USMLE SERIES: The Resource Mystery (Part 2/4)

This article will provide you with a brief explanation of the resources. It will comprise of 5 parts

1. The Basic Resources

2. First Aid

3. Question Banks

4. Uworld

5. Anki (optional)

The Basic Resources:-

The basic resources are further subdivided into 2 categories:

i. The Massive Textbooks:

This section includes those huge books everyone is afraid of because of their size. But don’t worry because you don’t have to study these books from cover to cover.


Guyton is a textbook for Physiology, Robbins for Pathology, Goodman & Gilman’s for Pharmacology, and the scary list goes on.

How to deal with these?

These books won’t be your primary source of study. You should refer to them while studying if you don’t understand something or if you want a more thorough understanding of a topic. The Internet can serve as an alternative to this purpose but these books are known for being ‘textbook’, so if there is a conflict between two different opinions, the one written in these textbooks is given the first priority.

ii. The Review Resources:

These resources are going to be your primary partner for this long journey. These consist of the books or videos that are concise, elaborative, short, as well as HIGH YIELD. This topic deserves to be discussed in detail. I will list all these resources with respect to the subject later on, but here are some important points to note,

  • Kaplan consists of video lectures, delivered by various teachers, and lecture notes. These are available on almost every subject included in the Exam. The lectures are somewhat like textbooks. They are very useful, they build good concepts, but they are very Low Yield at the same time. They are quite useful in building the foundation of a subject.
  • Sketchy uses the technique of visual mnemonics in their video lectures. It is extremely useful and purely Gold standard for Microbiology. It’s fun and covers all the high yield information when it comes to micro. However, it can get a bit tough in Pharmacology. The sketches in Pharma are hard to remember because of their minor details, but it is still worth it. Various topics of Pathology are also covered in Sketchy but aren’t recommended much.
  • Boards and Beyond aka BNB consists of lectures that are extremely high yield, concise, and are well explained. The visual representations are much better than those of Kaplan making them a recommended resource altogether.
  • Pathoma is hands down the best resource for Pathology. Written by Hussain A. Sattar, it is pretty much everything you need to know about the pathology for Step 1. This is the most praised book among those who have taken their exam. The first 3 chapters are exclusively high yield. This resource is a must-do altogether.
  • Osmosis consists of the best illustrations as compared to any resource. The animations are really helpful in establishing crystal clear concepts. They also help in memorization. Furthermore, some topics include a sketchy-like visual mnemonic at the end which is very useful especially in Pharmacology.

Pixorize is helpful especially for Biochemistry and Basic Sciences. Their visual mnemonics are really great.

2. First Aid:

First Aid aka The Bible for step 1 is THE MOST IMPORTANT resource along with UWorld. It is a collection of almost every high yield thing you need to know for the Exam. You need to learn every inch of this book by heart, every word, EVERYTHING.

i. How not to study First Aid:

The biggest mistake one can commit during this journey is memorizing First Aid without having a keen understanding of every single word. If you don’t understand the 2-3 paged concept that underlies a single line in First Aid, you won’t even get near 240s.

3. The Question Banks:

The question banks are a great resource to test your understanding. They make you actively recall the concepts as well as the information you studied in the resources. There are multiple question banks out there such as USMLE Rx, Kaplan Qbank, Amboss, etc. I would highly recommend Amboss because it pushes you into thinking beyond the level of UWorld.

4. Uworld:

This is a must-to-do. You need to study it the same way you did First Aid. Every single line of it. If you did an MCQ right. You cannot just move to the next one. You must understand why the single best answer is right, and why others aren’t as well.


In my opinion, UWorld must be studied after you have gone through your whole syllabus at least once i.e. in the last 3-4 months of your journey.


Many students think that UWorld is a learning resource and they study it all along. Actually, they are wasting it.

Fact 1: Uworld is closest to the exam.

Fact 2: The exam is going to consist of unknown questions. Not a single question is going to be EXACTLY like Uworld or any other thing. Sure they’ll be similar, test similar concepts, but they’ll be DIFFERENT. In other words, new, unknown to you.

So how do you prepare for the unknown?

By memorizing Uworld questions that aren’t even gonna show up?

Or by tackling Uworld like you’ll tackle the exam?

Uworld IS similar after all. So, the closer you do unknown, unsolved Uworld questions for the exam, the more prepared you will be for the unknown exam. As for not using it as a learning tool, THIS is the best way to use it as a learning tool.

Still, I will say you should always follow your own path.

5. Anki :

Anki is a program which makes remembering things easy. Because it’s a lot more efficient than traditional study methods, you can either greatly decrease your time spent studying, or greatly increase the amount you learn. It uses the method of spaced repetitions

How not to use Anki?

The worst thing one can do with Anki cards is to memorize the question

So that when the question pops on the screen, immediately answer pops in your mind. This can be good for memorizing things like the names of drugs etc. But this is terrible when it comes to something that has an underlying concept.

If you don’t know the concept, If you don’t know the why of an answer, you better not be using it.

So these are my suggestions pertaining to the resources used in USMLE exam. Obviously it is my opinion in the end and your mileage may vary. With this, I end the part 2 of my USMLE series of articles and I wish you all the best of luck for your exams.

Written by: Mohsin Ali

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