Like many other MS2s this time of year, I’m currently busy purchasing a slew of USMLE Step 1 prep materials using money I don’t have. At the same time, I’ve heard several first years ask: is it too early to be thinking about buying Step 1 materials? From my experience, I actually don’t think the answer is a flat out no – here are some of the major products out there, and whether you should consider them or not. (Disclaimer: I’m not affiliated with any of these products in any way.)
First Aid: The holy grail of prep books. This book covers almost everything you need to know for Step 1, which means that most of it will be foreign to any first year that looks through it. But that doesn’t mean its not useful – for the things that you have learned in class, it often distills the high-yield facts in a concise and clear manner. First Aid is published yearly, with a new edition coming out every January, which I think is a good time to pick one up to begin using it as a companion to your school’s materials.
Pathoma: Pathoma, as the name implies, is a book/video series for learning the mechanisms and major concepts of pathology. However, since most medical schools don’t cover much pathology until year two, Pathoma is not of much use to you until then. Consider picking up a year-long subscription around the beginning of your second year.
USMLE World: UWorld for short, this is an invaluable question bank that replicates the style of the questions on the actual Step 1 exam. As it tests you on all of the material you need to know for the Step 1, UWorld is far above the knowledge level of a first year. Therefore, don’t even consider it now.
Firecracker: This is a newcomer to the test prep scene, but definitely worth mentioning. Firecracker, in a nutshell, is First Aid in flashcard form – you can select topics you want to study and get a customized set of test questions. It’s a good way to reinforce topics you have just learned, in addition to reviewing topics you might have forgotten. If you can bear the cost, it’s a great way to continually review material from first year so you don’t have to learn it all over again.
Of course, there’s a slew of other products out there vying for your attention and dollars, but these are just a few I’ve had experience with. But for the vast majority of them, they aren’t applicable to you as a first year – so you can relax for now.