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USMLE ~United States Medical Lisencing Exam

Recommended Texts

This page gives a year-by-year account of our recommended texts that will provide you with the best chance for success in medical school and on the boards. All of these books are available for purchase on the Bookstore page. This is for your convenience only. If you do not purchase these books on our site, purchase them elsewhere. We have handpicked these books because they are the most complete, succinct, high yield sources to maximize your efforts.

1st Year
Appleton and Lange's First Aid for the USMLE Step 1, Amin et al
Atlas of Human Anatomy, Netter
Mandatory textbooks for first year classes are often specified by the course directors at your schools. However, if you are looking to supplement your course study, we recommend taking a look at the following texts which coincide with our USMLE Step 1 study plan (see USMLE page).

High Yield series, Williams and Wilkins Publishing, 3 books- one for gross anatomy, one for neuroanatomy, and one for embryology
Made Ridiculously Simple Series for Anatomy and Neuroanatomy, Goldberg, Medmaster Publishing

Behavioral Science
High Yield Behavioral Science, Faden, Williams and Wilkins Publishing

Lippincott's Illustrated Review of Biochemistry
Clinical Biochemistry Made Ridiculously Simple

Board Review Series Physiology, Costanzo

2nd Year
Appleton and Lange's First Aid for the USMLE Step 1, Amin et al (if not already bought)

Board Review Series Pathology, Schneider

Microbiology and Immunology
Clinical Microbiology Made Ridiculously Simple, Gladwin

Lippincott's Illustrated Review of Pharmacology
Pharmcards, flashcard format

Additional USMLE Step 1 Study Books
Appleton and Lange's First Aid for the USMLE Step 1, Amin et al (if not already bought)
Medical Boards Step 1 made ridiculously simple, Andreas Carl, M.D., Ph.D.
USMLE Step 1 Underground Clinical Vignettes series of seven books: Microbiology, Pathophysiology I, Pathophysiology II, Anatomy, Behavioral Science, Biochemistry, Pharmacology
Anatomy: Review for New National Boards, Johnson
Pharm Cards: A Review for Medical Students, Johannsen

3rd Year
Appleton and Lange's First Aid for the USMLE Step 2, Amin et al
Tarascon Pocket Pharmacopoeia
Normal Values Lab Card

Internal Medicine
Blueprints in Medicine, Young/Kormos/Goroll
Mosby's Practical Guide to The Care of the Medical Patient, Ferri
The Washington Manual of Medical Therapeutics
Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, Fauci et al (reference text only)

Blueprints in Surgery, Karp/Morris/Soybel
Surgical Recall, Blackbourne
Schwartz Principles of Surgery, Shires et al (reference text only)

Blueprints in Pediatrics, Marino/Snead/McMillan
Appleton & Lange's Review of Pediatrics, Lorin
Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, Behrman et al (reference text only)

Introductory Textbook of Psychiatry, Andreason and Black
Blueprints in Psychiatry, Murphy/Cowan/Sederer

Family Practice
Oklahoma Notes: Family Medicine, Hirsch

Blueprints in Obstetrics & Gynecology, Callahan/Caughey/Heffner
Appleton & Lange's Review of Obstetrics & Gynecology, Dumesic et al
Williams Obstetrics, Cunningham et al (reference text only)

Additional USMLE Step 2 Study Books
Appleton and Lange's First Aid for the USMLE Step 2, Amin et al (if not already bought)
Advanced Life Support for the USMLE Step 2, Flynn et al
Medical Boards Step 2 made ridiculously simple
USMLE Step 2 Underground Clinical Vignettes series of eight books: Pediatrics, Internal Medicine I, Internal Medicine II, Surgery, Obstetrics & Gynecology, Psychiatry, Emergency Medicine, Neurology

4th Year Due to the volume and variety of 4th year electives, we will not be providing a list of recommended texts. You are on your own here.


USMLE Step 1

General Tips:

1. Fear of the unknown is perhaps the worst kind of fear. When it comes to the USMLE Step1, one can overcome this fear by taking a few moments to become familiar with the test format and conditions surrounding the exam. The following link outlines the exam in detail: . Just remember, there is a 90-95% pass rate. Odds are in your favor to pass if you study diligently and efficiently.

2. If you are industrious, you can begin your USMLE study during the first year. Supplement your textbooks and transcripts for each course with First Aid (see Recommended texts page). You can also make use of your summer vacation after your first year. Read one board review book per class. At a very minimum, complete each First Aid section for your first year classes.

