USMLE Step 1 and 2 Prep Platform Reviews: Online MedEd
Before we start our Online MedEd review for your USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 CK studies, we want to say a couple things regarding the rank we have given them (3/5 stars). Online MedEd is one of the newer USMLE prep platforms on the scene. Based on all identifying factors, Online MedEd has a strong backbone in medical education ethos. They also definitely seem committed to becoming a great preparatory tool for medical students. However, since they are new, we can not overlook that several of their features are still being developed. However, despite their need for more content, we believe this platform has great potential. While in this series we can not give points based on potential, we do believe Online MedEd is worth keeping an eye on.
Online MedEd – It’s Time to Review
Online MedEd is a platform whose mission statement is, “to change how medical education is approached, how medical schools deliver it and how students learn it.” Offering curriculum in basic sciences (pending release), clinical (shelf and Step 2CK), residency, and faculty, the platform is easy to navigate and very user-friendly. One of the major positives in our opinion of Online MedEd is that their videos are all free. However, additional features do require a paid subscription.
*For purposes of this review, we unlocked the curriculum for the clinical sequence (which ran us only $10/month). By doing this we were able to explore some of the additional features outside of the videos and are summarized as PACE (Prime, Acquire, Challenge, Enforce). “Prime” includes written notes for every lesson with diagrams, tables, tips, and insight into topics. “Acquire” includes dozens of completely free video and audio lectures focused on high-yield learning. (This is a great feature to prepare for the USMLE and boards.) “Challenge” includes hundreds of questions you can take by topic or mix and match to prepare for the test. “Enforce” includes hundreds of flashcards to review and reinforce the most essential, high-yield information.
Online MedEd at a glance: Our overall score: 3/5 stars
- Video lectures are easy to understand and enjoyable to watch (even after coming home from a long day in clinic/on the wards)
- Comprehensive curriculum for shelf exams (surgery, peds, etc) and expanding curriculum for the basic sciences (biochem, etc)
- Platform is easy to navigate with well organized headers and topics
- The $10/month package allows students only a limited number of downloads (ex: only able to download 30 “notes” about each video per month)
- Question bank is more informal than other question banks—the explanations sound more like a discussion and aren’t comprehensive. Can be a good supplement, but definitely does not come close to replacing UWorld
- Flashcards can’t be used until >48 hours of watching the videos
Let’s get right into Online MedEd’s features:
Topics & Organization
Online MedEd’s organized their curriculum by topic. For example, the clinical curriculum is organized into the following topics: cardiology, pulmonology, gastroenterology, nephrology, hematology-oncology, infectious disease, endocrine, neurology, rheumatology, dermatology, pediatrics, psychiatry, gynecology, obstetrics, surgery: general, surgery: sub-specialty, surgery: trauma, epidemiology and stats, and Online MedEd. Each topic then has a set amount of sub-topics/lessons.
For instance, general surgery has 12 lessons/videos which include some of the following topics: pre-op evaluation, post-op fever, post-op complications, esophagus, and small bowel, to name a few. This general surgery topic has 2 hours and 58 minutes of total video time, 78 questions, and 109 flashcards. There are also trauma surgery and sub-specialty surgery topics which each have videos/flashcards/questions of their own.
For comparison, the Pediatrics topic has 25 lessons/videos making up 7 hours and 30 minutes of total video time, 123 questions, and 268 flashcards. The lessons/videos in each topic vary in number and time based upon the amount of material necessary to learn. Overall, the topics are very comprehensive and provide a good groundwork for clinical rotations and for a shelf exam. The lecture content is very high yield (especially beneficial for USMLE studying).
*Audio files can also be downloaded for every lesson in the topic. However this counts as a “download”— see cons section of this review.
This is the bread and butter of Online MedEd. We love the extensive “chalk talk”-style video series that covers most high-yield topics you’d find on the USMLE steps. These videos are often engaging and are more concise and pointed than Pathoma’s (for example). However, as with all video banks, we recommend limiting your time using videos as it is all passive learning. Simply, this type of learning is not as time-effective as retrieval-based learning like practice tests and flashcards. This is especially important when studying for the USMLE.
