

Students have been known to score 270+ on USMLE Step 1 just by using UWorld and First Aid. There are also students, however, who have gone through the question bank 3 or more times, and can't seem to get a passing score on the exam. This underscores the fact that UWorld is effective only if used properly.

Does UWorld self assessment overestimate? ›

Does UWorld Self Assessment 2 overestimate? Of the UWorld self assessments, #1 overestimates your score by about 10 points and may give a false sense of security to students. #2 is generally a good predictor of actual score performance.

What does it mean to score average on UWorld? ›

Basically, this means that the average score for the exam you took was around 54. You got a 65 (well above average). It's a good sign.

What is a good score on UWorld Self Assessment Step 1? ›

What Is A Good Average On UWORLD Step 1. Scoring 65% in UWorld Step 1 Qbank is considered a good average especially for anyone who has taken it for the first time. Meanwhile, having 75% and above will most likely get you a 250+ in the exam!

Has anyone failed MCAT 7 times? ›

Andy took the MCAT exam seven times and applied to medical school twice before getting one interview and acceptance. He reminds premeds to have faith in themselves and that perseverance and grit are important for a career in medicine.

How many questions can you miss on the MCAT to get a 126? ›

As you miss more than 13, you gradually go towards the other scores. For instance, getting 14-17 questions wrong is most likely a 126. A 126 is a great score that will most likely get you into a majority of MD schools in the US.

How many questions can you miss on the MCAT to get a 128? ›

If the real MCAT that you get is more difficult, then you might be able to miss 11 or 12 questions and still get a 128. (Of course, these numbers are just approximations.

What is the hardest section on MCAT? ›

The Most Difficult MCAT Test Section

Many students report that the most difficult section is CARS, and the average scores reported by AAMC back that up. The lowest average section scores overall and for matriculants are in CARS.

How rare is a 528 MCAT? ›

A 528 MCAT score corresponds to the 99.9th percentile of all test takers, along with scores of 524 and above.

Does MCAT outweigh GPA? ›

Myth 2: A high MCAT score will make up for my low GPA, or vice versa. Fact: This myth is true at a certain level but only in extreme cases. For example, a student who has a 3.4 GPA (which would be considered a low GPA by premed standards) but a 519 MCAT has a decent chance of getting into an allopathic medical school.

Does Step 2 matter for residency? ›

With many students scoring higher, you need a better score on Step 2 to achieve the same percentile. Because residency programs compare exam scores of different applicants to each other (not just looking at the number in isolation), it's your Step 2 percentile that really matters.

Is Step 1 harder than Step 2? ›

The majority of people do much better on Step 2 than on Step 1 even with less studying. This test focuses more on the next step in a patient presentation. Questions such as which lab or test to order next. There will also be plenty of diagnosis questions as well.

How many people pass Step 2? ›

Step 2 CK
Examinees from US/Canadian Schools2018 - 2019 Number Tested2020* Percent Passing
1st Takers21,09398%
DO Degree3,47697%
1st Takers3,44597%
3 more rows

How many people don't pass Step 1? ›

Not surprisingly, many students who fail Step 1 feel overwhelmed and fearful of the future. However, a failed Step 1 doesn't mean you are a failure or that you will fail again. According to the 2021 USMLE pass rates, U.S. MDs who retook Step 1 had a 66% pass rate, while U.S. DOs who retook the exam had a 75% pass rate.

How many people fail Step One? ›

How Many People Fail Step 1 Every Year?
Step 1 Passing Rates20172020
IMG Fails*4,6452,230
Total Step 1 Exams42,42038,734
Overall Step 1 Pass Rate86%92%
Total Step 1 Fails6,1193,104
11 more rows

How many times can you fail step exam? ›

The total number of attempts allowed per Step is four (4). Examinees who have attempted any USMLE Step (including Step 2 CS) four or more times and have not passed are ineligible to apply for USMLE Steps. 2. Before July 2021, USMLE allowed six attempts per Step examination.

What medical school has the highest Step 1 scores? ›

Note that the top 50 medical school's Step 1 scores are retrieved from the 2018 data.
Average Step 1 Score By School.
RankSchoolStep 1
1Harvard University245
2Johns Hopkins University235
3University of Pennsylvania (Perelman)244
4New York University (Grossman)241
47 more rows
Oct 8, 2020

What is a good score on medical boards Step 1? ›

Generally speaking, however, a USMLE® Step 1 score between 230 and 245 is considered a good and a score between 245 and 255 is considered very good.

