Are you getting ready to take your USMLE® Step 1 exam? We get asked all the time about how the BoardVitals Step 1 Question Bank compares to UWorld and Kaplan’s, so we talked to a few MDs to get the inside scoop.
The Step 1 exam is a one-day, 8-hour exam, divided into seven 60-minute blocks. The number of questions per block varies, but never exceeds 40, which would suggest that timing is not the biggest problem, but is something everyone should take into account. The total exam has at most 280 questions and allows test-takers to jump around to answer questions on their own accord.
There are so many different products, each with their own pros and cons, available to students, how do you know what is the best for you? We’ve got a detailed comparison of major USMLE Step 1 question banks to consider just for you. Check out what Kaplan, UWorld,and BoardVitals has to offer.
BoardVitals offers questions banks for all sorts of medical exams. These questions banks are written and reviewed by doctors and experts who have recently taken the exams. This process allows for users to sort questions based on the highest rating, providing the best questions (according to other doctors) first.
All of the question banks are subscription-based, and the USMLE Step 1 is priced as such: $169 for a month, $259 for 3 months, and $449 for 6 months. The USMLE Step 1 question bank consists of approximately 3,300 questions with detailed explanations for a comprehensive understanding of each topic.
BoardVitals offer a free trial consisting of 25 sample questions. This is a great way to test the features of the Qbank and see how questions, explanations, and references are presented.
Each Qbank provides individual exam scores, the median score of all users, and the user’s percentile rank for the questions in a test.
Feedback & Customer Service
On each question, feedback is encouraged. BoardVitals has several physicians on staff and this feedback loop enables users to ask questions and get additional information from those physicians. This is a great feature for students who need clarification other than what was provided in the explanation and rationale. Customer service is available 24/7 via email [[email protected]] and via phone [877.221.1529] during normal business hours.
“BoardVitals ensures a thorough review of all high-yield materials with features that let professors to incorporate questions into their lectures, so that students are better prepared with USMLE-style questions throughout their basic science studies,” Bisi Akindele, MD, said.
Oftentimes, board review study guides try to mimic the same experience found on the actual exam. While the software itself is not exactly like the real exam, the format of the questions are, and BoardVitals presents its examination blocks in either a “timed” or “review” mode. This allows users to practice time management that will be required in the exam. Review mode allows you to see the explanation and correct answer for each question immediately after answering it. Additionally, this Qbank includes audio questions which are a component of the exam. Explanations are provided for correct and incorrect answers in order to cover all topics relevant to the USMLE exams.
- Users can create exams made up of an unlimited number of questions if they wish, to do an uninterrupted set of questions. This feature is very helpful if a student wishes to review all the questions in a topic at the same time. “This is a great way to build one’s stamina, especially since the actual exam is 8 hours long,” Akindele said.
- The more you use the Qbank, the more it learns about your strengths and weaknesses. It will even suggest categories individualized to each student.
- Users can share a question with another student or professor for discussion. In addition to this, a “send exam” feature is available for faculty at institutions that use BoardVitals, and this allows them to send exams to the students for reviews or assessments.
- A user can go over all the questions again by deleting the completed exams, that way, they’ll be able to reuse all the questions in the bank easily.
- BoardVitals provides users with study tips and other great pieces of information on their blog.
- For each new customer, BoardVitals donates one vaccine to children in need as part of their philanthropic initiative: #GiveVax.
- Mobile app available.
- The “Vital Concepts” section includes a summary of key teaching points tested in each question for further review of subjects tested on the exam.
Kaplan offers questions banks for several medical exams, including USMLE Step 1. Their Step 1 bank has more than 3,300 questions at $159 for 1 month, $199 for 3 months, or $299 for 6 months.
Kaplan offers a set of 100 sample questions in their 7-day free trial.
“This is a good number of questions to cover all the topics and can give a good picture of how much you know in each topic,” said Bisi Akindele, MD. “There is a free diagnostic test as well, which I did when preparing for my step 1 exam. I used it to gauge my weak subjects before fully starting my preparation.”
This Qbank features information displaying individual results. These include test analyses and cumulative performance.
Kaplan has a help link in each question for those who need additional clarification. They have a doctor available via email to flush out medical content found in the questions. Customer service is available via email or phone.
Kaplan presents its questions in a format to simulate the exam. It has both “timed” and “tutor” modes. Each question comes with detailed explanations and references. Kaplan question stems are known to be longer than the usual question stems. But at the end of the day, it’s learning the material that counts.
- Kaplan has various course options and combinations featuring textbooks and live/online courses.
- They feature high-yield videos that cover topics found on the USMLE exams.
- There are free step 1 live and online information sessions.
- Mobile app available.
UWorld specializes in providing effective question banks covering all topics found on USMLE Exams. Written by practicing physicians who excelled in the USMLE exams. UWorld’s USMLE Step 1 Question Bank has over 3,600 questions and costs $319 for 30 days, $439 for 90 days and up to $719 for 2 years, which includes two self-assessment exams. UWorld also provides QBanks with practice exams for an additional fee.
UWorld provides a 10-question free sample test for users to test out the platform and product.
UWorld tracks users’ progress and compares individual test scores, the average of other users, and the user’s cumulative performance. Each individual question also shows the percentage of people that chose each answer option.
Feedback and Customer Service
UWorld has a link to FAQs, forums for each exam, and 24/7 customer service via email.
UWorld is the most similar (of these three) to the actual exam. The calculator, laboratory values and even the coloring of the program mirror the test.
The Qbank also has “timed,” “tutor” and “timed tutor” modes.
“USMLE World is the most used and highest yield question bank. Students should try to complete it at least once (preferably twice) before their exam,” said Christopher Carrubba, MD, co-director of tutor development and medical education for Med School Tutors. “However, more questions are better! Utilizing BoardVitals and Kaplan question banks can only help your score.”
- UWorld has a separate Biostatistics question bank. This is a great tool that can be used for step 1, 2 or 3. It includes notes on all topics with questions and extended explanations. It covers the material expected on the examination.
- UWorld provides two 4-block assessments (can be purchased in combination with a question bank or alone). These are great tools to use after completing the question bank, in order to gauge how ready you are for the real test. Since the real exam is 7 blocks of questions, you can combine the 2 assessments for 1 practice session.
- Mobile app available.
“In my opinion, the assessments may overestimate your preparedness and isn’t the best prediction for the actual test,” Akindele said
*Christopher Carrubba, MD is the Co-Director of Tutor Development and Medical Education for Med School Tutors.
*Prices as of February 2024.
Looking for more USMLE Step 1 Resources? Check out these blog posts from BoardVitals: