Study Aids for USMLE Step I and Step II

Hi folks,
Some of this material is posted on another post under USMLE Step I and Step II under the Basic Science section but I will repeat it here too. You need to start with the CD-ROM that USMLE gives you once you send your application money. The questions on this CD-ROM are most like the actual exam.

For Step I:

First Aid for the Boards for Step I: This book is better than its counterpart for Step II. These authors lay the ground work for Step I preparation. I read through this book at least five times before Step I. Easy fast reading here.

Board Simulator Series - to be used during first and second year along with your class work.

Step Up for the Bedside - this is a brand new book that you can use on the wards for answering those pimp questions.

Robbins Pathology Sixth Edition - all of the photos on Step I come from this book. Get a copy of the CD ROM if you can. It is painless learning and has great cases.

Medical Student Pocket Handbook - this was a simple and quick read for waiting in line or on the subway. This little book covers the entire medical curriculum. The writing is very tiny.

Q-Bank for USMLE Step I - this is available on the Kaplan website <> This is the best prep available for Step I without question.


Prescription for the Boards - great sections and easy reading. This book covers every topic that you need to know but you have to be able to put things together. Good review.

NMS Review for Step II - If you really know all of the material in this book, you are in good shape.

Q-Bank for USMLE Step II - This is available on the Kaplan website <> It is not as good as it's counterpart for Step I but worth the money for one month's worth of questions.

Medicine Secrets - This book was a good cover book for the zebras. Medicine is the most represented subject on Step II so you really need to be tight with it.

Physical Diagnosis Secrets - Not a necessity but recommended.
Crush the Boards for Step II - This book has really improved since it was first published.

Good luck on these exams! I can tell you from experience that my USMLE Step I score opened more doors than anything else on my application. That being said, solid, systematic preparation for USMLE pays back in spades. These are one shot tests (unless you fail) that need not be feared but need good preparation and review.

(Edited by njbmd at 9:51 am on Feb. 1, 2002)

(Edited by njbmd at 4:45 pm on Feb. 12, 2002)

Hi folks,
I know that there are some people who are ending their second year of medical school and heading into the homestretch of studying for USMLE Step I. I wanted to put a few reminders out for getting into the mindset for this exam.
First: Set a study schedule and stick with it. Even if you are planning to take a review course like the Kaplan course, get a copy of the latest First Aid for the Boards and start reading it as soon as you are done with second year. Believe me, every topic tested on USMLE Step I is covered in First Aid for USMLE Step I.
Second: You STUDY for your classes but you REVIEW for USMLE. Please don’t think that you have to memorize everything. You will be very pleasantly surprised at how much information is already in your brain and ready for application on the test.
Third: Do plenty of practice questions. Read every word of each question and read every answer completely. This is where Q-Bank became invaluable for me. I could practice and practice.
Fourth: Put in extra study time on your weaker subjects but remember the subjects in order of decreasing importance are: Pathology, Physiology, Pharmacology, Microbiology/Immunology, Behavioral Science/ Epidemiology, Biochemistry/Molecular Biology, and Neuro/Gross Anatomy. Your bread and butter is Path, Physio, and Pharm or the “Three Ps”.
Fifth: Study hard but give yourself a little reward for getting the job of first and second year done. After you finish that last day of exams for second year, take a day or two and relax. Do something fun and then get to the task at hand.
I can’t emphasize more, how important USMLE Step I is for residency. Yes, some specialties are more competitive than others but you want to be able to determine your own fate. This is where solid, systematic preparation for this exam will pay off. I know that if you have diligently studied and passed all of your pre-clinical classes, you are going to be able to hit USMLE Step I and keep on moving.
For focus problems, I did things like vary my study locations. I even camped out at my favorite Starbucks or at the end of the runway for Reagan National Airport. Somehow being out in the public helped me to focus and kept reminding me of how much I loved medicine. I didn’t stay around school because of the tension level. Do whatever makes it work for you.
Finally, preparation for your Pre-Board exams during third year is very similiar to the method that you will be using for USMLE Step I. Step II prep is similiar too.
I have posted elsewhere in this forum, resources that I found useful but there may be even more out there. Good luck everyone because third year is going to be so much fun. :D

I wanted to add my own bits of wisdom for Board Prep:
Step 1
#1: Kaplan Q-bank! By a significant margin, this was the most accurate representation of what I encountered on the USMLE Step 1. By subscribing to this AND USING IT RELGIOUSLY, you will receive multiple benefits: 1 - directing your studying by identifying your weaknesses, 2 - appears to mimic the actual topic weighting of the real thing, 3 - the computer format will be 'old hat' by the time you sit the real thing & 4 - able to more accurately simulate real testing conditions…some folks get rattled by changes in environment &/or circumstnaces – a real plus here.
#2: First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 - KNOW this book! You should have read it, cover to cover, at least 5 times PRIOR to taking the USMLE. It is a succinct, down & dirty presentation of a wealth of info. No, it is not highly detailed – but overloading your noggin with details or minutiae is not how your score well on the USMLE…you do so by understanding conceptually what was taught in years 1 & 2. The USMLE expects you to apply this information and not simply regurgitate it.
#3: Step Up to the Boards: USMLE Step 1 - not as useful as First Aid, but presents the information in a much more clinical perspective. Since the USMLE is in the process of altering its testing focus to a progressively more clinical mindset, I would expect the value of this type of format to increase in the future. However, the USMLE is not there yet, limiting the utility of this book. However, it is an EXCELLENT book, esp for preparing for the COMLEX Step 1. The information is again in a succinct, down & dirty format organized by organ system and disease etiology.
#4: Buzzwords for the Boards: Step 1 - Since they are typically lower yield topics, I chose to review Micro & BioChem in this books format, which is literally one-liner statements organized under broad topics: most coomon this, least common that, rate limiting this…
As far as strategy, Nat describes it perfectly above. Derive a reasonable schedule and STICK TO IT! The key to success is systematic review…like the MCAT, you are not (or should not be) learning/studying this material. That was done during the courses themselves. You are simply refreshing information you have already covered, but may have forgotten. Yes, everyone swears that med school moves so fast that they are retaining ZERO. However, as you review this material, you will be very glad to see that the preponderance of it is at least familiar.
Another tactic I employed, and felt was highly beneficial, was quizzing one another. I had a study partner…one that was very very low maintenence!!! We actually did not study together, per se…we simply studied in the same room and fielded questions or talked through problems when we encountered them. But, 2x per week early on, and more frequently closer to the testing date, we would allot 2 hours to simply quiz one another, 1 hour each. We'd randomly pick up any of the three books we were using, randomly open to a page and make up questions…over time, you'll get much better at using key words & phrases to zero in on answers. It is especially helpful to know these when playing the POE game .