Best Resources for USMLE Step 2 CK Exam
Are you thinking about preparing for the USMLE Step 2 CK exam? Feeling overwhelmed about where to start or what resources to use? The USMLE Step 2 exam is a big hurdle for medical students, and there are seemingly endless resources available to prepare, leaving many students wondering where to begin. Here we will break down some of the best resources so you can ace the test!
What Step 2 Resources Are Available?
A plethora of resources are available to prepare for the USMLE Step 2 CK from large question banks to online videos, podcasts, flashcards, practice exams, and trusty textbooks! Below, we will review some of the most common resources in each of these categories to figure out which will be most helpful to you in preparing for test day.
Step 2 Exam Question Banks
The question banks, also known commonly as “QBanks,” that are available for Step 2 are your gold standard resource for preparing for test day. Learning by answering questions is an active way to assess your knowledge, recall key information, and review important clinical concepts you’ll need to know for test day. There are multiple large Qbanks available from UWorld to Amboss and more. They mostly cover the same information, so we recommend only choosing one to complete during your study period.
UWorld for Step 2 CK has over 4,200+ questions geared towards USMLE Step 2 CK prep and shelf exam prep with high-yield explanations and graphics accompanying each question. There are two study modes within UWorld – one for studying for Step 2 CK and one for studying for shelves – that you can toggle between. UWorld has excellent graphics/tables and in-depth explanations that many students find to be one of the best assets of this platform. The UWorld software also most similarly mimics the testing software you will see on test day.
Another unique feature of UWorld is the biostatistics review that provides in-depth explanations of the stats you need to know to ace Step 2. For those that find biostatistics tricky, UWorld has an entire dedicated section to learning this topic and even includes step-by-step calculations to work through some of the questions.
Finally, a huge benefit of UWorld that many students overlook is the analysis breakdown by subject and system. As students proceed through the Qbank, a subject and system-based breakdown is available, allowing students to see where they are performing percentile-wise in each section. This is incredibly helpful data and can help students identify which areas are weaker so they can spend more study time on these subjects.
AMBOSS for Step 2 is a newer but growing Qbank with over 3,300+ excellent practice questions. While it has not been around as long as UWorld, it is still an extremely useful and vetted tool for studying. A unique feature of AMBOSS is a setting where it allows you to walk through a question using hints and by highlighting keywords in the question stem. This can be helpful for those still trying to master the strategy of a long multiple-choice question. Questions are also rated on difficulty, which can be very helpful for students to more accurately gauge their ability.
Finally, a unique feature of AMBOSS is the AMBOSS library, which is very similar to an interactive textbook and is a wonderful resource for content review alongside questions. It is also available on the go as a mobile app and is on par with the level of detail in UWorld question answers but is a separate database altogether and is searchable!
Which is the Best Qbank?
UWorld still leads the pack as a gold standard question bank for Step 2 studying! However, I would recommend making free trials to compare AMBOSS and UWorld head-on. Ultimately, even if you decide to go with UWorld, you can still utilize the AMBOSS knowledge library as part of your studying. You can find our detailed comparison between AMBOSS and UWorld here.
EMP’s Step 2 Study Calendar
EMP’s Step 2 study calendar can help simplify your journey. For a detailed guide, check out our dedicated blog post and free downloadable 4-week Step 2 calendar here.
Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to Step 2 CK preparation. EMP’s study calendar is a flexible guide that encourages you to adapt based on your learning style. Resist the temptation to overwhelm yourself with numerous resources; instead, select those that align with your strengths and preferences.
Step 2 Practice Exams
Practice exams are a crucial part of preparing for Step 2 CK. There are many different exams on the market, but the most helpful and tried and true ones include the official NBME practice exams and the UWorld Self Assessments.
The NBME practice exams geared towards preparing for Step 2 CK are called Comprehensive Clinical Science Self-Assessments (CCSSAs). Each of these exams contains a total of 200 questions, broken down into 4 sections of 50 questions each with 1 hour 15 minutes to complete each section. There are currently 6 forms available (Forms 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, and 14). The cost of each exam is $60.
UWorld Self Assessments (UWSA)
Each UWSA has 4 blocks of 40 questions. There are two self-assessment forms made by UWorld (Forms 1 and 2). They can be purchased separately or are included in different combinations of UWorld subscriptions.
What is the Most Predictive Practice Test?
