USMLE Step 3 Experience

This page is going to be designated to share USMLE Step 3 experiences with your co-residents to help each other in the journey of passing the exam especially for those who are are doing it during your first year of residency.

Please feel free to add your experience or send it to me and I will post it on the blog.


Dr. Lindsay Utley’s experience:

  •   I took my boards end of January. I had several months of medicine completed at that time and had gotten into a groove where studying wasn’t going to be overwhelming in Dec/Jan. I picked it on an easier rotation – I had week vacation end of December and then had ambulatory so I knew I could actively study all of January without much interruption. I also had CU night float in Feb and knew I would not study during that so I didn’t want to lose progress. (people think they can study during this month – every one that said that in my class did not study!! You are exhausted after an intern Creighton night float!! VA isn’t bad)  I would recommend looking at your schedule and figuring out when you know you can study and when you cant and pick a test date around that, even if it is earlier than everyone else is taking. Or ask an upper year when is a good month based on your schedule.
  • Starting in July I used my book allowance money to purchase a year of UWorld Qbank. I started doing questions during my free time throughout the next few months. Nothing formal just the practice/teaching blocks that you get the answer to the question right away. I finished the qbank once before I even started officially studying.
  • I also really liked USMLE secrets for step 3 its a smaller book that I put in my white coat and I would flip through or skim this starting in August when I was on VA nights or other rotations where I had down time. I didn’t actively study just read through leisurely.
  • In December I started actively trying to study – I was on medicine and it was more difficult than I thought. I got master the boards step 3 (this was the only book I really used.)I was not a fan of First Aid for step 3 (although I have used it for every other step exam). I read through the book once and made highlights.
  • Starting my week of vacation (about a month out), I figured up exactly how many uworld questions I would have to do a day to finish the whole bank a week before my test. I then did that amount of questions every day. I also divided up how many days I needed to finish Master the boards a week before my test. I ended up having several days per chapter. I would slowly read through, learn and understand the chapter over those few days. If I finished early I would review prior sections. I made myself stick to this plan.
  • The week before my test I had did uworld twice (once studying and once in free time) and read MB  twice. At that point I spent time focusing on the questions in uworld I missed or other areas I felt uncomfortable in.
  • The area I wished I would have spent more time with was the CCS cases. I had heard rumors this was the easy part of the exam – we have been diagnosing all year so It shouldn’t be that hard. I played with the software and learned it felt good about it and tried to get through all the cases but I burnt out and lost interest. This was by far my lowest score on the test. I felt this was very difficult. My advice is to not blow this portion off. They are difficult cases some outpatient, some inpatient, some icu, some adults some peds.  Practice these cases, read about them online. Do something to prepare. It is not as easy as people tell you.
– Come prepared for a long day. Its two days long and the second day will take its toll on you. Plenty of snacks. I took my test back to back Thurs and Fri and liked how that worked out. A lot of people had space in between their days but I think that would be stressful and often times you are going to have to work the days in between so you cant even relax. Just best to get it over with back to back.  And having the weekend after to relax and celebrate was so nice!! Plan ahead. Spots fill up very fast January on and people struggled to get days close to each other. Start looking early.
Dr. Avanija Buddam’s experience:
I took my step 3 in March, during my vacation slot. It was very draining to get through intern year and prep for step 3 at the same time. But I can highlight on few key things to make things easier.
I bought 6months subscription for UW with education fund, started doing it whenever possible. (P.S majority of it done during last couple months :))
– I was able to get through UW, MTB-2/3 for my prep. If there is no time, I advice to doing atleast UW.
– practicing for CCS is key, I didn’t plan well so was left with barely any time to prep for CCS. In retrospect, would have spent more time for cases.
2. Planning test date:
-My advice is to take step3 during a light rotation(choose the ones that don’t have hospital medicine/NF)
-If possible try to take exam after VA NF if you have one. Lot of my colleagues got chunk of studying during this rotation, unfortunately I had NF towards the end of year 🙁
-Another advice is not to use your vacation time for step 3, I repent for doing that, it makes you very restless & burnout, need that vacation time to relax.
Plan accordingly, whenever you get your schedules, can decide and apply for exam, so you will know your timeline/deadline to study and avoid anxiety related to test dates availability.
P.S try not to postpone test date, it will just increase anxiety levels without much effective preparation. Just prep as much as you can & beat the beast!
3.Exam day:
-Make sure you are well rested prior to the test, bring in snacks, drinks, lunch.
-Day 1 all MCQs felt like time just flew, and ends with mental exhaustion.
-Day 2 I had day off I between two days, which was not a great idea, it shot up my anxiety levels. Can prefer in both consecutive days. Day 2 was more exhausting as it had CCS along with MCQs. If you face a tough case just hold up your spirit to get through it & move on. There are plenty of cases don’t worry about it.
At the end of it all you be glad it’s done & feel a sense of accomplishment.
I hope this helps, GL with your preparation.
Dr. Mridula Krishnan,
I took step 3 in March. I started off preparing for step 3 in December, first thing I did was subscribe to U world. I subscribed to U world for two months that included CCS subscription for two weeks. In December, had night float so found some time to study during that time as we have every alternate day off during night float.
One thing I did not do was use any of the books to prepare for step 3, have heard it really helps with the subjects that we really don’t know much about (Obgyn and peds).
The last one week I kept aside for CCS questions. Some of you might not need a whole week, some of you may want to take ten days or so, but I think one week is ideal.
Goodluck !
Dr. Rouhin Sen,
I used UWorld bank and USMLE Step 3 Secrets which I think is an EXCELLENT book (has some errors). Did not read all of it, but tried to read parts I’m weak in. Bought UWorld pretty early in the year and did a few questions a day throughout the year so I actually was able to do it twice.
For the cases, I did a few of the cases from UWorld to get familiar with the software. I think that is the most important part because it can be confusing at first (and it is not intuitive at all). I read through most of the cases on UWorld and I read a few more out of the Secrets book.
Test day: nothing very different from Step 1 or Step 2 CK. For most of the cases, you will get done well before the time given and they will stop the case abruptly. That is not a bad sign, so do not panic. I also took my test a few days apart because I wanted to recharge after day 1.
Dr. Arjun Theertham,
I spent about 1-2 months. Just did Qbank and the case simulator. I did not do much supplemental reading. I did many of the cases twice to get practice with the software and to help not forget things to do like counseling.
I did my Step 3 early in the year. I think that was pretty clutch as the stuff like Pediatrics, and OB/GYN were decently fresh. Above all I would recommend doing it as early as possible.

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