NBME Practice Tests Explained

I’m getting a lot of questions via email regarding the NBMEs and so this should answer all your questions. The following post is regarding the USMLE Step 1 and everything related to it.

What is the NBME?
NBME stands for National Board of Medical Examiners. The practice tests from them which everyone should take are called the NBME Comprehensive Basic Science Self-Assessments, but we all refer them the “NBMEs”.

How important are the NBME tests?
If you are questioning about the importance of the NBME tests, then think about paying $800+ for the USMLE Step 1, and getting a sneak peak of how the real exam will be like. The USMLE Step 1 is written by the NBME people and the self-assessments are also written by the same people. Therefore, it makes sense to see where you are in terms of being ready for the USMLE Step 1.

How much are the NBME tests?
The regular assessments are $50. But the assessment with a feedback of which questions you got wrong is $60. I personally would spend an extra $10 and get the test with the feedback; it’s better to make the mistake on the practice exams and learn from it and do well on the real exam.

How to use the NBME results?
Take a look at the sample assessment result below, which I found on Google image search. This is what you will see after you take a self-assessment.

NBME SampleResult

Whoever took this exam they should focus on the subject that they are weak in.
The weakest subjects the results show are:

  • biochemistry & genetics
  • cardiovascular
  • general principles of health & disease
  • histology & cell biology
  • pathology
  • pharmacology
  • reproductive & endocrine.

Anything that is to the left is weak and anything to the right is strong. Your goal should be to go to the right side as far as possible. If you have a star on the right side, that shows you are very strong in the subject.

How to improve your NBME score?
Focus on the weak subjects; as in go over the material on those subject and leave the stronger subjects alone and review them later once you master the weaker subjects. The self-assessment tests will test your core foundation so don’t assume that you have to know everything on a subject. You should never assume that you can assess how ready you are without taking any practice tests.

When to take the NBME tests?
My advice is to take the NBME exams after you take the USMLE World Self-Assessments. You should take at least 2-3 NBME tests before you take the Step 1. Take the NBME tests from the lower level to the upper level, such as start from From 11 and work your way up to Form 13.  Try to take the practice tests 1-2 weeks apart. For example, if you take Form 11, work on your weak subjects for 1-2 weeks and take Form 12, work on the weak subjects from that and then take Form 13 the next week. Take the average of your NBME scores to get a very close approximation of what your real score could be.

Never get the pirated versions of the NBME tests because there is no telling if the answers are right or wrong. Therefore, make sure you always get the real online version. Go here to get the NBME tests.

I hope this helps and if you have questions or concerns then please comment below.

Steps on How to Study for the USMLE Step 1

I got a lot of emails of where to study and how to study for the USMLE Step 1. It’s basically the same questions being asked over and over again so I’m going to give you an outline of how to study for this test. A lot of you are lost on how to study and what you need to do in order to get your self on the straight path. So please read this post carefully and try to understand each step. Please consider these points:
  • Dr. Najeeb Videos
    Understanding your basics sciences foundation the first step. That means you should know what is what for every subject. For example, the definitions of every little things such as pancreatitis, which is the inflammation of the pancreas. You should know the -itis at the end means inflammation of any thing like hepatitis, cholcystitis, etc. My best source would be Dr. Najeeb’s Videos hands down. Some of you asked if you should watch every one his video and my answer is going to be yes if you don’t understand anything. Dr. Najeeb’s videos are extremely slow and long and it’s frustrating but you can speed it up, but you should have to watch only once. And please take notes whenever you watch videos. For Behavioral Science only I strongly recommend Kaplan Videos. For the pathology subject, use pathoma by Dr. Husain Sattar. 
  • First Aid for the USMLE Step 1
    This book should always be next to you. DO NOT try to read it by yourself. Use the latest version of order it online if you are too lazy to go the book store.
  • USMLE World Question Bank
    This question bank for the USMLE Step 1 is extremely important for you to get. There is no way around it. It is the golden question bank but you need to not only understand your basic foundation but also applying it.
  • NBME Exams
    It’s very important that you take these exams to see where you are. These tests will tell you how well you know your basic foundation knowledge. I also recommend you try the USMLE World assessment exams which is available on the USMLE World website; their assessment exams are very good also.
My method and steps on studying for the USMLE Step 1:
  1. Watch the medical videos, which I recommended, and take notes.
  2. Go through DIT videos to understand  First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 book and take notes.
  3. Do USMLE World question bank in mixed, timed, and random mode. Go over every single questions, right or wrong, and take notes on everything. Write those notes in your First Aid book. If you don’t have enough space in your First Aid book then take it to the nearest Office Depot and get them to unbind it and put it in a 3 ring binder like how I did.
  4. Take an NBME exam. Usually start out doing NBME version 11 and higher. Look at what subjects you are weak in and go over that subject until you understand it.
  5. Go through DIT videos again but this time do USMLE World question bank simultaneously. For example, if you do DIT videos in the morning, then do a block of USMLE World question bank in the afternoon and go over them. This should be your second time doing both DIT and USMLE World question bank. Make sure you always do the questions mixed, timed, and random mode.
  6. After finishing both DIT and USMLE World questions, take another NBME exam, but a different version of the exam. You should be improving. Also, now do USMLE World Assessment Exam version 1.
  7. Now do USMLE World question bank one more time in mixed, random, and timed. You should be scoring above 70% by now. If you are still weak in a certain subject then go over that, now you should just be memorizing from the First Aid book.
  8. Take another NBME exam and USMLE World Assessment Exam version 2. Make sure your NBME score predicts your score to be above the national average which is 221+.
You may disagree on my studying steps, but that’s how I did it. And when you follow my steps, make sure you give it time because there is no shortcut to this. You have to give it time and you have to understand the concepts first. If you need to ask certain questions, please ask me your question on the comment box below and please put your name down. Asking your question in the comment box will help others with their answers, thanks.