USMLE Step 1

USMLE Step 1 Resources


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Take a Look at some of our favorite USMLE Step 1 Resources.

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71fsCQ6Y7bL._SL1422_First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 – 5/5

The go-to tried and tested book for Step 1 Studying. Before you begin with any edition of this book make sure to check the Errata found here. Often students are not sure which edition to purchase, it is recommended that you always get the latest edition possible, but it is possible to get by with an edition that is 1 or 2 years old. I suggest buying one copy of this book when you enter medical school and then buying the latest and more importantly a blank copy that you can annotate with new facts more relevant to the Step 1 exam and your current short comings. This is by and far away the best book for the Step 1, and you can’t study comprehensively for the exam without at least going through this book twice. I’d also recommend taking apart the binding of the book and getting it put into a binder. That way you can add more pages for annotations as needed and easily flip to topics. I don’t think any Step 1 study plan is complete without First Aid.

frontcover1Pathoma – 5/5

How useful is Pathoma? Many people are attributing it’s popularity to rising USMLE Step 1 Average. Dr. Sattar has a pathology book as well as an online course. Pathology makes up a lion share of the Step 1, and understanding the fundamental concepts assures you a great score. After First Aid, I’d rate this as next most important resource. In the past I may have erred on the saying this was a nice supplement, but it really is an essential book.


Fire Cracker – 4.5/5

I’m a huge fan of the Firecracker system and their spaced memorization system. It’s a great way to ensure you keep those little details fresh, and ensures you see every topic at least a few times before the exam. I’m not the biggest fan of their actual question set up, as there are much better question banks out there, but their flash card learning system is top notch. The only warning I have is that if you haven’t begun this at least 2+ months before your test, it likely will be too late to incorporate it into your study ritual.

Memorang  – 4.5/5

Another flashcard system, that’s actually really impressive.   Unlike Anki where you have to create and share decks, Memorang has many decks that already exist. Developed by MIT students, it’s a great resource to help you memorize FA 2014. Some topics are lacking sufficient information, but it’s quickly being improved and it’s definitely a resource to keep an eye on. At the rate they are improving and mirroring the information within First Aid, it’d be hard for me to imagine this not becoming incredibly popular in coming years. I’d recommend checking it out.

picmonicPicmonic – 4/5

A virtual newcomer on the scene, Picmonic is certainly unique. Pictures meet mnemonics, it brings an incredibly interesting and unique take to the Step 1 studying scene. Step 1 studying is grueling and not often enjoyable, so having a bit of imagination and humor picmonic is an incredibly useful resource. It obviously suits certain learners better than others, but if time permits it’s definitely worth taking a look at.



Rapid Review Pathology – 4/5

Written by the famous Dr. Goljan it covers pathology comprehensively for the Step 1. It has full page color images, and is very useful as a USMLE Step 1 Resource. However it may not be the best primary method to learn Pathology, rather it fills in the gaps in exquisite detail and makes a great deal of connections. It’s useful if you are studying Pathology or have any gaps in your knowledge regarding a topic. Often most students have an organ system or another that they struggle to understand, this book will help address those concerns but it also provides the detail to get the very specific questions that often separate a average score form an excellent one. Previously the go to resource for Pathology, Pathoma has been able to surpass it in the eyes of many students. Before you begin make sure to check out their errata (.docx file) (Edition 3)



BRS Physiology – 4/5

Likely the best resource for physiology. Pathology and Physiology will make up the majority of your exam, much like Goljan’s Rapid Review Pathology can fill in any gaps you have in pathology BRS Physiology will do the same for Physiology. Often it’s difficult to make clinical connections, or understand specific physiology, this is the book that will help address your weaknesses. While First Aid is your go to book, any misunderstandings or details you missed throughout your education may not be filled in via First Aid, I highly suggest annotating new information and topics you don’t understand fully from this book into First Aid.



