The USMLE Step 1 is no joke, so you’ll want to go in having studied from the best resources. No one resource contains everything you need to know (yes, this includes First Aid); consequently, I recommend having a wealth of resources and drawing from the best of them for each subject you need to review for the boards.
- Crush Step 1: This one’s the grandaddy. The top drawer. The Rolls-Royce. I relied on this book more than any other resource (save for UWorld). Although the chapters vary in quality, most of them give great, concise explanations of what you need to know for each topic. The only chapters to skip are biochem. The general pharm chapter is top-notch (I wish I had it when I took the course). Use it towards the beginning/middle of each organ block.
- Clinical Microbiology Made Ridiculously Simple: I covered this book in “How to Crush Microbiology.” It’s worth another mention, however. I read through the whole thing around the middle of my micro review for step 1 and found it a worthwhile way to review this high-yield topic. The silly, visual mnemonics (or should I say “mnemococci”) came in handy and earned me a few points on the exam. They complemented Sketchy Micro quite nicely as well. This book was a good way to get another “pass” through the material.
- USMLE Behavioral Science Made Ridiculously Simple: You can read this (while taking notes and highlighting) in 2 or 3 hours and it will fill in all of the “extra” concepts you need and can’t find elsewhere. It also will help you review a lot of high-yield facts for psychiatry. This was a pretty interesting “tasty treat” to read as far as Step 1 prep books are concerned.
- Clinical Neuroanatomy Made Ridiculously Simple: Starting to notice a theme here? A lot of the MRS series books are quite good. That said, they all have different authors and vary greatly in quality, with Clinical Microbiology MRS leading the pack. Clinical Neuroanatomy MRS, however, takes a different tack. Unlike Clinical Micro MRS, Clinical Neuroanatomy is tiny (barely over 50 pages, and small enough to fit in your white coat). It’s an excellent review book. Most notably, it contains one page with five key sections through the brainstem. Each section is drawn as a cutesy mnemonic (e.g., a gingerbread man) that lets you pin the key features down. Your struggles memorizing cranial nerve nuclei have come to an end. I found the beginning of the book much higher-yield than the end, which gets a bit off-the-rails describing each pathway. Read through it and copy down the key diagrams towards the beginning of your neuro review.
- Clinical Pathophysiology Made Ridiculously Simple: This is the second-best book in the MRS series. It’s relatively short (187 pages), and it contains short chapters on each organ block that will get you oriented as you begin reviewing each one. It does a great job of walking the fine line between oversimplifying the material and dragging on too long. It was—along with Pathoma, Crush Step 1 and First Aid—one of the few books I had spiral-bound to make it easier to read and to write in it.
- Clot or Bleed: A Painless Guide for People Who Hate Coag: This is a short eBook by pathologist and master educator Kristine Krafts, MD. It only takes a few hours to read, and it breaks down coagulation into a simple, memorable framework that will help you speed through boards questions. It’s worth every penny. Her other resources (e.g., the free Path Bites email list) are worth checking out as well, but I particularly liked Clot or Bleed.
- First Aid Cases for the USMLE Step 1: Obviously everyone gets First Aid. Surprisingly few of my classmates, however, realized that there’s more to the series than First Aid alone. Though I didn’t find First Aid for the Basic Sciences: General Principles or [same]: Organ Systems to be that helpful, Cases is a real gem. It’s short, and features dozens of one-page cases in Q&A format that go through the common presentations you need to know, sorted into chapters by organ block. The interactive, case-based format is more engaging than reading, and I found doing cases in it to be a good way to “take a break” from hardcore studying while still learning. It’s best used towards the end of reviewing each organ block so you will get the most out of each case (and have a reasonable success rate in answering the questions).
These seven books may raise a few eyebrows since they’re not as well-known. I found them extremely helpful, however, and I trust you will too. I’m surprised that the word about them hasn’t gotten around yet. Fortunately, you’re in a select crowd that knows what’s up.
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