Pass Program USMLE Review 2023 : Should You Go For it?

Starting as a small, in-person prep class, PASS Program has been around for more than two decades and has helped thousands of test-takers in nailing the Step 1 and Step 2 exams. Now, they offer a wide array of live and on-demand classes to students preparing for the USMLE exam. The question now is, do these classes really live up to their reputation?

In this article, we’ll discuss in detail about PASS Program USMLE prep classes. Read on to learn about the many programs available, what they offer, as well as their pluses and minuses!

Quick Summary

Pass Program USMLE Pros/Cons
Known for its Live Classes

Pass Program USMLE Pros/Cons

  • The program is beneficial, particularly for those who have struggled with traditional medical school teaching methods. It provides a structured approach and teaches new ways to think about basic concepts in questions, resulting in improved scores. The program provides a fresh perspective on the medical school curriculum and offers tricks for memorizing specific information.
  • The instructor aims to teach patterns in question structures that cover 90% of questions, enabling students to answer correctly even if they know little about the topic. This method is effective, but students should expect to still get some questions wrong. Students are advised to focus more on Dr. Francis' strategies than the information.
  • The program does not offer any full-length exams or regular practice tests, making it potentially less suitable for those struggling with test anxiety or test-taking skills.
  • Attending live lectures is recommended for up-to-date information on the most commonly tested topics and in-class drills.
  • The live course is conducted online via Zoom, with physical textbooks mailed to the students as well as PDF versions provided. The schedules are relatively fixed, including morning questions, lectures, and breaks, although the timings may not always be exact.
  • Beneficial for students returning to school after a break or needing help in synthesizing and applying information.
  • Provides mnemonic tricks and a new perspective on medical school content.
  • Focus on pre-recorded lectures, reading the textbook, and using the provided Anki deck for memorization.
  • The concept repetition and afternoon drills (live flashcards) are helpful.
  • The atmosphere is relaxed with no pressure of getting questions wrong.
  • The course provides online resources, including Step 2 books and PowerPoint presentations.
  • The teaching method includes the use of PowerPoint presentations, which don’t follow the book’s exact order. It’s recommended to follow along with the book while listening to the lecture. The instructor provides “clues” throughout the course, essentially flashcards that can be transferred to Quizlet or Anki, for memorization.
  • Tutors conduct 10-minute sessions to ensure students are on track with their study progress.
  • The course is effective, particularly for students who struggle with traditional medical school teaching methods.
  • The teaching methodology focuses on pattern identification in questions, which benefits in answering even unfamiliar topics.
  • The program prioritizes larger themes over low-yield information, unlike Kaplan.
  • The tutors know how to motivate the students
  • The lessons are paced in a great way without being too short or long
  • The review classes are recorded so you can watch them again later
  • The live online course includes question blocks and lectures, helping to understand and memorize content.
  • Includes textbooks, PDF versions, and "clues" (similar to flashcards) as part of the course material.
  • The prep book is well-written and detailed.
  • Most students find the in person program to be good value for money as it includes well-maintained housing, transportation, and occasional meals.
  • The program’s structure includes long days, typically from 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., which could lead to sleep deprivation and reduced study time.
  • Lack of mobile app and money-back guarantee
  • The question-solving classes are not available for re-watching.
  • Sometimes in live classes the professor spends excessive time teaching basics to uninformed participants, which felt unproductive.
  • Unnecessary time is spent on lengthy testimonies and tangents during class.


Pass Program USMLE Unique Teaching Method

If you come to this page, it’s likely that you have seen the many other alternatives that are as renowned as the PASS Program on the market. Even so, this prep course provider is able to set itself apart from its competitors thanks to the use of a non-traditional teaching style.

If you go to a US medical school, it is highly likely that you are accustomed to using mnemonics to study subjects separately. Interestingly, this is not the case with the PASS Program USMLE Prep Course. In his classes, Dr.Francis will teach you concepts to help you solve medical issues instead of just relying on memorization. 

Dr.Francis’s approach fundamentally transforms your understanding of basic concepts in question patterns. Rather the teaching subject by subject, he focuses on teaching you all subjects in an integrated manner. You’ll find yourself correctly answering questions about topics you’re unfamiliar with by applying his methods. His strategy emphasizes on identifying and learning from patterns in the questions. For instance, if a question revolves around the cause of death, it’s likely related to heart failure, which is the most common cause. This isn’t merely a theoretical proposition; I’ve seen him correctly answer random questions based on this principle. He focuses on teaching not only concepts but also highly effective study techniques.

His mantra is that we’re here for the 90% – the patterns that apply to the vast majority of questions. Will this approach lead to some incorrect answers? Undoubtedly, but rest assured, you will answer enough questions correctly to pass. This method isn’t about perfection; it’s about understanding the predominant patterns and using them to your advantage.

