UWorld vs. TrueLearn
Move over UWorld! There’s a new qbank in town! For some time now, many of our students at Elite Medical Prep have been asking the increasingly popular question: “Should I be using UWorld or TrueLearn as my question bank while preparing for the USMLE?” (To those of you reading and now asking, “Wait what? There are OTHER good qbanks out there aside from UWorld?!” The answer is YES!) However, bear in mind that UWorld isn’t regarded as the king of USMLE qbanks for no reason.
But, is there a new contender for the qbank throne? Here’s our honest reviewal of the TrueLearn question bank and how it stacks up next to UWorld’s.
TrueLearn costs $199 for 3 months, and $399 for a year. This is significantly less than UWorld, which costs $349 for 3 months and $399 for 180 days.
In terms of what your subscription gets you, the numbers are pretty close. The TrueLearn question bank has 2,234 questions in total. This mean they have just under the number of practice questions provided by UWorld, who comes in at 2,813. However, the focus of the TrueLearn question bank is slightly different than that of UWorld. For example, the most heavily represented system in UWorld is Cardiology (365 of 2813 questions, or 13%), while TrueLearn focuses less on this system (99 of 2,234 total, or 4.4%). TrueLearn’s most represented systems are GI (184 questions), Nervous system (171), Renal (135), and Blood/Lymph, which all have more questions than Cardiology (99).
TrueLearn questions are similar in difficulty, length, and complexity when compared with UWorld. Subjectively, when taking a TrueLearn test, it does feel very much like taking a UWorld test. The same test-taking strategies were applicable and the material is what one would expect to be covered in UWorld questions.
There is a mixture of single-step and multi-step questions in TrueLearn. There are one- and two-part questions as well. Some rely just on buzz-word recognition (e.g., cigar shaped on microscopy for Sporotrichosis), and some require more thought, which we believe is appropriate and reflective of the NBME.
Questions are better coded in TrueLearn. Each question is coded in several domains, including Specialty, System, Process [normal vs disease], Discipline [anatomy], Interdisciplinary areas, Competencies [medical knowledge, patient care]. This is probably why the search function is better. This can also help students draw big-picture connections between individual questions, if they understand broadly what is being asked (a pathology question about cardiology disease processes, for example).
TrueLearn has some unique and useful tools regarding test creation that UWorld does not. In TrueLearn, you can specify any combination of new, incorrect, and/or correct questions. In UWorld on the other hand, you must choose one of these options only. As mentioned previously, TrueLearn also has a better search function to find questions. Searching for a term or concept yields a number of relevant questions that a student could use to actively review the topic. It is much more user friendly and also yields more questions than UWorld’s search function. Again, you can use the search results to make a test from any combination of new, incorrect, and/or correct questions, while in UWorld you must choose one of these options only.
TrueLearn also has some useful features regarding feedback (in Tutor mode), that are superior to UWorld. Immediately after answering a question, students are provided with answer choice explanations, a ‘Bottom Line’, and ‘TruLearn insights’. The answer choice explanations and ‘Bottom Line’ are fairly similar to UWorld’s. Links to outside resources for further reference seem primarily to include UpToDate and various textbooks, for the most part. In this regard the feedback is similar to UWorld.
*Of note, TrueLearn allows ‘Bottom Line’ prompts to be texted to students directly, so that they can have a running list of short, high-yield reminders. We think this is a great feature and would be extremely convenient / helpful to many students!
The ‘TrueLearn Insights’ that are provided are unique to TrueLearn and we believe they could be very useful. TrueLearn Insights provide useful test-taking tips and big-picture advice for approaching questions that are the types of things that we tell students during tutoring sessions. For example, the insights might tell a student that while approaching an endocrinology question, it’s important to remember all the pathways that a hormone is involved in (to get questions right about TSH, PRL, FSH, etc.). Alternatively, TrueLearn Insights might explain that usually in trauma questions, you can get the right answer by following the ABC’s of stabilization. This is an extremely valuable resource, especially for students who do not have a tutor. It could also prod a tutor to make important connections for students, and gives a good jumping-off point for discussion. The TrueLearn insights are very high yield, and so far we have not seen any other resources that feature anything similar.
TrueLearn’s Smart Cards are also potentially useful for similar reasons. They offer generalized and more targeted study advice. For example, one Smart Card talks about ‘memory palaces’, and another reinforces the concept of spaced repetition. These are present on the dashboard on log-in, and can be viewed passively or actively. They take up a large portion of the dashboard and can’t be missed. The Smart Cards seem to reinforce many of the general study tips many of our tutors find themselves telling their students, and we think the passive reminder could be useful to a student who is having trouble remember to integrate these into their studying.
Smart Cards also provide targeted advice for students based on their prior performance. For example, they will alert students whether they typically change answers to or from the correct answer. A student could use this to change their test-taking strategy accordingly. However, it is worth noting that UWorld also does this to a similar degree.
In conclusion, TrueLearn definitely has the capacity to be a real challenger to UWorld in the future. This being said, for the time being we recommend to students that TrueLearn be used as a supplement to UWorld ONLY because it is less well tested and may have a different topical breakdown less reflective of NBME. We love the nice study tools, such as the Smart Cards, that may be helpful for some students who want a more tailored set of flashcards. We are also very excited to see what the future holds for TrueLearn once it is tested some more!
Since TrueLearn is fairly similar to UWorld and users of either platform will have no trouble learning to use the other, we recommend students access TrueLearn after completing UWorld twice. We believe users will enjoy the additional questions TrueLearn provides and also that the user interfaces and progress tracking between both platforms are similar.
If you need additional information, all USMLE studying resources are listed on our reviews page.