Updated: April 29, 2021

The United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) is one of the major milestones for a career in healthcare. Passing the USMLE Step 1 is required to be a licensed physician in the U.S., and around 98% of residency programs require students to achieve a passing grade to be eligible to work for them. However, the test is also considered quite difficult, covering everything from biochemistry and microbiology to genetics and nutrition. To help increase your chances of passing the USMLE, we’ve provided a list of the best prep courses.

BEST USMLE PREP COURSES

Our Ranking Criteria

As a med student, your life is already busy. But USMLE test prep is an important part of making sure that you can pass the test and take the next step in your career. Two of the most important things to look for when deciding which prep course is right for you are adaptable formats and schedules that fit your needs and the availability of personalized instruction.

Flexible scheduling and adaptable formats

We’ve tried to include USMLE test prep courses that had the most flexible scheduling and formats available. The best courses have both in-person and online instruction available so you can work your prep around a full schedule of classes, and we’ve also tried to include options that offered materials in several formats, including practice quizzes, workbooks, videos, and interactive lessons.

Personalized instruction

While the USMLE is a standardized test designed to ensure that your med school classes have prepared you for a career as a physician, every test taker is unique. We’ve looked for prep courses that are able to tailor learning to your particular needs, whether that means formats that fit your learning style or one-on-one tutoring to beef up knowledge in weaker subject areas.

The Best USMLE Prep Courses

SmashUSMLE — Top Pick

Smash-USMLE Logo

SmashUSMLE gets the top pick honors on our list of the best USMLE prep courses because it has a huge variety of plans and offers both in-person and live online classes. There are more than 250 hours of video lectures, 1,000 flashcards, and 4,000+ practice questions so you can study according to your learning style and schedule. There’s also an app so all the materials are mobile-friendly and portable, and a money-back guarantee helps you prep with confidence. This course has a 99% pass rate with an average score ranging from 235 to 240.

Smash-USMLE

Need-to-knows:

  • $240-$1,497
  • In-person and online classes
  • Money-back guarantee
What we like What we don’t like
  • Video lectures.
  • 99% pass rate.
  • Self-paced option.
  • Lifetime plan is pricey.

Learn more


BoardVitals — Best Free Trial

Board Vitals Logo

BoardVitals offers a 10-day free trial that gives you limited access (30 questions) so you can make sure the course will work for you. They have three plans designed around how much time you have to prep. The Master plan is for those who have at least six months to devote to prep and includes a 100% pass guarantee and the ability to ask medical experts content-specific questions. The Prepare plan can be completed in three months and the Cram plan in one month, and both offer access to more than 3,300 questions, detailed explanations, and an exam blueprint.

Board-Vitals-USMLE

Need-to-knows:

  • $69-$209
  • Online classes
  • 3,300+ questions
What we like What we don’t like
  • 10-day, 30-question free trial.
  • Ask an expert feature.
  • Full features not included with Cram package.

Learn more


Lecturio — Most Affordable

Lecturio Logo

With plans as low as $7.49 per month, Lecturio is one of the best options for those looking to get the most for their money. This course has separate pricing and plan structures depending on whether you are going with the Medical plan or the Nursing plan, and it sometimes runs sales and offers discount codes to take the price down even further. You’ll get access to video lectures provided by MDs, and you can ask questions in discussion mode. There are several schedule options, ranging from 40 to 99 days that tell you exactly what to study each week.

Lecturio-USMLE

Need-to-knows:

  • $7.49-$17.49/month
  • Online classes
  • Money-back guarantee
What we like What we don’t like
  • Affordable subscription plans.
  • Online classes.
  • Only offers Step 1 prep.

Learn more


Kaplan — Best In-Person Experience

Kaplan logo

Kaplan is one of the most trusted names in test prep, and it offers USMLE prep courses for Step 1, Step 2 CK, and Step 3. While it offers live online courses and on-demand instruction, it’s also one of the providers on this list that has in-person lectures, which can be best for those who need extra motivation and check-ins to stay focused. The course has 270 hours of instruction and includes one-on-one advising and personalized study plans. There are also weekly workshops, and you’ll get access to the on-demand video lectures and question bank to study outside of class.

Kaplan-USMLE

Need-to-knows:

  • $79-$9,999
  • In-person and online classes
  • Money-back guarantee
What we like What we don’t like
  • 270 hours of live instruction.
  • Access to online materials.
  • 2 full length Step 1 tests.
  • In-person option is $9,999.

Learn more


PASS Program — Best Product Offerings

PASS-Program Logo

PASS Program provides test prep for Step 1 and Step 2 of the USMLE. This company offers both live online classes, on-demand instruction, and in-person classes so you can choose a prep style that works the best for you. Questions are encouraged for more interactive classes and information is broken down to make the large volume of information more accessible for study. There are 5- and 12-week programs available, and these generally run five days a week from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., with a lunch break and another 20-minute break. On-site students also get unlimited access to the computer lab during regular hours and recorded lectures for at-home study.

PASS-Program USMLE

Need-to-knows:

  • $899-$5,500
  • In-person, live online classes, and on-demand online classes
  • Tutoring available
What we like What we don’t like
  • In-person classes.
  • On-demand video access
  • Housing may be provided.
  • One of the most expensive options.

Learn more


Achievable — Best Online Course

Achievable Logo

For those who need an online option that still helps them prepare thoroughly for the USMLE, Achievable delivers. It uses adaptive learning techniques to track retention and mastery of each subject and changes the quizzes to focus on the areas you need the most practice in. For Step 1, it has 1,400+ review questions to help you cover all subjects and a full online textbook that is mobile friendly.