He further explains that using such a concept may help you effectively remember and understand 90% of the subject you studied at medical school. Not that he advises his students to ignore the 10%, but it is a more effective way to help one in passing the Step 1 and Step 2 exams, especially if they’re short on time.

The live online course includes question blocks, lectures, textbooks, and “clues” (flashcards) to help with understanding and memorization. The teaching methodology focuses on identifying patterns in questions, which helps in answering even unfamiliar queries.

Dr. Francis’s Physiology review to be the most valuable aspect of the course.

Dr. Francis teaches the fundamental knowledge you need to excel in this exam and builds on it. However, he openly admits that he does not focus on the details, which can be both beneficial and detrimental. The advantage is that it allows you to reason through many questions, even the unfamiliar ones. The downside is that some questions require a detailed understanding. In an ideal world, it’s best to understand the basics and grasp some details as they can be lifesaving.

You can check their teaching style with sample videos on Youtube.

Pass Program USMLE Course Formats

Before we talk in detail about the in-class experience, let’s first discuss the USMLE courses offered by the PASS Program. To start, there are three available options for both Step 1 and Step 2 prep courses, these are:

  • Live On-Site Classes (Leading Program)
  • Live Online Classes (Most Recommended)
  • Self-Paced On-Demand Classes

You can choose the duration of the classes according to your study needs and timetable, ranging from 5 to 12 weeks. If you choose the 12-week period, you will have more time to master the materials. Even so, it can be a waste of money if you only need a quick refresher.

Besides the options above, you can also go for The Complete Package. This one includes both on-demand and live lectures for Steps 1 and 2, as well as morning questions and quizlet access. However, you will be billed monthly for this service, so you cannot choose a set study period.

Given the numerous options, you are probably wondering now about which program to choose. Essentially, if you want the ultimate PASS Program experience, you can choose the Live On-Site Classes. This program has been around since 1990 and has become a best-seller ever since.

Depending on where you come from, you can either choose the “with Housing” or “without Housing” option when taking the Live On-Site program. If you choose the first option, you will be provided accommodation in the company complex in Champaign, Illinois. The classes are held almost daily, providing you with an intensive learning method. While the program offers you a traditional boot camp experience, the learning materials are current so you don’t have to worry about getting outdated lessons.

For your information, the Live On-Site program is priced differently based on which study period you choose. The 5-week period will cost you $3,000. Meanwhile, the 12-week period will cost you $6,000. Regardless of which period you choose, the cost of housing is not included.

If you cannot attend the on-site program, you can go for the Live Online program. The only thing that makes it different from the on-site program is that you are not obliged to attend the class in person. It is a good thing that the team behind PASS Program has designed this one to be as close as possible to the on-site class. You can even “raise” your hand whenever you need to ask a question by using the button available on the streaming platform.

Whether you choose the Online or On-site programs, you should note that the classes are scheduled at certain hours during the day. That being said, if you cannot set up your daily schedule to attend these classes, it is better if you pick the On-Demand program.

This one is also a suitable program if you have a tight budget. It only charges you around $100 per month to get access to a course book and on-demand video lectures. You will also be given access to the Quizlet section.

Lessons Structure

From the way the PASS Program sets up its lessons and curriculum, we can see that the company is serious about preparing its students for USMLE. As mentioned earlier, you can join the 12-week on-site program, which ensures that you use most of your time to get yourself up and ready before the exam date.

Even if you cannot choose the program above, you can still get impressive learning materials and effective tutoring from other options. If you think you can spend numerous hours following the classes and reading provided books without being easily distracted by the things happening around you, the online program should still provide you with the same learning experience.

You will get teachings from different tutors during the course period, namely Dr.Diana and Dr.Tristan. Nevertheless, the first and last day will be taught by Dr Francis, who will show you a great understanding of all organ systems and a wide range of diseases. Uniquely, unlike what you will experience with other USMLE prep course providers, Dr.Francis will not directly jump into a medical topic in the first session. Instead, because of the unique learning approach he uses, he will spend the first class hour explaining about the PASS Program’s studying technique.

The classes at PASS Program can last for more than an hour. Even so, Dr.Francis understands that the human brain reaches its breaking point after two hours. Therefore, he has makes sure that none of his classes lasts longer than a couple of hours. Don’t worry about the lengthy lessons because it will be hard for you to fall asleep during these classes. The tutors here are very energetic and passionate in delivering the topics. You can also see they have a great knack for explaining advanced subjects.

Additionally, the tutors are quite interactive. They will occasionally call on certain students to make sure they are fully engaged in class. Do not let this discourage you if you are someone who is reserved because the classroom appears to be friendly and collaborative.

