Resources for Level 1/Step 1 Board Exams

August 6, 2017

Now that I've survived my board exams, I wanted to take some time to post about my experience and how I prepared. I've had quite a few people reach out to me asking me questions about board prep, and before I delve into exactly what I did, I want to say a few things.
  • I'm writing about MY experience. Everyone's experience will be different and there is no "best way" to prepare for these exams. I am writing to share another perspective and to share some honest thoughts about what did and did not work for me during my study period. 
  • Everyone will have an opinion about what you "must" do. Take all advice with a grain of salt and be sure to design a plan that works best for YOU. 
  • I will not be sharing my scores for either exam, but I will say that I am very happy with my results. These resources and the study plan I share worked for me to reach my goals, but again, everyone's successful board prep will look different. 
I wanted to start off with a post to explain each of the resources I used before I go on to explain my study schedule. These are not ranked in any particular order. None of the links are affiliated, but I hope that by providing links it will help you find the specific products I'm referring to without any hassle. 


  • I referred to this during my second year courses. I did not take extensive notes in my first aid during my second year, mostly because the coursework was more detailed than what I would need to know for boards. I used this to supplement my learning. 
  • The only time I added notes to First Aid during my second year was when I would watch Pathoma. Notes from pathoma were specific to board exams, so I did take extra notes on Pathoma throughout the year. More on that in my study plan blog post!
  • I cut the binding off my First Aid and had spiral binding added to it so that I could easily take notes in it. This service is commonly offered at FedEx Office locations. 
  • I would recommend getting the book as well as the video lectures for Pathoma. Pathoma reviews the most high yield pathology for each system and all of his explanations are extremely helpful. I did Pathoma throughout my second year and used it throughout my dedicated study period for board exams. 
  • I used both of these throughout my second year of medical school and I cannot imagine medical school without it! 
  • SketchyMicro videos are much shorter than SketchyPharm videos, so I would recommend using SketchyPharm early on in order to really benefit from it. 
  • Using DIT is a huge financial commitment, but I am still very happy that I used this resource. I've received so many questions about DIT that I will plan to write a separate post to address all of the specific questions. 
  • This resource really isn't necessary for success on your boards, but I did use this for Step 1. 
  • Second semester of my second year, I felt like I wanted to start using a Qbank for board prep. I wasn't ready to shell out money for UWORLD and I still didn't feel like I was at a point in my studies to really benefit from UWORLD. USMLE RX was a perfect solution for me! 
  • I paid for 3 months of USMLE RX to have additional questions to use. I used them along with my systems courses and slowly started doing multi system questions. 
  • One thing I really loved about USMLE RX was that each answer explanation had links to the relevant pages in First Aid. 
  • This is the only resource on the list that is an ABSOLUTE MUST. You just can't do board prep without it. 
  • If you attend an osteopathic medical school, you will need to take the COMLEX board exams. This book is incredibly helpful to learn and review osteopathic medicine. 
  • I used this book throughout my first and second years of medical school, as well as during my board prep. This book has very helpful information and some practice tests at the end of the book as well. 
  • I did not find this Qbank to be particularly useful, but the osteopathic medicine questions were nice to use. I did all of the OMT questions in this Qbank, as well as all of the questions pertaining to ethics and statistics. 
  • I absolutely loved having Cram Fighter (and I'm actually still using it during third year). This program allows you to create a schedule for board prep that is all online and synced with apps on your phone. The program has almost every board prep resource you can imagine and you can effortlessly put together a study plan that tells you what you need to do each day. 
  • The best part? You can always edit the schedule to add days off, push back tasks that you didn't get to, and recalculate your schedule in a click of a button. This is every planner's dream, and every procrastinators worst nightmare. There's no denying what you need to get done each day when you use this program. I. LOVE. IT.


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Alright! That's it. Those are the nine most important resources I used throughout my second year of medical school and throughout my dedicated study period for board exams. Keep your eyes open for the rest of my posts about my study schedule, finding balance, and some of my best advice for tackling board exams! 


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