USMLE- Checklist Preparation Tips Timeline for Indian Students

USMLE- Checklist Preparation Tips Timeline for Indian Students

USMLE Checklist: Prep Tips and Timeline for Indian Students

If you are in India and want to know how to pass the USMLE, this post has all your questions and queries covered.

The Ideal Preparation Timeline for USMLE

Preparing for the Step 1 exam

6 to 12 months

Preparing for the Step 2 CK exam

4 to 7 months

Preparing for the Step 2 CS

1 to 2 months


International medical graduates should ideally follow this timeline. However, the time may vary depending on every individual’s unique capabilities and learning styles. Other factors that may affect the timeline include available time, fluency in English, foundation knowledge and score goals. Medical students should not estimate the preparation time based upon the experience of a friend or a family member who has taken the exam previously because the USMLE has not only become more challenging over the years but also the average scores needed for certain specialties have been raised. So don’t rely on old resources and take your time because once you pass the USMLE, you cannot do it again to achieve a higher score.    

What is the Right Time to take the USMLE Step 1?

The sooner you start the better will be your outcome. This is why most students start immediately after completing their foundational subjects so that it is easy to recall fundamental concepts. Based on your academic curriculum and your grasp over core sciences, you can decide what’s best for you because US epidemiology and behavioural science may or may not be a part of your school’s curriculum. Also, Indian students are not exposed to different types of clinical vignettes and computerized exams that are a part of the Step 1 exam. If you plan to prepare fully and devote your undivided attention, make sure you have a firm understanding of the subject matter and the ability to integrate critical information across medical disciplines. This will make it easy for you to apply the knowledge to crucial vignette questions and stay focused for full 8 hours during the examination. 

Non-US IMGs cannot return during the semester to complete their live review course and so they need to wait until they complete graduation to attend a medical review course on a student visa. Most Indian medical students are under the impression that taking the exam in a specific month will increase their odds of scoring well but there is no statistical evidence to substantiate this trend. Most students in the US take their Step 1 exam in June-August so Indian students taking their exam during these months need to reserve their seats well in advance.

Indian medical students, who haven’t graduated and want to apply for an elective rotation, need Step 1 as a prerequisite.       

When Should Examinees Complete the Schedule (Step 1, Step 2 CK, and Step 2 CS) if They Want to Apply for Match on Time? 

Being an international student you should be having all your scores available when it is time to transmit your Electronic Residency Application Service Application which is typically by mid-September. However, the dates may vary so be sure to check the ERAS support services for the latest information.

The USMLE strongly recommends international examinees taking the Step 2 CS exam to complete their schedule by the 31st of May and fill their testing appointments at least 3 to 4 months in advance. If your test is scheduled after August 1 you won’t be able to find any available appointments unless you are fortunate and there are last minute cancellations. Make sure you plan ahead of time because the test results can also take two to four months.

Preparation Tips to Ace the USMLE Exam

Here are 5 practical tips to help you with your USMLE preparation:

  • Make a Schedule and Adhere to it

While you may not be able to strictly follow your schedule, the key should always be to finish even if you get behind. Unexpected things will keep coming up and so if you’ve had an early start, you will be able to do things better and feel less stressed.


  • Understand the USMLE Scoring System

The Step 2 exam scores medical students on a Pass/Fail basis and Indian students must pass all the 3 subcomponents if they want a successful outcome. The SEP assessment evaluates your spoken English during mock medical encounters and takes into account your choice of word, your pronunciations, and your ability to address doubts and concerns asked by standardized patients.


The ICE portion employs a checklist to grade your data interpretation ability during the physical examination. It is important that medical students make use of correct medical terminology, maintain detailed documentation, support their diagnoses with important findings and list them in the right order of likelihood.

Most Indian medical students are academically strong, competent at English and have good clinical skills but the CIS section is still a tough nut to crack. As a medical student you need to create trust, convey empathy, and handle sensitive scenarios in a manner that may be very different in India. Indian students may find it very helpful to take up a USMLE prep course and learn how the US healthcare system works.

  • Choose the Right Resources

Unlike other USMLE sections, the Step 2 CS exam does not have multiple resources for preparation. You can stick to the latest editions of the following two books to practice.

1First Aid for the USMLE Step 2 CS, Fifth Edition

2. Step 2 Clinical Skills (CS) Content Description and General Information


  • Use the Mixed Mode and Time Your Block Sessions

Don’t try the tutor mode with your question bank because your exam will neither be categorized nor timed. Switching from topic to topic will improve your ability to think flexibly and enable you to integrate information across subjects. Being a medical student your mind needs to be trained for an intellectual marathon so start early.  


  • Start with the Most Difficult Topics First

Start with the concepts that you are not comfortable with because you are bound to get at least one question in an area that bogs you down or you don’t know. Starting with the toughest task first will keep you from freaking out during such situations. 


The USMLE is a demanding set of assessments that every aspiring physician must pass before practicing medicine in the U.S. Indian medical students can solidify their fundamental knowledge and gain the confidence needed to succeed on the USMLE assessments by preparing with an authorized training center that prepares medical students and professionals and guides them till they succeed.

About the author: Eric Brown is a standardized patient (SP) who lives in New York and advises NYCSPREP with their Clinical Skills course. He has a BA from a liberal arts college in the north east, where he majored in the tatrical arts and business (he credits the first for his ability to simulate real patients). He’s amassed years of experience as an SP and keeps up to date with CS exam expectations, trends and developments. When the Phillies are in town, Eric considers it his duty to support his home team. He won’t be seen without his trusty catcher’s mitt on these occasions, and prides himself on having caught more than one foul ball with it. If you have any questions about standardized CS exams or courses at NYCSPREP, email Eric at or visit 

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