Another unique thing about PASS Program USMLE is how it puts an emphasis on test-taking techniques instead of just memorizing the topics. Each class will begin with the tutor showing you how to answer a few random exam questions, ensuring that you know how to effectively and cleverly complete the test. The shortcuts taught here provide an unquestionably fantastic selling point for the program. By the end of the course, you will have useful and savvy strategies at your USMLE disposal that will relieve you of the burden of having to recall every detail of the course content.

But, before you come to the conclusion that the PASS Program is all about test-taking hacks and shortcuts, think again. Similar to what you encountered in medical school, traditional topics and subtopics are still there. Luckily, despite the possibly boring subjects, the instructors’ engaging teaching methods can keep you interested during the lessons.

The tutors will not only write the materials on the whiteboard and read them aloud to the students. Instead, to make the process more exciting and easy to follow, they will provide lecture notes and share their clinical experiences with you. You will also have a similarly compelling and clear experience with the on-demand video lectures. This kind of learning approach might even be more suitable for visual learners since the lessons include on-screen texts, hand-drawn notes, and engaging graphics.

The tutor will appear in the bottom right corner while the rest of the screen is filled with a digital whiteboard. You will get a short quiz at the end of the video. Unfortunately, despite the great explanation technique and interactive communication, the videos are not as professional looking as they should be(compared to Kaplan). Overall, we can see that Dr.Francis and the other tutors do a great job of explaining hard topics and test-taking strategies. We can also see that the lecture notes they provide are detailed so you can just follow the lessons without spending too much time making notes.

You get Private Tutors For Additional Guidance

You will be provided with private tutoring if you subscribe to either the Live On-Site or Online class. Depending on the course you choose, you will have one to three private tutoring sessions each week, in which you can review your progress and ask for additional guidance.

The tutor will also monitor your participation in the classes. You may even feel that the tutors are making an effort to make sure that you are happy with the lessons and classes. This is, without a doubt, a plus point for the PASS Program.

All things considered, these one-on-one tutoring sessions feel like a cross between a teaching and consulting session. Although not all students might feel comfortable opening up during these times, they might be a terrific addition to the live classes.

Pass Program USMLE Question Bank and Practice Tests

When it comes to practice tests and exercises, the USMLE prep course options provided by PASS Programs come with two full-length NBME simulations. You will complete them at both the beginning and end of the course period.

PASS Program uses the first simulation exam as a diagnostic test to figure out your baseline capabilities. It also points out your weak areas, allowing you to know what topics you need to strengthen along the way.

The second simulation exam, on the other hand, is taken near the end of the course period. You can actually take it anytime you want. Usually, a few weeks before the actual exam is the best time to take it since it allows you to make some improvements.

Separate Classes for Question Solving

In addition to the practice exams, it is important to take into account the morning questions. This is a feature specific to the PASS Program USMLE courses that not only help students understand the topics better but also makes it possible for them to quickly understand how to ace the exam questions right away. Dr.Franics conducts separate class in the morning only for question solving (No review of materials is done). If you are in a separate time zone, this might be an issue as these classes are not recorded.

Dr. Francis typically goes through 15 UWORLD questions and asks a student to discuss the questions. This interactive approach is quite valuable. Besides, you can participate in the program virtually or in person. The program is expensive, but the cost can be justified by the preparation and confidence it provides for the exam.

The thing is that these morning questions only come pre-packaged with the Live On-Site and Online classes. Therefore, if you are enrolled in the On-Demand classes and want to have these morning questions, you can buy them as an add-on.

How is Pass Program USMLE Prep Book & Other Written Materials?

Other than great classes and interactive tutors, the PASS Program also provides you with quality printed books. You can see this book as a kind of course note, which will provide you with 600 pages of fact-filled sections. The book is very dense and may be quite heavy for some of us. But, the good thing is that the content inside is separated based on meetings, making it a great tool to help you follow the classes along.

  • Class Notes: Online access to class accompaniments in the form of PDFs. These documents cover all content mentioned by Dr. Francis, minimizing the need for additional note-taking unless desired. Access to various secondary files in addition to the main textbook
  • Pass Program Clues: This PDF contains high-yield questions with brief explanations on the side, making it an ideal resource for last-minute revision before your exam.

But, even if you can learn a lot of things from the 600-page book as well as the aforementioned PDF files, it does not mean you can just skip the classes. Regardless, they serve as supplements for the live and on-demand classes rather than standalone materials.

Pass Program USMLE Online Interface Review

When it comes to the user interface part, PASS Program offers a pretty basic online platform that does not include a lot of bells and whistles. The design is far from being sleek and its overall look can feel outdated for newer generations.

The online platform is perfectly functional though. You can simply access the Quizlets, on-demand videos, and other available sections through the homepage. And, thanks to the lack of flashy features, the load time of the platform is incredibly fast. On top of that, all the features are presented in a basic and simplistic way, making it easy to get the hang of everything while minimizing the chance of technical glitches.

