Reviews

In this section I will do my best to review the books and other study materials I used during my step 1 studying.

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FIRST AID:

The first four books in this review page were my Core books. They were the most crucial and the ones I turned to most often. First Aid was especially essential. I don’t think I have much to add that hasn’t already been said. One thing that I’d like to add or at least emphasize is that ideally you should be looking through First Aid throughout your first two years of med school. If you haven’t done that then start reviewing this asap. First Aid has gotten better and better over the years thanks to student corrections and editor reviews and contains many mnemonics for confusing subjects. In many ways it has helped me to create a mental “bare bones” structure for the material I was reviewing (and oftentimes learning) during my step 1 studying. In fact, I created my entire study schedule and study plan using the same outline First Aid uses. I explain more about this in my “Method” page.

NETTER’S ANATOMY:

Second in line but not any less important is Frank Netter’s Atlas of Human Anatomy. So far, no amount of fancy animation and endless YouTube video surfing has compared with Netter’s simple use of paint and canvas to portray our body’s inner workings. I remember my mother telling me before I started med school to buy a copy of Netter’s and keep it throughout med school (she’s a physician). I can now testify to the validity of that advice and pass it on to you. Buy Netter’s, there’s a reason Grey’s isn’t used much anymore.

GOLJAN RAPID REVIEW PATHOLOGY:

My one mistake with Goljan was not having found his work earlier. I only found out about Goljan halfway through my second year. Since then I have listened to his lectures many times over and read and reread this book. The first thing that jumps out at me about this book is its use of epidemiology in the descriptions of different pathologies. Its very important to know that the disease you are about to learn is either the most common form of (fill in the blank) or a relatively rare form of (fill the blank). One of the more well known examples is the most common forms of cancer in regards to incidence for males and females: 1. Prostate (males) Breast (females) 2. Lung 3. Colon. The stats on theses might have changed by the time you are reading this so please double check and let me know if this has changed.

In medicine, its important to know what you are more likely to see, what is most likely to occur, and what is most common in any given situation. This also applies to taking the Step exams. Often, you will be given several right answers and you are left to choose solely on which disease occurs more often, hence making it more likely. Another great thing about this book is the high yield points on the side margins of the main texts. This made reviewing the book quick and very high-yield. Unlike major texts such as Robbins’ Pathology, this entire book is just a series of high-yield points. To be fair, some friends of mine have complained about the layout of the book. Its in an outline format and sometimes the tables and images don’t immediately correspond to the adjacent text. This is mainly because of space constraints, but can make for some excessive page turning. Despite this, I consider the book invaluable.

KAPLAN MEDICAL REVIEW BOOKS:

Throughout your studying its helpful to know what your “core” study reference is and which sources are auxiliary. The kaplan review books were my “core”. Save a few of the books, I used Kaplan to hit the main points and to get up to speed so to speak with the material. I would use websites, emedicine, the online merck manual, and Usmle World to fill in the remaining gaps.

The most valuable of the Kaplan books for me were: Biochemistry, Anatomy, and Pharmacology. The remaining books I went through but they were not as good in my opinion as the first three I mentioned. I supplemented my Embryology with HY Embryo (see below). My Micro and Immuno Review was mainly from Rapid Review Microbiology and Immunology. Kaplan did, however, have some great diagrams in their Micro and Immuno book so its worth a once over at least. I strongly suggest you go through the “Rules” towards to end of the Behavioral Sciences book for  Legal and Ethical situations. Knowing those rules or principles helped me on so many Ethics questions. For example, one rule was to never refer your patient to someone else. Even though this is something you might do in real life, on a test they expect you to know what to do in every situation. I can’t tell you how many times I saw “refer your patient to a counselor/specialist” as an answer choice. Never pick that.

One thing I loved about Kaplan were the end of the chapter questions. I feel this is a very effective study method. Reviewing the material you just studied before moving on is a very effective way to retain information and to prove to yourself that you actually know the material you just read. How many times do we just passively read text and convince ourselves that we “know” it?  Unfortunately its only during test time that we realize how wrong we were. On good days, I mentally highlight the key points of a page before going to the next. I then review the entire chapter before moving on usually only for a minute. Go to my method section for some good advice on how to study effectively. I also offer links to other sites and books you might find helpful.

CLINICAL MICROBIOLOGY MRS:

To be honest I barely went through this book, but I put it up here because many friends have told me how helpful it was. I tend to make my own mnemonics because I know what my brain’s associations are and I feel that something I come up with will sick more than something that is given to me. I know several people who just don’t need that many mnemonics and somehow just remember things right off the bat. For those of us less gifted this book might prove valuable. I’ll leave it for you to decide.

