TrueLearn Review: SmartBanks for COMLEX Level 1 and 2 CE

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One of the hardest decisions that all medical students face involves picking the resources to help them succeed on their board exams. There are a countless number of review books, flash cards, video lectures, question banks, and more. We here at Elite Medical Prep want to help you decide which resources are right for you. To provide you the best and most accurate advice, we have our tutors personally utilize the services we review in our blog posts. In this blog post, we will share our impressions of TrueLearn’s SmartBanks for the COMLEX 1 and COMLEX 2 CE.

As always in our review series, our reviews do not reflect any partnerships, promotions, or paid positivity. We pride ourselves in bringing our students accurate information and our honest opinions surrounding USMLE resources.

 

What is TrueLearn?

TrueLearn is a test prep company with a variety of products tailored to prepare students to pass their licensure and board exams. They have test prep content for a variety of medical students including physician assistant, pharmacy, physical therapy, occupational therapy students, and more. For medical students, they have products for both the COMLEX-USA (Levels 1, 2 CE, 2 PE, 3, and Shelf Exams) and the USMLE (Step 1, Step 2 CK, and Shelf Exams). They have a variety of question banks (which they call SmartBanks) and assessment exams that are frequently updated to reflect any changes in the exams.

 

What did we review?

In this blog post, we will specifically be reviewing the pros and cons of TrueLearn’s SmartBanks for the COMLEX 1 and COMLEX 2 CE together. Both SmartBanks utilize the same user interface and have over 2000 test prep questions each.

Before we get into our complete analysis of TrueLearn’s Smartbanks, here are some of our initial notes:

 

Our overall score: 4/5 stars

 

Our Pros:

  • Customizable user interfaces, including one that models what you will see on test day
  • Extensive question bank which you can can organize by the COMLEX Master Blueprint, organ system, or even symptom presentation.
  • Ability to search previously questions by keywords
  • Companion mobile app is simple to use
  • Ability to screenshot questions
  • Impressive analytics regarding your overall performance in comparison to that of  students across the country

 

Our Cons: 

  • Variability of depth and quality in question explanations.
  • Many aspects of the user interface are not intuitive and can slow down your studying until you get used to using their program.
  • Internet access is needed in order to use the Question bank.
  • No option to make flashcards or save images to a dedicated TrueLearn question deck.

 

Overall we think TrueLearn Smartbanks is an excellent resource and is comparable to other top question banks available to students. It provides both a comprehensive and diverse array of questions for students in a manner that is customizable and easy to review. Students can input their test date into the program and have a digital countdown timer to test date to keep them on track. There are many features that come standard with this product like being able to test yourself in Timed, Untimed, or Tutor Mode. Unlike most other question banks, students can both copy and paste and screenshot while the software is running. This is a huge advantage for students who want to make their own personal study guides as they go through the question bank. Despite these positive features, we recognize some of the shortcomings of the Smartbanks including the inability to use this platform offline and a user interface with some features which are difficult to use.

So, let’s look into the specifics that TrueLearn Smartbanks has to offer:

 

 

Customizable Tests:

There are various features for creating tests (which can be up to 50 questions each). The tests can be individually named and classified by the student and can even include new questions only, used only, incorrect only, new and incorrect, or all questions.

Test topics can be chosen by system (body systems and by broader disciplines – diagnosis, embryology, histology, etc…) or they can be designed using the COMLEX Master Blueprint, which separates out competency domains from clinical presentations. This level of customizability in terms of your ability to select the questions in your tests is at the highest level amongst question banks we have reviewed.

 

 

Question and Answer Quality:

Overall, the questions are very detailed, with varying question stem lengths which accurately represent the real exams. For most questions, you are given a detailed explanation, with relevant charts and images, as well as explanations of the incorrects and references to other potentially useful material (such as UpToDate links, text book references, and relevant First Aid pages). Each question finishes with a concise “Bottom Line” which summarizes the main point of the clinical presentation, as well as “Combank Insights”, when indicated, which points out the key learning point for osteopathic exams, or manipulations. However, the explanations for some questions are more thorough than others. We came across some questions where there was no explanation as to why some of the wrong answers were incorrect, but only an explanation of why the correct answer was right. 

 

 

Search, Notes, and Screenshots:

A great feature of the TrueLearn SmartBanks is your ability to search questions by keyword. The search will result with previously taken questions, and if you got those questions correct or incorrect, as well as new questions with that keyword. For example, if you search “opioid”, you will get old and new questions that are about opioids, as well as questions where opioid is the incorrect answer. This feature allows you to not only study certain topics on the COMLEX, but also other closely related subjects. You are also able to see your exam notes, or any highlights that you made in the “exam notes” section of the website which can aid in quick reference of difficult topics. These notes can be sorted by most recent, oldest, or by specific test name. Unfortunately there is no feature to make flashcards with text or images. However, students can both copy and paste text directly from questions and even screenshot the questions for their own personal study guides! This is an amazing feature that other major question banks do not have.

 

 

User Interface

Students have the unique ability to utilize two different user interfaces when taking a test. The “COMLEX Visualization” represents the interface you will utilize on test day so you can get familiar with the layout.

However, you can also choose to work in the “TrueLearn Visualization” if you prefer a different layout.

 

While this is a nice feature, we strongly recommend that students use the “COMLEX Visualization” as it is best to work with the interface that you will utilize on test day. Additionally, the “TrueLearn Visualization” is not very intuitive and takes practice and time for it to feel comfortable. 

 

 

Statistics and Analytics:

The analytic features of the TrueLearn SmartBanks are quite extensive. You are able to set a goal percentile, see your overall percent correct compared to the national average, and track your progress through all questions (by percent completed). You are also able to see your success across different categories and sort them by Body System, Discipline, NBOME Discipline, Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine, Competency Domains, or Clinical Presentations. An additional and unique feature of TrueLearn SmartBanks is that you can compare your scores to others based on graduation year (all graduation years, grad year 2020, 2021 etc…) which is a useful way of knowing where you stand compared to your peers. The statistics and analytics section of the TrueLearn SmartBanks is comparable or superior to almost all other question banks we have reviewed.

 

 

Our Final Thoughts on TrueLearn Combank for COMLEX 1 and 2 CE

  • From a pure content perspective, the TrueLearn Combank is extraordinarily thorough with thousands of questions which will cover all information needed to succeed on the COMLEX exams. This platform is comparable to other top tier question banks and we believe would serve as a primary resource for any student preparing for their COMLEX exams. 

 

  • While this is a resource primarily for students who are spending dedicated time COMLEX preparation, a student would also likely benefit from the TrueLearn Combank if they started using it from the beginning of their medical school education and made steady progress through the questions throughout their coursework. With most question banks, some students can feel overwhelmed when trying to conquer 2000+ questions during their dedicated COMLEX study period so getting a head start may  reduce stress and anxiety while developing long term retention of the material.

 

  • The TrueLearn Combank is not drastically different than other question banks, namely UWORLD, which is not necessarily a bad thing. The questions are comprehensive and this platform will prepare you for test day. What makes TrueLearn Combank stand out are its unique features like the search feature, high levels of customizability, impressive statistical reports, and ability to screenshot questions. However, it suffers in its ease of use, heterogeneity in explanations, and inability to work offline.

 

Overall, TrueLearn Combank is a fantastic resource that is comprehensive and exhaustive. For a question bank, it can serve as a primary resource for any student looking for practice questions that resemble what they will see on test day. Although it has some shortcomings, the ability to copy and paste and screenshot questions are extremely useful for students who want to make their own personal study guides as other question banks do not have these features.

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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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