3. As you are taking your second year courses, try to keep the USMLE in mind. Specifically, try to supplement your course study with a board review book for each class. When it comes time to study after your second year, you will find it easier to study material presented in a format that you have seen before. Please refer to the Recommended texts page for more detail on specific books.

4. Once you have completed your second year, sit down and select the books that you will be using for USMLE study. For our recommendations, see below. Remember, it's not volume that counts. Focus on high yield books that you know you can complete, preferably ones that you have already studied throughout the year. The key to success is knowing what you know.

5. Set a schedule and study everyday. Remember, slow and steady wins the race. Plan daily activities (see a movie, exercise, etc) to reward yourself and break up the monotony.

6. Set realistic goals. You will have approximately one month to study for boards after your second year. You will already be burned out from final exams. Set daily attainable goals that you can reach. By using this approach, you will minimize frustration and feel better about your progress.

7. When forming your schedule, weight the study intervals for each subject according to available days of study and emphasis on the boards. For example, the boards are pathology intensive, so if you allot yourself 1 week to study for pathology and anatomy, you would probably study 5 days for pathology and 2 days for anatomy.

8. Once you have planned out your study schedule, stick to it. If you have set aside 5 days for pathology and you find that you have not completed the material by day 5, move on. Falling behind and trying to play catch up with your schedule will lead to panic and frustration. Remember, the key to success is to know what you know.

The Plan for Step 1

Part 1: Comprehensive

1. First Aid for the USMLE Step 1, Amin et al
This is a "must have." If you only studied one text (we don't recommend that strategy), this would have to be it. It is a comprehensive source of high yield facts written in a format which lends itself to memorization (ie. plenty of mnemonics and associations). A must have source!!

2. Medical Boards Step 1 Made Ridiculously Simple, Carl
While not as highly ranked as First Aid, this is also an excellent text for memorization, with material presented in chart format.

Part 2: Individual Subjects

1. Anatomy
High Yield Series
These books (Gross Anatomy, Embryology, and Neuroanatomy) consistently receive high rankings. We highly recommend the Embryology portion of the series. However, anatomy is not an extremely high yield portion of Step 1. Therefore, we personally found the Neuroanatomy and Anatomy texts of this series to be a bit overkill. Unless you have an inordinate amount of time, consider the Made Ridiculously Simple series for Anatomy and Neuroanatomy.

2. Behavioral Science
High Yield Behavioral Science, Faden
Excellent source of testable material in the field of Behavioral Science.
Underground Clinical Vignettes: Behavioral Science An excellent series in its entirety, we particularly recommend the Behavioral Science portion for use in conjunction with High Yield.

3. Biochemistry- There are two different approaches to studying Biochem, one for the extremely motivated student and one for those pushed for time.
Lippincott's Illustrated Review of Biochemistry
A very thorough, in-depth review of Biochemistry. This is best used during your course, but if studied diligently will prepare you well for the Biochem questions on the Boards.
Clinical Biochemistry Made Ridiculously Simple, Goldberg
A quick review to help you avoid missing obvious Biochemistry questions on the Boards.

4. Microbiology
Clinical Microbiology Made Ridiculously Simple, Gladwin
Your review of Microbiology should, in our opinion, begin and end with this great text.

5. Pathology
Board Review Series for Pathology, Schneider
An excellent review that we recommend covering at least twice before Step 1. Pathology is by far the most intensely covered subject on the Boards.

6. Pharmacology
Lippincott's Illustrated Review of Pharmacology
An excellent and thorough review of Pharmacology for the motivated student.
Flashcard format. Very strong Pharm review and may serve as a break from traditional text if you are getting "bogged down."

7. Physiology
Board Review Series Physiology, Costanzo
Possibly the least tested subject on the Boards. This text provides a strong, short review of Physiology.

Part 3: Questions

1. NMS Review for USMLE Step 1, Lazo
We found this book to be consistently the best reviewed. It consists of 4 sets of 200 questions which, although not directly representing Board format, provide a strong review as well as knowledge assessment.

This completes our study guide for USMLE Step 1. Good luck.

USMLE Step 2

The USMLE Step 2 exam may be the most underestimated of all steps for "the boards." Although the overwhelming majority of U.S. medical students pass the exam, the test is difficult and many actually find that their scores drop dramatically in comparison to Step 1. We at realize that one of the problems with advisory books on the USMLE is that they are vague, general references often written by authors who have not even taken the exam about which they are writing. The plan that we provide here is specific, attainable, and proven to not only help you pass the exam but hopefully to help you do well.
Of course, like any other study plan, we cannot guarantee performance simply because it is up to the individual to perform in the actual test. However, we back this specific study plan because we feel that (combined with a solid third year clerk experience) it offers a solid review of salient, "testable" material. Furthermore, although we recommend longer blocks of preparation, this plan can be and has been done in the two weeks allotted in the adage "1 month for Step 1, 2 weeks for Step 2, and 3 days for Step 3."
Finally, we would again like to reiterate that we have chosen to sell and advertise these particular books and sources because we chose them as our recommendations, not vice-versa.