RAPID REVIEW MICROBIOLOGY AND IMMUNOLOGY:

This may sound strange but sometimes the pages of a book just make me feel good. I was looking at reviews of different microbio books and even went through several of them at a medical bookstore nearby when I came across this one. There’s something about the two-color scheme, the great use of diagrams, and, strangely, the spacing of the words that made me enjoy reading this book. It was easy on the eyes. For those of you who know what I’m talking about, this book is one of those. For those of you who think I just might have lost it completely maybe this book won’t seem particularly special. Aside from all that, its a great high-yield book with charts that I’ve returned to more times than I can remember such as the virus family chart. I have more notes on that page than any other in the book. Its in outline format similar in style to Goljan’s Rapid Review Pathology but something about the layout makes it feel less dense than Goljan’s RR.

ROBBINS AND COTRAN REVIEW OF PATHOLOGY:

This book is a book of questions. Answers and explanations are at the end of the chapter of questions. I got this book because I heard good things about it on forums. I began to use it and after having done cardio, pulmonology, and hematology I started to feel that I was wasting my time. Several of the questions were testing me on very rare disease that I had never heard about and havent come across since in Goljan, UWorld, or Kaplan. I also felt that to do it justice I would have to devote more time than I could. In the end I left it to gather dust on my shelf. I’m not saying its a bad book, only that I don’t consider it an efficient use of time. If I could go back in time I would have devoted more time on the UWorld Qbank. Mind you, I know others that love this book and would swear by Robbins and Cotran. If you’re on the fence, go to a store and give it a look over then decide.

HIGH YIELD BIOSTATISTICS:

This book was great. Pros: Glaser took me step by step and broke it down nicely, he uses colorful examples to explain difficult concepts (I loved the bathtub analogy for incidence and prevalence), and he makes sure you understand the material with end-of-the-chapter questions. I’m a big fan of this method. Cons: I honestly feel that if this is your first time with biostatistics, you might be a little lost. The explanations are simple enough but unless you understand some fundamentals, which Glaser assumes you do, you might come out of it feeling like you just wasted $25. I was that person. What helped the most was watching the Kaplan videos on Biostats (a couple of hours worth). After those, which laid the Biostat foundation so to speak, I read Glaser again and lo and behold I was able to build the remainder of the Biostat edifice. The most confusing things started to make sense. One of my biggest problems was with Odds Ratio and Relative Risk. I just didn’t understand the difference. I mean REALLY understand. I knew OR was AD/BC, but I had no clue why or what the significance was. Things have changed for the better. I posted an explanation of the two on the home page.

I also strongly, strongly suggest you go through Usmle World’s Biostatistics Subject Review. After the Kaplan videos, Glaser’s book, and the UW subject review I was ready to take any biostat question. That for me was a considerable achievement given that I considered it the bane of my existence and one of the most daunting of the USMLE subjects when I began.

HIGH YIELD BEHAVIORAL SCIENCE:

This was my go-to for behavioral science. It’s not particularly special but it does hit the main points. The downside? It’s a bit sparse. However, its a quick read and you might be able to finish it in half a day. I’d imagine you could just as easily not read this and solely rely on Kaplan. If you’re pressed for time that might actually be the better option. Because I had a little more time, I coupled this with Kaplan’s Behavioral Notes, which helped me fill any gaps. As I mentioned earlier, be sure to review Kaplan’s “Rules” towards the end of their Behavioral Sciences book.

HIGH YIELD NEUROANATOMY:

I had heard amazing things about this book on forums as well. I feel its overrated. Granted, there are some great “big-picture” diagrams, especially for the tracts as well as some nice angiograms and MRI towards the beginning of the book. All in all, however, I didn’t find anything in here that I hadn’t already read in Kaplan’s notes on Neuroscience at the end of the Anatomy book. Goljan also covered Neuropathology well. If I could go back and do it over, I’d have just spend more time focusing on Goljan and Kaplan and the UW questions and dropped the book altogether.

HIGH YIELD EMBRYOLOGY:

This book was a very good in depth look at Embryology. Honestly, though, I wasn’t able to read it fully and mostly relied on the brief Kaplan overview in its Anatomy book as well as the Indiana university videos which were amazing and really helped me visualize the shifts happening from week to week. I found this book great to use when I needed some in depth info about one particular topic for example, the role of neural crest cell migration and its effects on the newborn.

USMLEWORLD:

Hands down this was my rock for Step 1 studying. Granted, I wouldn’t have been able to do many of the questions without the Kaplan books and the other books above but UW’s level of difficulty and challenge prepared me the most for the actual exam. Also, the program is set up to mimic the FRED software that the actual exam uses on test day. Consider this a strong recommendation.

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