How can I increase my Step 2 score? ›

Doing thousands of questions in each specialty area and then repeating the questions you miss is the key to high scores. While you are doing multiple choice questions, I recommend that you take very brief short notes on the questions you miss. Go over your notes every day for 15 minutes just before you go to bed.

What is a 48% on UWorld? ›

The average percentile performance for people on Uworld is 48%, so you're currently sitting just above average. I would continue working on questions, wiring out rationales for questions you get wrong & making a list of topics/disease processes/meds you're wanting to brush up on and study that.

What percentage of people pass NCLEX with UWorld? ›

Our research shows that learners with an average QBank score of 56% pass the NCLEX at a 92% rate.

What does 89th percentile mean on UWorld? ›

The first assessment I scored in the 85th percentile and the second assessment I scored in the 89th percentile; both equating to a "very high" chance of passing the NCLEX. All in all, UWorld prepares you VERY well for NCLEX and it's predications are right.

What percentage of people pass the NCLEX first try? ›

What Are Your Chances Of Failing NCLEX-RN On The First Attempt? The National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) reports 13.43% of NCLEX-RN candidates fail the exam on their first attempt. The number of unsuccessful test-takers is low compared to the more than 86% who pass the exam on their first try.

What Nclex Prep has the highest pass rate? ›

The 11 Best NCLEX Prep Courses and Classes of 2023
  • Kaplan — Top Pick.
  • NurseAchieve — Most Advanced Practice Exam Technology.
  • Hurst Review — Best First-Attempt Pass Rate.
  • NCLEX Mastery — Most Affordable.
  • Mometrix University — Best Free Resources.
  • ATI — Best Product Offerings.
  • Achieve Test Prep — Best In-Person Experience.
Nov 25, 2022

Is 1 month enough for NCLEX? ›

How Long Should You Study for the NCLEX? To pass the NCLEX, students should plan to spend a minimum of 1-2 months studying.

Is a 60% on UWorld passing? ›

58-60% is OK, a good sign is being consistently above the average scores. The Uworld package I bought came with 2 assessment exams. I took the first about 1.5 weeks before my scheduled test date.

Is Step 1 easier or harder than UWorld? ›

UWorld may be harder than Step 1, with some questions above the actual test's difficulty level.

What percentage is a second pass on UWorld? ›

Most students I work with score around 50% on their first pass through UWorld, which is a solid start. However, on their second pass through, these same students score between 65-75%.

What is a good percentage to have on UWorld? ›

What is a good percentage on UWorld? An 87% is quite solid - its indicative that you are able to understand the passages, have a good grasp on concepts, and know the details quite well. A 96% on the sample test is also a good indicator.

What does 94th percentile mean on UWorld? ›

The percentile is how you compare to other UWorld NCLEX RN users. For example, mine is the 94th percentile, meaning I am scoring higher than 94% of users. I would focus on the rationales and knowing the material rather than percentiles.

Is Step 1 more similar to UWorld or NBME? ›

The USMLE Step 1 exam tends to resemble NBME style questions more closely, but in my experience the UWSAs often better predict final exam scores than the NBMEs for many students. Recommendation: start with NBMEs and save the two UWSA for the final few weeks of studying.

Is 50% on UWorld good? ›

If you are getting above 50% on Uworld you will be fine, just keep reading rationales because that is the most important part.

Is a 65% on UWorld good? ›

The UWORLD site itself says 65% is about average for those who are going through it the first time for prep. They tell you not to worry, they design the test this way, reasoning that it means at least 45% that you got wrong using their bank, is all helping you grow as a learner for the real thing.

What does 68th percentile mean on UWorld? ›

It means you are 68% better than the majority of people that have taken that same assessment. My nerves were starting to get the best of me.

Does UWorld use the same questions as NCLEX? ›

I love that UWorld uses all the same format questions as the NCLEX and that the format of the practice tests with UWorld are identical to the NCLEX! So, when I sat down to test, I felt at ease. A week until my test date, I finished all 2000+ questions, and now it was time to take the self assessment.

When should I take UWorld Self Assessment 1 and 2? ›

Once you have finished the Q bank, you should take the self-assessment. Preferably 1 or 2 weeks before your test.

