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Best Study Books for Step 2 CK 2023

A medical school student looking for Step 2 CK textbooks in the library.


If you are about to start your dedicated study period for the USMLE Step 2 CK, you may be asking yourself, “what are the best study books I should use to prepare for this test?”


Well, look no further! Here at EMP, we provide a comprehensive review of the best study books for Step 2 CK! Our tutors have personally used the resources listed below, and regularly advise students to use them.


Before we dive into the list of the top books, we want to start with a quick piece of advice. No single study book is sufficient to truly master the content of Step 2 CK. For Step 1, you may have used a book like First Aid. This is a fantastic resource and is nearly comprehensive for this examination. Unfortunately, we believe that a book of similar quality does not exist for Step 2 CK. While many of the books listed below are fantastic aids to accompany your studies, none of them will be sufficient to learn all of the content for this examination. In addition to a book, we highly recommend other resources, most paramount is a question bank. Feel free to use our 4-week Step 2 study planner to help you get organized with all of your resources.


Fill out the form below to receive your free 4-week Step 2 study planner via email!


Nonetheless, a great book is critical to your success, so here are our recommendations.



Step-Up to USMLE Step 2 CK 5th Edition 


Step-Up to USMLE Step 2 CK is a great resource that provides a fairly comprehensive review of the major concepts and diseases you will need to know to crush Step 2 CK. The chapters are relatively short, 30-40 pages per organ system. And the information is present in bullet point format making it very easy to digest. There are great color figures to supplement your learning and this resource covers the most commonly tested topics. Like most of the books in this blog post, it is not entirely comprehensive. There are some details that you will only get by working through practice questions. However, if you are looking for a book that provides a lot of information in an efficient manner with great tables and figures, this is the book for you.



Master The Boards


Master The Boards is similar to Step-Up to USMLE Step 2 CK in that it highlights the highest yield material and presents it in a way that will directly show up on the exam. The author makes it very clear what you need to know for the board exam and does so using flow charts, figures, and tables. But Master The Boards similarly is not comprehensive in nature and some sections can be a bit repetitive. However, the book excels in providing many flow diagrams and algorithms for you to follow when faced with a specific clinical scenario. It also includes tips that are directly applicable to excelling on the examination.



First Aid for the USMLE Step 2 CK


While First Aid for USMLE Step 1 is the gold standard for Step 1 content review, First Aid for the USMLE Step 2 CK unfortunately is not. However, it is still a fantastic resource that will greatly supplement a question bank, such as UWorld or AMBOSS. The book has a very similar layout to First Aid for the USMLE Step 1. If you liked the organization of that book, you will like this one as well. In true First Aid fashion, there are many mnemonics to help you memorize the high-yield content, more than any other book on this list. The Rapid Review section is great for a quick review as you get closer to test day. The content covered in this book is very similar to that of Step-Up. However, the text is a bit denser even though it conveys a similar amount of information as Step-Up. 



Brochert’s Crush Step 2 – The Ultimate USMLE Step 2 Review


Brochert’s is a fairly comprehensive review book, however, compared to the other resources on this list, it is very text-heavy. It conveys the majority of the content through text rather than images, tables, and charts. Additionally, the images that are shown are not of great quality nor do they convey much additional information to what is found in the text. If you are a learner who likes to read full-length sentences to best understand the material, then this would be a great resource for you. However, this book may take you a bit longer to get through than the other books on this list. It’s important to make sure that this does not cut into your time for practice questions.


There are many other commonly used books on the market including Kaplan USMLE Step 2 CK Lecture Notes, USMLE Step 2 Secrets, and more. However, we wanted to focus on the resources that we and our students have personally used. It is always important to find a book that is best suited for your individual learning style. Additionally, do not be afraid to refer back to some of your USMLE Step 1 material like First Aid for USMLE Step 1 – this is an amazing resource that you can refer back to when you require a bit more insight into the basic science underlying a medication or disease processes.


As a final reminder, one of the best study books for USMLE Step 2 CK will broaden your content knowledge and help you when it comes to answering questions; however, a book alone is not enough to ace this examination. You should couple a book with board-style questions, videos, flashcards, and any other resources that work for you.


Not sure what book, resources, or study plan is best for you? Feel free to reach out to us to set up a free consultation, and learn more about how one of our experienced tutors can work with you in preparation for your board exams!

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About the Author

Dylan Eiger, MD/PhD Candidate

In 2016, Dylan Eiger graduated Cum Laude from Duke University with a BS in Chemistry with a concentration in Biochemistry. Matriculated in the MD/PhD Duke…

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