Of course, if a platform’s user interface is an important consideration for you, the PASS Program website can be a bit of an eyesore for you. Yet, it’s essential to keep in mind that the main goal here is to teach you how to conquer the USMLE exams.

The Takeaway

If you possess a decent grasp of the subjects and require structured learning, this program could significantly enhance your scores.From the review above, you can see how Dr Francis’s learning materials and methods of teaching are proven to be working while being engaging and easily understood at the same time. 

While you may see the lack of a money-back guarantee as a drawback, the presence of high-quality learning materials and unique learning approaches should still make the PASS Program a reasonable option. And, it also allows you to retake the class as long as you attend four out of five classes, which is another good thing to consider.

It goes without saying that you must carefully pick the PASS Program USMLE course to take so you don’t end up being in one that is not suitable for your needs and schedule. And, if you need more information about any of PASS Program products and services, you can always contact the customer service team at [email protected]!

Known for its Live Classes
Pass Program USMLE Pros/Cons
7.5/10Our Score
  • The course is effective, particularly for students who struggled with traditional medical school teaching methods.
  • The teaching methodology focuses on pattern identification in questions, which benefits in answering even unfamiliar topics.
  • The tutors know how to motivate the students
  • The lessons are paced in a great way without being too short or long
  • The review classes are recorded so you can watch them again later
  • The live online course includes question blocks and lectures, helping to understand and memorize content.
  • Includes textbooks, PDF versions, and "clues" (similar to flashcards) as part of the course material.
  • The prep book is well-written and detailed.
  • Lack of mobile app and money-back guarantee
  • The question-solving classes are not available for re-watching.
  • Sometimes in live classes the professor spends excessive time teaching basics to uninformed participants, which felt unproductive.
  • The instructor often digresses from the main topic and doesn't manage time efficiently.
  • Unnecessary time is spent on lengthy testimonies and tangents during class.


If you are looking for self paced high quality video lessons with realistic questions for USMLE in budget, check Med School Bootcamp.

FAQs About Pass Program USMLE

How long after the program should you take Step 1?

Depends on your personal readiness and knowledge base. If you’re early in your prep, you might need an additional month to review.

How much time do you have for self-studying/review?

Not much due to the heavy schedule, but weekends can be used for catching up.

Did you supplement with any other resources while in the program?

Yes, Sketchy Micro, Pharm, Pathoma, and First Aid were used as supplementary resources.

Did you take any practice tests during the course?

Yes, three tests were taken – one at the beginning, one in the middle, and one at the end of the 5-week course.

How long can I access the learning materials at PASS Program?

We must say that the PASS Program is pretty generous when it comes to content access period. Regardless of the course you pick, it allows you to access your learning materials for up to six months after the course period ends.

This does not apply to on-demand courses, though. Since it is subscription-based and there is no live class involved throughout the subscription period, the PASS Program does not give you any extended time to access the learning materials.

How many classroom hours do I get from Pass Program USMLE?

During your USMLE course period, you will have approximately 35 class hours each week. This translates to a total of 175 hours for the 5-week period and 420 hours for the 12-week period. Meanwhile, there is no set class hour for the on-demand courses, so you can set up your study schedule according to your needs.

Does PASS Program provide any mobile app for its USMLE courses?

It is very unfortunate that the PASS Program has not been able to provide its students with a fully functioning mobile application. Considering how great the learning materials and test-taking strategies are, an Android or iPhone app would have been a great addition to this platform.

Another terrible thing about the PASS Program USMLE course is that its online platform is not optimized for mobile devices. For this reason, if you are a person who prefers to study while you are in a car or public transportation, you should find a better alternative with a mobile-optimized app or platform.

Does the PASS Program provide a money-back guarantee for its USMLE courses?

This is yet another downside of the PASS Program USMLE course. It does not offer any form of money-back guarantee. So, if you don’t pass your USMLE exam, whether it is a Step 1 or Step 2 test, you don’t have any right to get your money back.

What it offers, however, is a repeat guarantee. It implies that if you fail to pass the USMLE exam, you can retake the course without being charged any additional fee. Nevertheless, you must ensure that you attend 80% of the classes during your first try.

Is the USMLE Pass Program worth a shot?

Regardless of the lack of a mobile application and a money-back guarantee, we must say that the PASS Program USMLE is still worth a shot. The original learning methods and must-try test-taking techniques are its biggest selling points.

While it is true that the live courses come with a relatively high price tag, its on-demand course can be a reasonable alternative for those with a tight budget. It may not allow you to get one-on-one tutoring with the experts, but you can still get access to the most essential learning materials.

Is housing provided for in-person class?

Yes but there are mixed reviews about it. Students mention that the housing provided by the program is expensive and comes with strict rules. Therefore, it might be beneficial to look for alternative housing options.


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