How does step 1 compare to MCAT? ›

These exams test at a much deeper and more nuanced level than the MCAT and focus on content learned during medical school and residency, instead of what was learned during the pre-medical curriculum in undergrad. USMLE Step 1 is a one-day test that students will have eight hours to complete.

Is Usmle Step 1 harder than MCAT? ›

US medical students must pass the first two USMLE step exams before they graduate from medical school. USMLE step 3 is a more advanced exam about patient management, and a doctor's ability to practice medicine independently, without supervision. USMLE is harder than MCAT.

How does USMLE compare to MCAT? ›

The MCAT is a standardised computer-based test that medical school applicants in the US, Canada, Australia, and the Caribbean must pass to enrol. The USMLE, on the other hand, is a test required for medical licensure in the US and must be passed by doctors who desire to practise medicine in the United States.

Is next step harder than MCAT? ›

Blueprint Practice Tests

Previously known as NextStep, Blueprint full length practice tests are also harder than the real MCAT, although not as hard as some of the other practice tests. Notably, many test takers say that Blueprint is the closest thing to the real MCAT after the AAMC practice tests.

What is the hardest section on the MCAT? ›

The Most Difficult MCAT Test Section

Many students report that the most difficult section is CARS, and the average scores reported by AAMC back that up. The lowest average section scores overall and for matriculants are in CARS.

Do medical schools only look at highest MCAT score? ›

While medical schools will see all your MCAT scores, admissions committees will use multiple scores in different ways, including: Considering your highest score only. Considering the average of every score. Considering all scores, but weighing your recent score most heavily.

What is the hardest medical license exam? ›

USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Examination) is said to be a very tough test. No wonder it is considered one of the top 20 toughest exams in world. This one among the top 20 toughest exams in world is sponsored by National Board of Medical Examiners and Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB).

Which USMLE is the hardest? ›

This data suggests that Step 1 was the hardest exam to pass. No matter which step you are preparing for, the USMLE exams are challenging. It is important to plan your study schedule, start early, and do lots of practice questions and exams.

How many people fail the USMLE Step 1? ›

How Many People Fail Step 1 Every Year?
Step 1# Tested (2019)# Failed* (2020)
1st Takers14,0461,526
Total Step 1 Exams43,048
11 more rows

What percentage of medical students pass USMLE? ›

Step 1
Examinees from US/Canadian Schools2021* Number Tested2021* Percent Passing
MD Degree23,07895%
1st Takers22,28096%
DO Degree5,36594%
3 more rows

Is the MCAT the hardest exam in America? ›

Well, there's no reason to sugar coat it – the MCAT is an extremely difficult exam. In fact, it is perhaps the toughest graduate school entrance exam in the US. However, the good news is that while difficult, it is manageable. The average score for students admitted to medical school is 510 to 511.

Do med schools look at GPA or MCAT? ›

Because of the sheer volume of medical school applications they have to wade through, admissions officers have to make some initial screening decisions based largely on GPA and MCAT scores. The average GPA for medical school matriculants in 2017–2018 was a 3.64 science, a 3.79 non-science, and a 3.71 overall.

How many questions can you miss on the MCAT to get a 130? ›

The truth about MCAT scoring is that missing six questions could equate to a score of 131 or it could be a 125, depending on the test difficulty.

Is MCAT all memorization? ›

The MCAT is not a memorization test. Let me be more specific: it's much more about recall than it is about recognition. When you're prepping for the Psych/Soc section of the MCAT, you'll learn about different types of memory—sensory, working, procedural, episodic—how memory is stored, and how it's retrieved.

Is it OK to take the MCAT more than once? ›

The MCAT exam can be taken up to three times. Two consecutive-year period: The MCAT exam can be taken up to four times.


1. How to Analyze & Review an NBME | USMLE Step 1 & 2 CK (part 1)
(Rahul Damania, MD)
2. Usmle Nbme Self Assessment Tutorial
(Dr. Adeleke Adesina, DO)
3. NBME Score Report Changes for the CBSE & CBSSA Assessments — USMLE Step 1
(Blueprint Med School)
4. Why I POSTPONED USMLE STEP 1 (NBME, Uworld & COMSAE scores!)
(Michael Mazur)
5. The Rise and Fall of USMLE Step 1
(Sheriff of Sodium)
6. What Students Say: Melissa Johnson and the AMBOSS Step 1 Self-Assessment
(AMBOSS: Medical Knowledge Distilled)


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