No matter how much money you spend on books, every medical student needs to do a ton of practice questions for the USMLE Step 1. Questions are an excellent way to learn the useful tip-offs and keywords, and—depending on the source—get a better feel for the board format. They’re also a form of active learning, unlike trying to self-induce a coma with the universally-utilized First Aid for the USMLE Step 1. I believe USMLEWorld is the best question bank out there—despite its draconian efforts to prevent IP theft—and there is no free source out there that matches it (especially for the final marathon push before the big day). That said, there are other ways to study, especially during the basic science years.
For question books, post-Step MS3s and your local Half-Price Books are always good resources to buy study materials on the cheap. But free is better, and the internet is undeniably convenient and portable. I scoured the web to find free question banks online (updated September 2016):
- The NBME offers its own small set of free practice materials for the Steps 1, 2, and 3. You have to download the program here (22mb), Windows only. It contains the software that the actual Step uses (Fred V2), a tutorial, and 100+ question practice test. A must do. A pdf file is also available from the above link, which contains the same questions and is a little more accessible. I’ve written answers/explanations to the 2013-14 question set here and the 2014-15 set here (with links to the pdfs also included). The 2015-16 set contains no new questions.
- WikiDoc has a 696 question board-style USMLE Step 1 qbank. Robust, very nice. Qbank appearance approximates the USMLE Fred software. Totally free but requires a login.
- Lecturio has a free 400 question USMLE question bank in clinical vignette format with explanations organized by subject (you can “unlock” additional questions on a per-month basis). No registration required.
- MedBullets has a 1113 question Step 1 qbank in clinical vignette style. Registration required, pretty robust software (tutor mode, tracks prior questions, etc).
- USMLE Sapphire is a free online qbank (registration required), currently with 520 questions. Style is more concise/abbreviated/clinical-flashcardy than the real clinical vignettes and the software handles the explanations in an annoying way, but the site keeps your test history, lets you review prior answers (no tutor mode), and pick questions based on subject and body system. Some of the bits I saw were a bit obscure in terms of low hanging fruit given its size.
- USMLEQuickPrep is a large (~4500 questions) and entirely free qbank. It’s the largest and most exhaustive free source out there. The questions are a mixed-bag, and not all are in Step-style, but most have explanations, the site isn’t too clunky, and it certainly stands out for its sheer volume. [site was down, now back up as 7/14/2016]
Lippincott’s 350-Question Practice Test for USMLE Step 1 is solid, but you must register (for free) before using it.[now defunct]
- MedMaster (makers of the “made ridiculously simple” series) has a USMLE Step 1 qbank (among others). The questions are not step-style but rather content review. It’s a good foundational accompaniment to book learning, as it clearly highlights key facts and distinctions that are crucial for the Step 1, but it does not prepare you for the exam proper. There are also no puns or goofy diagrams like the book series.
- Test Prep Review has a USMLE practice self-assessment section. There are 20 modules of 20 questions for 400 questions. They’re mainly fact-recall and not vignette-based, but it’s easy to use and accessible.
- Wiki Test Prep [now defunct, but with questions available as a pdf for download]
iswas a student-written qbank with over 900 questions with explanations. The site is great, and you can browse questions by keyword, flag questions, and create your own tests. It also lets you know what percentage of students answer the question correctly, which is interesting. The questions are in clinical-vignette board format.
- 4tests.com hosts an old 60 question Kaplan diagnostic exam. Answers can be exposed during the test if desired and do contain explanations. (Mom MD also has the identical sampler, only organized in six 10-question pages with answers directly below questions
- ValueMD has a large question bank divided up by subject. The site also requires a free registration. The questions are straightforward fact-recall type and the site itself is clunky and hideous, but it’s still decent review.
- Kaplan lets you try one 48-question section for free after signing up.
- USMLERx has a free 20 question qbank test using the NBME’s Fred V2 software. Their “Qmax” qbank is made by the same people who wrote First Aid, and so the explanations come straight for the book, which is a serious shortcoming in my opinion.
- USMLE Consult has small free sample trials for both Step 1 and Robbins Pathology, which are both relevant.
- Learntheheart.com has 50 cardiology USMLE Step 1 questions, with plans to add more.
Enjoy. I can’t vouch for the quality of these resources, but WikiDoc, Lecturio, MedBullets, Sapphire, and Wiki Test Prep together are about 3500 questions, bigger than UW (though assuredly with lots of overlap between sources). Add in the past few years of official practice questions (the “Free 150”) and you’ve got even more.
(For more information on how I personally would recommend studying, feel free to peruse my post: How to Approach the USMLE Step 1. You can also find my compilation of free study resources for the basic sciences here.)