5 tools to prepare for the USMLE Step 3 board exam

By George Saliba | Fact-checked by Barbara Bekiesz
Published April 13, 2022

Key Takeaways

  • Studying and preparation are crucial elements of getting ready to take the USMLE Step 3 examination, so it’s vital to take advantage of the many available resources.

  • Hone your testing skills with online study and test prep resources offering test simulations and online classes. The USMLE website itself offers sample questions and practice testing.

  • Online or in-person tutoring is also available, as are a variety of tried-and-true books.

For medical residents eager to pass their United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 3, studying and overall preparation can make the difference between passing or failing this crucial 2-day test. Serving as a gateway toward practicing medicine without supervision, Step 3 consists of approximately 500 multiple-choice questions taken over 2 days, and contains 13 Computer-based Case Simulations (CCS). 

While medical residents have likely already honed their study skills in order to pass USMLE’s Step 1 and Step 2 CK exams, there are specific resources available for Step 3 ranging from books to various online resources.


One place to start preparing is at USMLE’s own website, which provides an overview of the test on its Step 3 Materials page. This page provides a content outline and specifications for the test (ie, which body systems are covered, and what percent of questions for each), sample test questions, test question formats, a USMLE practice session, and a list of common questions.[]

More than 100 sample test questions are available in PDF format, and there is an interactive testing experience as well.[] These resources enable test takers to become familiar with the Step 3 examination, as well as simulate the exam scenario.

Related: Best Step 3 prep strategies, from those who've been there


The website for the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) has resources that let people evaluate their readiness to take USMLE Step 3, helping them learn their strengths and weaknesses and see explanations for correct exam answers.[]

Among other attributes, it also permits users to gauge their approximate USMLE scores. 


UWorld says that “Since 2003, nearly all medical students in the United States have trusted UWorld to prepare for their licensing exams.” A demo can help medical residents determine whether this online resource is best for them, with its customized test creation, performance stats, flashcards, and “notebook,” among other features.[]


Another popular resource is Kaplan, which provides more than 900 Step 3 questions with high-quality photographs and answer explanations. It also offers live online courses with licensed physicians as teachers, along with other teachers standing by while class is transpiring to answer students’ questions. Kaplan also has pre-recorded courses available on demand.[]

Print Books

Since some learners prefer books they can bookmark, highlight, and bring anywhere, the marketplace has no shortage of USMLE Step 3 preparation books. Amazon.com lists more than 100 books devoted to USMLE preparation. 

Some books have distinct characteristics. Clinical Judgment USMLE Step 3 Review, for example, includes a section on pattern recognition, which, according to Harvard Countway Library’s description, will “aid in developing your gut instinct about a disease, giving you more time to answer questions on long narrative blocks.” 


Tutoring is also available for USMLE Step 3, either in person or via various online resources. Med School Tutors showcases dozens of tutors who can help you prepare for various medical exams, including USMLE Step 3. Varsity Tutors is another website offering USMLE Step 3 tutors.

What this means for you

USMLE Step 3 preparation can be challenging, but you can receive a lot of help from the many study tools available, ranging from print books and online tutoring to online sample test questions and sample exams. USMLE’s website is a valuable well of information straight from the exam’s creators.

Related: 5 tools to prepare for the USMLE Step 3 board exam

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