The Plan for Step 2

Part 1: Comprehensive
We recommend studying these sources first to build a framework before moving to individual subjects.

1. Advanced Life Support for the USMLE Step 2, Flynn, approx 130 pg
Some students have commented that this is the single most important source that they have used for Step 2. It is a brief, easy to read book filled with extremely high yield facts on literally every page. In our opinion, it is a "must have" for Step 2.

2. First Aid for the USMLE Step 2, 2nd Edition, Amin et al
Also considered a "must have." This book has approximately 300 pages of high yield facts which are easily read and retained. It will not only prepare you well to answer questions on the exam, but it will provide a strong, in-depth framework on which to build the rest of your review.

Part 2: Individual Subjects
These are the texts that we recommend for each subject (Remember, you should have already completed these books during your third year clerkships). It is up to you to assess your time and set up a study schedule for Step 2.

1. Internal Medicine: Blueprints in Medicine, Young, 247 pg
An excellent, concise review of Internal Medicine for USMLE purposes. The best example that we have seen of "what a medical student should know" about medicine.

2. OB/GYN: Blueprints in Obstetrics and Gynecology, Callahan, 207 pg
Very good source with appropriate detail of high yield topics, and very little superfluous information.

3. Pediatrics: Appleton & Lange's Review of Pediatrics question book, 222 pg
Although as you can tell by now we are fans of the Blueprints series, we rank this question book higher because we feel that it covers high yield topics very well, and offers the best teaching modules in question and answer format that we have seen in any question book. Blueprints Peds is a solid source if you simply hate question books, but be prepared to spend more time with it than you do the rest of the series.

4. Preventive Medicine
We recommend studying, re-studying, and studying again the tables, charts, and material provided in the Preventive Medicine section of your First Aid for Step 2. It offers excellent high yield material and will save you valuable time. KNOW IT COLD!

5. Psychiatry: Blueprints in Psychiatry, Murphy, 80 pg
Psychiatry is an excellent source of "pickup points" on Step 2. It tends to be heavily tested with straightforward questions because the authors of the exam know that many students ignore Psych in their studies. We highly recommend that you study this short, high yield text. Knowing the Psych questions on the exam not only increases your score, but the ability to recognize an answer quickly on this exam increases your speed and confidence while taking it.

6. Surgery: Blueprints in Surgery, Karp, 113 pg
In our opinion, surgery is probably the least tested subject on the exam. Although some of the questions asked concerning surgery will be so detailed that only a 5th year resident would have a clue, these questions are few and far between. Most of the material on the exam is outlined in this Blueprints text. Pay particular attention to trauma, it was our consensus that it was heavily tested on our respective exams.

7. Statistics:
As with the Preventive Medicine, we feel that you will gain study time and points if you study and re-study the First Aid high yield section on statistics. It is well organized and will help you answer the majority of statistics questions on the exam if you know it well.

Part 3: Questions

1. NBME sample test CD ROM
As with any test, the more sample questions that you do, the better. However, this CD ROM provided in your Step 2 info packet is invaluable because it not only provides an accurate representation of the types of questions you will see on the exam, but it allows you to practice taking the exam on computer before you actually "go to war." We consider this disc a "must do" before the exam.

2. NMS Review for USMLE Step 2, Lippincott
A book of 5 tests which offers a good source of Step 2 style questions as well as strong coverage of high yield topics. Consistently named by students as the best comprehensive question book. We believe that the outlined plan, if followed with effort and consistency, is a streamlined and effective method of attacking Step

Remember, you have already studied for a year before you even begin your review for the exam. Relax and Good Luck.


These are the cases encountered on a recent administration of the CSA:
1. A 20-year-old female who had unprotected intercourse with her boy friend.
2. A 65-year-old male complaining of increased frequency of micturition.
3. A 35-year-old male complaining of increasing fatigue and breathlessness.
4. A 40-year-old male presenting with burning micturition.
5. A 50-year-old male with weight loss and decreased appetite.
6. A 35-year-old female with bleeding per vagina.
7. A 20-year-old female with acute pain in the right iliac fossa.
8. A 60-year-old male with chronic abdominal pain and blood in stools.
9. A 70-year-old female with fatigue and weight gain.
10. A 35-year-old female with low back pain.

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