Kaplan Medical USMLE Step 1 Qbook – 3/5

Likely the best question book available. It’s recommended you practice questions in a similar format as to the actual exam (electronic), but that isn’t always possible and some students study better without a computer nearby, which is where this book excels. I would not recommend writing the exam without completing at least one question bank, but this book is a great supplement to any question bank and it’s explanations and questions are very well written. A good supplementary resource but by no means essential.


USMLE Step 1 Secrets – 3.5/5

I think Secrets has fallen off in popularity over the last few years, but it remains a good rapid review resource. It’s a to the point source of information, where you can cram high yield facts in a short amount of time. A good resource to use for the last few days to review facts when you don’t have time to look over a whole section again.

Doctors in Training – 4/5

Doctors in training offers a fantastic online class and book that goes along with First Aid. It essentially re-teaches you everything in First Aid, adding in useful tidbits and high yield facts. It also does a great job of testing concepts daily to keep you on top of everything. It’s by no means necessary but if you feel as if your basic science education was lacking it’s a great resource to level the playing field. I’d highly recommend it for many IMGs who are unsure if their school prepared them adequately for the USMLE, it may be overkill for some US medical students though, especially those who have a time crunch. As with any standardized test if time is limited, questions are the highest yield resource.

In person courses – 1.5/5

I honestly can’t advocate spending 1000s of dollars and staying in a hotel in another city to take a prep course. I believe every student comes into step 1 studying with their own weaknesses and strengths. While you may be great at microbiology and weak at anatomy another person may be the exact opposite. Taking one cookie cutter course doesn’t allow you to cater to your specific weaknesses. In addition the courses are often so in depth you can’t review a topic more than once, and it cuts into the amount of questions you can do. I honestly believe any in person course simply preys on the fear of Step 1 Takers to think they need to do everything possible. The only benefit is a group of students to study with, but it isn’t worth all the negatives in my opinion.

Question Banks

USMLE World 5/5

The most popular and most widely used question bank for the USMLE Step 1 for good reason. Excellent question bank, software stimulates the actual exam User Interface better than any other question bank and has 1000’s 0f representative questions. The most useful part of the question bank is not in fact the questions but the explanations, you will learn more reading the explanations thoroughly than from any question. It will allow you to brush up on several concepts at once vs testing only one at a time. Many top students complete the bank 1-2 times, focusing on questions that were marked or incorrect the second time around. Also consider annotating it into First Aid. I’d recommend completing this bank at least 1.5 times before considering another bank.

Kaplan – 3.5/5

In the past Kaplan and Uworld were about equal in terms of usefulness. Uworld has been able to pull away as the clear favorite. Enough so that I’d actually suggest doing it more than once before looking at other banks. Kaplan also does a great job of getting the UI down to replicate the real test. It also covers all the topics in sufficient detail, some of the problem may actually be that it is too detailed and too pedantic. It strives to cover often incredibly small details and in my mind pays less attention to some of the higher yield topics as a result. I’d say it’s a great secondary bank, but no longer an essential resource.

Other Banks – 3/5

USMLERx and Consult and many other banks all exist. Some are better than others, but I don’t believe any really hold a flame to Uworld. Unless you have a great deal of time, I’d recommend going through Uworld inside out before even looking at any of these.

NBME – 4.5/5

Exams straight from the source. Several exams of “expired or sample” are available and you can find discussions online about them on various forums. While many students argue over which is the best predictor, and which ones are harder/easier they often are the best predictor of how you will score on the actual test. It is recommended each student complete at least one if not more of these exams as their question style most closely mimics the actual test. Unfortunately the NBME does not provide any explanations so it is not a great learning tool but rather accurately assess how far you have progressed. If a certain concept troubles you there are many internet forums available where students actively discuss difficult topics.


Bonus: Score Predictor

Clinical Review has provided their Score Predictor to use online for free. It is easier to use than any of those divide by 5 add 90 multiply by pi type formulas and easier to plug in multiple variables. Many students claim it was fairly accurate but that their NBME predicted score was the best predictor. This provides a quick and easy way to assess your progress. Like anything it’s best to be honest with how you are scoring, and work towards your goals than to be surprised when you receive your actual score. Good Luck!