Online MedEd’s videos are very test-oriented as opposed to system-oriented which is awesome. In other words, Online MedEd’s video collection has categories like “antibiotic ladder” and “TB treatment” that cover high-yield points in how to think about topics. This is important because you’ll see many of these same topics in question stems. We can contrast this with Pathoma, which is structured more like classroom lessons. We recommend using these videos for focused review of weak topics. That is, if you need an explanation that combines big-picture concepts with some actionable facts. Do not use them as the bulk of your studying.
OnlineMedEd’s bank includes over 1000 test questions. Their stems tend to be on the simpler side: the qualitative feel is not as close to USMLE Step questions as is UWorld or AMBOSS. What they’re asking for feels a little more straightforward, along the lines of an extended flashcard rather than the often complex stems of other QBank products that make you put in work to figure out exactly what they’re asking.
The answer responses are also unfortunately slightly lacking; they don’t include any visual aids, diagrams, or sketches, which makes them both a bit drier than UWorld or AMBOSS and a bit harder to digest for many subjects where a refresher of just what a greenstick fracture looks like or what the feedback loops in the HPA axis are would be helpful.
The upside of the spare answer responses is that these questions are much quicker to churn through than other products. If you’re looking for a quick and straightforward QBank to keep you sharp in your spare time, this could work very well. For actual boards studying, though, we would not recommend it.
Online MedEd certainly has approached their flashcard feature with genuine thought about how to make them as useful as possible. They tie their cards into their videos and cards automatically appear in your “to-do” list based on the videos you’ve seen. For example, if you watch “HIV treatments,” flashcards that test you on NRTIs versus protease inhibitors will appear in your queue. (Keep in mind they will show up a few days later because of the 48 hour wait period.) Despite the wait, this is great reinforcement of spaced repetition. Although, unfortunately the format of Online MedEd’s flashcards are not as sophisticated as a dedicated resource like Anki or Brainscape. Overall, the incorporation of “auto-adding” is a great considerate feature, but the overall efficacy of the card sets is not quite at the level of other software on the market.
Our Final Thoughts
- The integrated questions on Online MedEd provide a decent review of the content in the videos, however the answer explanations are informal and not nearly as comprehensive as UWorld or Amboss. Also, some of the wording of the questions is too colloquial, which does not resemble the USMLE standardized question format. These questions may be good to do with friends if students find that they have exhausted other resources, but we would not use the question bank as a primary resource for shelf preparation.
- Online MedEd’s flashcards feature is great, but we do not like that flashcards can not be accessed until 48 hours had passed after watching a video for a certain topic. Online MedEd notes that this is because, “research shows adult learners need forced repetition of key material at 48 hours after introduction for maximum retention.” However, we still think the option to do the flashcards right after a video should be available. The 48 hour rule seems too constricting of a requirement.
- Lastly, the ability to download “notes” and “whiteboard snapshots” for each lesson/video is awesome; however, for the $10/month package, students will only have a limited number of “downloads”. For instance, downloading a “whiteboard snapshot” for a particular video counts as 1 download. At the same time, downloading the “notes” for the same video also counts as a download. This already amounts to 2 downloads per video. Although we think both downloads are very useful, students will quickly max out their allotted downloads if not selective. For instance, Pediatrics has 25 lessons/videos, so downloading a “note” for each video would only leave 5 downloads remaining. This would meaning you would not be able to download all the “whiteboard snapshots” or audio files unless upgrading packages.
Overall, we think this is an excellent learning platform with exceptional easy to understand video lessons. The whiteboard format is very interactive and we like that the length of the videos vary. The speed of the videos also vary from 0.5x to 2x and there is an option to turn on captions. The question bank however is not superior to others available and is too informal/not comprehensive enough for formal USMLE review. There is also no tool to help students make a study schedule. There are no outside links to resources.
We like Online MedEd for how they’re trying to improve medical education, and we support the use of their products for casual brushing up. Unfortunately, they are not quite at the level of the more seasoned USMLE review packages out there. So, if you’re studying for the USMLE, we have to recommend UWorld or AMBOSS as your integrated question bank/review source. We recommend this especially if you are pressed for time on USMLE studying. If however you’re looking for a company with a strong ideological backbone and focused review resources, go with OnlineMedEd.
For additional questions on how to use Online MedEd properly for your Step 1 and Step 2 studies, feel free to contact one of our experienced USMLE tutors.