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How to score a 704 on the COMLEX Level 1

Alright, with COMLEX prep in full swing right now I thought I would take a minute and share with you how I was able to get a 704 (97th percentile) on my COMLEX Level 1. One of the main themes when it comes to the COMLEX level 1, and really any COMLEX is how many questions you do.

Lets get to it!

Doing practice questions during dedicated board prep.

Practice questions via a question bank are the absolute best way to spend your time during dedicated prep.

One myth that we need to bust real quick though is that you should be saving your “good” questions until you review enough material. The good questions most students are referring to are those from either UWorld or AMBOSS. The fact of the matter is though, that these question banks are so high quality that the learning you get from doing their questions early on is way better then trying to “save them” to evaluate your knowledge later.

Question banks are for learning, not for primarily assessing. So, first and foremost use your good question bank (either UWorld or AMBOSS) early on in your prep.

Now that we have covered not saving your question banks for later, as well as which question banks are the good ones. We should move onto how many questions you should be doing per day.

This is a tough thing to answer, because everyone has different knowledge bases and different temperaments for learning from questions. The zone for how many questions are the right amount is in the 50-100 questions per day zone while in the first half of dedicated board prep (more on this below).

I personally did about 80 questions per day in the first half of my dedicated board prep, an 120 per day in the second half of my dedicated board prep.

The key to doing the questions though is to ask yourself if it would be better to do 50 questions per day and really take the time to learn from them as opposed to doing 100 questions and skimming over the details and not learning anything. Find the zone that you’re learning the best and most from.

The practice questions are primarily for learning. They help you #1, learn medicine and #2, they help you learn how to properly do questions.

During the first half of your dedicated board prep, you should focus on doing questions in tutor untimed mode. This will help you not stress a ton about timing of the questions. Then in the second half of your dedicated board prep turn your attention to timing of the questions. At the half way point of dedicated switch the question style to timed test mode.

This technique of switching half way through dedicated will give you ample time to create a great foundation of knowledge from your chosen question bank and then you will also have great stamina and timing down for each question.

This brings me to the last thing to discuss with regards to practice questions.

One thing I did that made all the difference during my dedicated board prep when I was doing questions in timed test mode was treat those questions like they were a real test.

I would line up 40 questions in timed test mode, do them, then without looking at the answers or my percent correct for those questions, I would quickly do another 40 questions in timed test mode.

I would do this for a total of 120 questions or three hours straight of questions.

In summary:

The first half of dedicated board prep is best spent doing 50-100 questions per day to help build knowledge.

The second half of dedicated board prep is best spent doing around 120-160 questions per day in timed test mode to build stamina and testing ability.



Practice Tests during dedicated board prep.

Since this is a COMLEX article, we will focus on the COMLEX.

So, the best practice tests for the COMLEX are the UWorld standardized practice tests.

COMSAE’s are decent. The COMBANK practice tests are also decent.

You should plan on using UWorld standardized test #1 during the first few weeks of your dedicated prep.

Then 4-5 days before your exam take UWorld Standardized test #2.

In between those two tests, use COMSAES to give you a decent idea of where you stand throughout your dedicated board prep. The COMSAE’s can predict your score typically within plus/minus 100 points. I scored a 776 on my highest COMSAE. Then I got a 704 on my COMLEX Level 1. This was also the case for many of my medical student classmates. They either scored 100 points higher or 100 points lower then their highest COMSAE.

As far as the schedule goes, you should plan on taking one practice test per week, or if that is too much take one practice test every other week with two practice tests in the last week of your dedicated board prep.

Treat each and every practice test like the real deal. The more you treat each practice test like the real deal, the better off you will be in the long run.

Board review resources for the COMLEX Level 1.

If you are reading this early in your medical school career then good, hopefully this will shed some light on the good resources that you should be using NOW.

If on the other hand, you are reading this right before dedicated board prep then the chances are you have heard about these resources. For completeness sake I will include a good list and short review of the resources in this section.

The first resource is going to be the big one that I always recommend, Pathoma.

Pathoma is an incredible resource for all things pathology. If you dedicate a little bit of time each day to reviewing this resource (especially those areas that you are struggling in) then you are setting yourself up to do very good on your COMLEX Level 1.

Use Pathoma each and every day, make sure to go over the areas you are weak in. Make sure to go over the first four chapters. 

The next resource is Boards and Beyond.

Boards and Beyond is an awesome review for nearly every topic that you need for the COMLEX besides OMM, but we will cover that in a minute.

Treat this the same way you do for Pathoma, do an hour or two of the topics you struggle mostly with daily and I promise you that you won’t be disappointed with the results.

The third resource is First Aid for the USMLE Step 1.

This is an awesome overall review of the first two years of medical school, except OMM again. Needless to say, it is just a review. Please don’t try to memorize it, use it as a review resource.

After you do a practice question, then you read through the entire question explanation, then you should go to the page in First Aid with that topic and read that specific topic as well as all the topics closely related to it. This will reinforce the topic and put it deep into your brain where you won’t ever forget it.

Don’t just try to memorize First Aid. USMLE (and to a lesser extent COMLEX)  are really focused on working you through problems, not just having you recall information. Check out First Aid here.

The last resource we will discuss is CPM OMM.

This is a comprehensive high yield OMM review resource.

This course will cover all you need to know in a test relevant format for OMM, and you can consume it in a few days.

What I did during my dedicated board rpep was review OMM a little bit each week. Maybe every Thursday or whatever day works best for you, take a few hours and cover the OMM content. This way you have the time to actually learn the material instead of just cramming it.

OMM is one of those topics that if you take the time to learn some of the stupid topics (cranial), then you can score higher on the exam because most people won’t take the time to learn those topics and it is graded based off of the mean, not off of a raw score. If you score higher then most (by getting more questions right), then that will put you above the mean and push you into higher territory.

Moral of the story with OMM is that if you study it good then you have the chance to have your score pushed incredibly high compared to other students who don’t study it.

CPM OMM is focused on test relevant content and getting you more points.

My schedule during Level 1 dedicated board prep.

This is the schedule I followed on an almost daily basis through dedicated board prep time. Some people have called this schedule crazy, but to be frank with you I had a poor experience with prior standardized tests (50th percentile MCAT) and I did not want to repeat that process, so I went at it pretty hard and ended up in the 97th percentile on Level 1 so I say it was well worth the ‘crazy’.

Here is the schedule:

  • 0400-0700: Pathoma or Boards and Beyond
  • 0700-0800: Breakfast
  • 0800-1100: Practice questions (similar time to the real exam)
  • 1100-1200: Lunch
  • 1200-1500: Practice questions (similar time to the real exam)
  • 1500-1600: Break (get out of the house for a walk or exercise)
  • 1600-1800: Pathoma or Boards and Beyond
  • 1800-1900: Dinner
  • 1900-2100: Sketchy Medical

I was able to keep this schedule all throughout my dedicated board time. This was a similar schedule that I used throughout the first few years of medical school too while I was prepping for classes (time wise).

This was a difficult schedule to keep, but hard things are never easy.

The breaks in time for meals and other breaks throughout the day were so crucial for maintaining my sanity during this intense study schedule.

Please take breaks throughout your day.

That does it for the details of how I was able to get a 704 on the COMLEX Level 1. If you have any specific questions about what resources I liked best or anything at all, feel free to comment it below.

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