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Tips on how best to utilize the online USMLE Qbanks

Here's a list of tips that I suggest you follow when you do your online Qbank whether it's Kaplan or USMLE World or USMLE Consult or any other Qbank.

Don't read the question out loud and use the cursor

You are not going to be allowed to do that in the exam day and therefore you better train yourself by whispering inside. A good way to follow the words and rows is by pointing the mouse cursor so that you don't get lost in these days lengthy paragraphs that frequently come in question stems.

Start with small number of questions

Do not start right away with full blocks. You need time to adjust to the style and you may not be able to focus and perform to the maximum if you overwhelm yourself with full blocks from the beginning.

Don't leave it to the end

While doing the qbank see what subject/system is making low score and focus on it in the middle of your journey not at the end because you have to utilize the last few weeks of your prep for training not gaining new knowledge.

Do not memorize the explanation

I've seen many people doing that. It's totally wrong. Question explanations are not USMLE references. They are designed to explain the question at hand only and won't give a comprehensive overview about the topic. If at all, just annotate your books with nice tips, mnemonics, tables, ...etc that you find in the explanation, other than that you don't need to seriously consider the explanation no matter how good or how long they are.

Do not get bothered at very detailed rare instances

Many qbanks try to include the weirdest ever questions and you may end up banging your head in frustration. Do not bother, just move on. These questions are there just to stop smart people from scoring 100% in the bank and are merely for marketing purposes to make the bank look "difficult".

See why you got it wrong

Is it lack of knowledge or is it poor analysis and technique. If for example you reached the diagnosis correctly yet you picked up the wrong answer then you may need to refine your question analysis. If on the other hand you are facing questions that you have no idea what they are talking about then it must be a lack of knowledge and you need to review more books.

Highlight the Buzzwords

The FRED software (as well as many commercial banks) gives the option of highlighting words in yellow color. I found that very useful in pinpoint the clues and buzzwords so that if you need to scan the question again you can just look up the highlighted words quickly without losing much time.

Crossing Options

It's very helpful to cross the wrong options one by one (FRED allows you to do that by striking through the option when you double click it). This will assist in narrowing the options and minimizing visual clutter.


Don't get tense. Anxiety and stress are the most common reasons why students do not do well. Just enjoy the questions. Think of them as real patients and real life scenarios. Let the question flow and you'll find the answer automatically without much brain squeezing and superman efforts.

Timed, Random, Unused, Full Blocks

The nearer you are to the exam the more you have to do timed, random, unused, full question blocks. You need to train yourself for the timing and endurance. It's just like athletes warming up before their competition. Their warm ups get's longer and faster as they approach the game day.

Marked and Wrong

If you have time then it's not bad to review the questions that you had marked and/or got wrong. But if you don't have time then don't be too conscious about this. I believe doing new unused questions is better than reviewing what you did wrong. Remember, none of the questions you are doing in the commercial qbank will actually be duplicated in the exam so it's not that you need to memorize them, it's just training. Get the concepts not the content.