Head on over to this blog by Dr. Alvardo to see an in-depth breakdown of which tests are most predictive! Overall, UWSA2 has been known to be one of the best predictors. However, there is no one test that has been shown to correlate exactly with Step 2 CK scores. Overall, it is helpful to take a variety of tests and only sit to test when you are happy with the scores and trends you are seeing on your practice exams!
Step 2 Exam Flashcards
A favorite of many students is the flashcard platform is Anki which works by the principle of spaced repetition. While there are many premade decks available for download, they are bulky and difficult to complete. If you are a flashcard learner, I recommend creating your own Anki decks to help you synthesize important information on topics you get wrong in the Qbanks.
OnlineMedEd has an extraordinary array of clinically oriented review videos, over 250 and counting! If you’re wondering just how much they cover, you can even glance at their content library to see that there is a video for almost any clinical topic you might be expected to see on your test. Many students watch these videos during their clerkships during third year of medical school before their dedicated study block for Step 2 CK and find it helpful to watch videos as needed for review when studying.
Boards and Beyond
Boards and Beyond is a growing resource that some students reach for as well! They now have over 250 videos geared for Step 2 preparation along with 1,000 quiz questions USMLE-style that go with them. Similarly to OnlineMedEd, many students use these during their clerkships and do not rewatch all of them during their dedicated study period. I would recommend trying out both OnlineMedEd and Boards and Beyond to see which style of video you prefer – if either!
Sketchy has now expanded as well! While originally a pre-clinical resource with its cartoon sketches on bugs and drugs to help students memorize dense information in a fun way, they have now expanded from microbiology and pharmacology to lessons on pathophysiology and different subjects including internal medicine, surgery, peds, OB/GYN, and neurology. For those who found Sketchy helpful during pre-clinical years, it may be worth checking out their clinical-level videos.
Divine Intervention Podcast
The Divine Intervention podcast series is an excellent podcast with many episodes tailored to Step 2 CK topics (see here for a breakdown of them). They do especially good rapid review series and high-yield episodes on preventive medicine and screening guidelines, vaccines, and ethics among others. These can be great to listen to on your way to and from the hospital.
Step 2 Textbooks
What is the Best Step 2 Textbook?
Many students aren’t sure if a textbook is necessary or how to approach using a text for Step 2 CK studying. The major texts out there include Step Up to Step 2 CK, First Aid for Step 2 CK, and Master the Boards Step 2 CK in addition to CaseFiles by subject. For a detailed review of the study books available, see this blog post by Dr. Eiger for an up-to-date review of each textbook!
While First Aid for Step 1 was the gold standard for Step 1 studying, there is no one agreed upon gold standard for Step 2 CK studying. I would choose one of these textbooks to use as a reference during your studying but realize that using a textbook will not provide you with all the information covered on the test and you should be learning through Qbanks and practice exams as well.
So, Should I Use All These Resources?
Absolutely not! I cannot emphasize enough that everyone learns and retains information differently and for many students, this exam is different from USMLE Step 1. Remember, you have already completed a year filled with clinical experience and clerkships, learning on the wards, and studying for shelf exams.
A key mistake many students make is choosing to take on too many resources! I can’t emphasize this enough. Your time is limited and you do not need to use every single resource to do well on this test.
I strongly recommend all students choose one question bank (UWorld being the tried and true Qbank for Step 2), complete multiple practice exams, and use one text as a reference source.
I then recommend for an additional resource that you tailor this based on how you like to learn and digest information and to use this to hone in on your weak areas. Are you a visual learner and love watching short videos? Watching OnlineMedEd can be your added learning resource for weaker topics. Are you an Anki wizard? Then I’d recommend making flashcards just tailored to weak topics and concepts you are missing. Are you an audio learner and love a good podcast? Then download Divine Intervention and listen to several podcasts on your way to and from the hospital or library that target those topics you keep missing.
What is the Best Way to Study for Step 2 CK?
Now that you have the resources under your belt, you might be wondering now where do I start? Most students take a dedicated study period for Step 2 CK of at least 4 weeks. The major bulk of your studying will be questions, questions, and more questions with one of the large Qbanks and weekly practice tests. If you have already started and gone through your question bank during your clerkships, I recommend resetting and trying to complete a full pass during your dedicated study period.
Step 2 CK Tutoring
Looking for a personalized approach to maximize your study experience? Consider 1-on-1 tutoring with Elite Medical Prep. Our experienced tutors tailor sessions to your needs, providing targeted guidance and support. To explore how our tutoring services can elevate your Step 2 CK preparation, contact us for a complimentary consultation. Let’s chart your path to success!
Good luck, and happy studying!