Achievable-USMLE

Need-to-knows:

  • $299
  • Online classes
  • Money-back guarantee
What we like What we don’t like
  • Self-paced exam prep.
  • Personalized instruction.
  • No free trial.

Learn more

Choose the Right USMLE Prep Course for You

There are several USMLE prep courses available, and choosing the one that’s best for your situation is going to depend on your needs, goals, and specific talents. We’ve put together a shortlist of some of the important steps to take when choosing a USMLE prep course.

Calculate your prep time

Because the USMLE is so comprehensive, it’s important to start studying for it as far in advance as possible. Those who have passed the test recommend studying at least six months before your test date. If you want to take in-person classes and also have a job and school to work around, you may need to start even earlier.

Consider your learning style

Knowing how you learn and being able to customize test prep to play off of those strengths can make studying easier and faster and lead to better subject matter retention. If you aren’t sure what your main learning style is, read through some descriptions to see which one seems to fit. If you already know that you are a visual or kinesthetic learner, look for prep courses that have options to match.

Compare costs

There is a huge variety in price point when it comes to USMLE prep courses, ranging from nominal monthly fees under $20 all the way up to nearly $10,000 for comprehensive courses with lifetime access. It’s a good idea to get a feel for what is out there and then choose a prep course that fits into your available budget.

Look for must-have features

Some of the most important features to look for when evaluating USMLE prep courses include:

  • Whether there is a free trial
  • The number of practice tests or questions offered
  • Whether classes are available in person or online
  • If one-on-one tutoring is offered
  • If the company offers a money-back guarantee

USMLE Frequently Asked Questions

What are the important dates for taking the USMLE?

The USMLE is a little different from other standardized tests in that you have to apply to take it. You can fill out the application on the USMLE website. Once you have been approved, you will be able to schedule your test date. Application materials are available every September. The deadline to cancel or reschedule your test without paying a fee is 31 days before the test date. Scores take about three to four weeks to be processed and are released every Wednesday.

Are there accommodations for disabilities?

The USMLE does provide accommodations for those with disabilities in accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). However, you must submit the request for accommodations with appropriate documentation and wait to be approved before scheduling your test date.

How early should I prep?

It’s a good idea to start prepping at least six months before you plan on taking the test. If you are very strong in the subject matter, you may be able to prep in less time, but you only get six attempts, so it’s important to ensure you are prepared.

How many practice tests should I take before the actual exam?

Every practice test you take gives you a better idea of how prepared you are for the USMLE and what areas you still need to work on. It’s a good idea to take an initial practice test to determine how far away you are from passing. Taking another test in the middle of your prep and a week or two before the real exam can ensure that you’re seeing progress and make you feel more prepared on test day.

How long are most USMLE prep courses?

Many of the USMLE prep courses provide access to the instruction materials for a specific timeframe and you can decide how long by how much you pay. This can range from one month all the way to four years. The guided prep courses on our list usually last 5 to 12 weeks.

Is USMLE prep worth it?

As of January 2022, the USMLE will be transitioning to pass/fail grading for Step 1 tests, so you may not be able to look at gain in score points to tell if the prep was worth it. However, anytime you are more prepared for a test, in both subject matter and the practical skills needed, the better you will do. Once you have passed the USMLE and can be licensed as a physician, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that the average salary is $208,000, but this can go much higher depending on specialty.

How much does USMLE prep cost?

The cost of USMLE prep courses varies dramatically, which means that there’s something for almost any budget but that you also may need to be prepared to pay premium prices for the best materials. Get more information on how much USMLE prep courses cost in our table below.

Company Cost
SmashUSMLE
  • Elite Plan: $797
  • Premier: $997
  • Lifetime: $1,497
  • USMLE Step 1 Qbank Plans
    • 1 Month: $269
    • 3 Months: $369
    • 6 Months: $429
    • 12 Months: $489
  • USMLE Step 2 Qbank Plans
    • 1 Month: $240
    • 3 Months: $280
    • 6 Months: $340
    • 12 Months: $460
BoardVitals
  • USMLE® Step 1 Board Review
    • Master: $189
    • Prepare: $119
    • Cram: $69
  • USMLE® Step 2 Board Review
    • Master: $209
    • Prepare: $139
    • Cram: $89
  • USMLE® Step 3 Board Review
    • Master: $209
    • Prepare: $139
    • Cram: $89
Lecturio
  • Medical Plan
    • 3-Month Plan: $17.49/month
    • 1-Year Plan: $12.19/month
    • 2-Year Plan: $9.99/month
    • 4-Year Plan: $7.49/month
Kaplan
  • USMLE® Step 1 Prep
    • Live Online Course: $4,399
    • On Demand Course: $1,999
    • In Center with Live Lectures Course: $9,999
    • Qbank: from $129
    • Qbank: from $149
  • USMLE® Step 2 Prep
    • Live Online Course: $3,999
    • On Demand Course: $1,199
    • In Center with Live Lectures Course: $7,499
    • Qbank: from $129
    • Master the boards: $299
    • Shelf Prep: $99
  • USMLE® Step 3 Prep
    • Live Online Course: $1,699
    • On Demand Course: $799
    • Qbank: from $79
PASS Program
  • USMLE Step 1 Live Online Program
    • 5 Week Course: $2,200
    • 12 Week Course: $5,500
    • On-Demand Videos: $899
  • USMLE Step 2 Live Online
    • 5 Week Course: $2,750
    • 12 Week Course: $5,500
Achievable
  • $299