Just finished Kaplan QBank - my brief thoughts on it

Discussion in 'Step I' started by Phloston, Aug 23, 2012.

  1. Phloston

    Physician Lifetime Donor Classifieds Approved 5+ Year Member

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    I just knocked out the Kaplan QBank (~100 Qs/day x ~1 month). I made all annotations into FA in orange ink so I know in the future exactly where they've come from. Looking back at my FA now, there is quite a bit of orange in there, so quantitatively speaking, Kaplan has been fairly educational.

    For a while, I had heard that Kaplan loves minutiae and that the QBank question-style is very different from that found on the real exam. To that effect, I had never really been excited to do Kaplan QBank, but rather just knew it was something that I'd have to "check off" accordingly in order to progress with my prep. Back in May, I had finished the QBook, 5th ed, and I had definitely felt at the time that Kaplan had help up to its reputation of catering to the minutiae (my review of the QBook, from a while ago: http://forums.studentdoctor.net/showthread.php?t=917952). However to my surprise, Kaplan QBank actually seems disparate relative to the QBook. I found that it doesn't overly cater to small details, but that it can appear that way if you are still early-on in your prep. For instance, when I had first gone through the QBook, quite a few of the questions seemed obscure or heavily detail-oriented, but by the time I got to the QBank, because I had already encountered some of the concepts before, I realized that the material tested isn't overly pedantic; it's just that the QBank is a very difficult one, relatively speaking, and requires a strong foundation/background before tackling it. If on the other hand you choose to grapple it earlier on in MS2 (or even MS1), then yeah, some of the questions will seem overly ridiculous, but they're really not that bad.

    My cumulative performance on the QBank was 81% (84% on the QBook, 94% on FA Q&A, 85% on GT QBank, 85% on USMLE Rx). I list those percentages in order to illustrate the relative difficulties of the question resources. I had done Kaplan QBank after all of the latter, and the % was still the lowest.

    Cons:

    I didn't find the Kaplan interface/platform very user-friendly at all. I found that whenever I entered a two-part question, the screen would zoom-in and either I wouldn't be able to read all of the answer choices or it wouldn't let me select one, even though I'd click on the letter a million times. This forced me to omit about 6 questions total on the QBank. I would then need to exit the block and re-enter it in order to restore the magnification settings. Ctrl(-) never worked for me. I know this doesn't happen with everyone, and perhaps it's my computer, but I had never had a problem with USMLE Rx when I had gone through it (my review of USMLE Rx / FA Q&A: http://forums.studentdoctor.net/showthread.php?t=912135).

    Of the 3000 total questions, I had encountered probably around 20 notable errors. Perhaps I hadn't searched hard enough, but as far as I could tell, there was nowhere to submit a comment. Even worse, all of the questions (at the end of the explanations) would very commonly say something along the lines of "last updated: 02/24/10," and I'd just be thinking to myself, "there's clearly an error here and nobody's corrected it in 2.5 years because there's no comment box." My impression is that Kaplan feels they've already perfected their QBank and they don't have anyone actively working on modifying current questions. There were quite a few times that they didn't have %correct information alongside the explanations because some of the questions were supposedly new, but for all other questions that were not just introduced, they hadn't been updated in years.

    It is very difficult to cross out answer choices on this QBank. Many times I would click an incorrect answer choice to cross it out, and perhaps only one of the seven written words would actually have a line through it. Then, because I'm OCD, I would click on all seven words independently just so the entire answer choice would be crossed out. In the end, I assume this isn't the biggest deal in the world, but for the arrow questions, being able to cross stuff out right away makes things much easier.

    Sometimes my internet would be perfectly fine (i.e. all other websites would be quickly loading), but when I'd click to go to the next question, the interface wouldn't load properly and I'd have to exit and re-enter in order to access the subsequent questions. However that's only part of it. On several occasions, upon re-entering, it would subtract several minutes from the clock, which I would find a bit ridiculous. It even became a game after a while: the interface wouldn't load, I'd look and see the clock says ~16 minutes, then I'd be forced to close it and re-enter, and the clock would then say ~12 minutes.

    There are far fewer biostats questions compared to USMLE Rx. Biostats is not one of my strengths, and I had wished there were more questions in this subject area on the QBank.

    There are page numbers listed for where to turn in FA, but these are given as a list and not by topic (i.e. alongside an explanation, it might just say "FA pp. 426, 434, 438, 524, 562"), so whenever I had referenced FA, I had done so based off of my prior knowledge of where to turn to, versus the QBank actually having helped to direct me. USMLE Rx had PrntScr images straight from FA alongside their explanations; Kaplan doesn't. This might be a Copyrights issue, but Kaplan would be better if they had that feature, or at least something very similar with respect to their Kaplan notes or Medessentials!


    Pros:

    Kaplan nails behavioral science extremely well. There are copious amounts of "which of the following is the most appropriate response?" or "what is the next best step in management?"-type questions. I had finished both BRS and HY Behavioral Science (my review of those resources: http://forums.studentdoctor.net/showthread.php?p=12613303), however, behavioral science was still my weakest area in Kaplan QBank. This could be because the next-step scenario questions can be tricky, or it's likely that I'm just behavioral science-inept.

    Molecular biology lab techniques and microbiology are also done very well by this QBank. These are two areas that are more detail-oriented, but the heavy focus is for a reason. I've definitely learned a lot in these two subjects through Kaplan. USMLE Rx covered the basics nicely, but Kaplan helps to reinforce some "top-up" details that you've likely overlooked or just haven't heard of before. I also don't feel any of the information is particularly low-yield; it's more just difficult.

    Physiology is also very good and there are lots of graph- and arrow-questions. This is certainly a strength of Kaplan QBank in the sense that you actually have to use your brain and not just rapid-click to the next question.

    I would recommend reading all of the explanations. There were times when I was tempted to skip over some parts of them on questions I had gotten correct because I felt I had already seen the concept a million times, but then I'd notice in the last line, for instance, that Kaplan would mention something I hadn't heard of before. So definitely read/skim everything. Occasionally you'll find that they'll elucidate a mechanism that you had been wondering about for two years and had never had explained to you before.

    There were plenty of CT scans and images in this QBank. I'm considering PrntScreening the images into a master file to review the day or two before the real exam.

    Bottom line:

    Kaplan QBank is overall a relatively challenging question resource. There is a heightened focus on molecular lab techniques and microbiology that delivers a strong breadth of foundational knowledge in these areas. The physiology and behavioral science are also very good, excepting the fact that biostatistics is comparatively de-emphasized. The explanations are great ~20% of the time, good ~40% of the time, and then average and poor ~30 and 10% of the time, respectively.

    I had sat NBME3 the day before having started Kaplan QBank. I scored 250. During the first few blocks of the QBank, I had encountered two questions that were almost identical to two that I had gotten wrong on the NBME the previous day. Therefore, I realized that if I had gone through Kaplan QBank first, I would have had those questions correct. This means that Kaplan QBank is beneficial for helping to bridge beyond 250+, and therefore I highly recommend it. I have likely gained 7-12 additional questions correct on my future USMLE having gone through this QBank.
     
    #1 Phloston, Aug 23, 2012
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2012
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  3. MrBeauregard

    MrBeauregard Soon-to-be PGY-1
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    Do you have a formula you use to calculate how many questions you know you'll get correct on your future USMLE after having gone through a certain resource?
     
  4. Bane

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    lol.
     
  5. Kaputt

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    He's easily >300 by his estimations at this point
     
  6. phd89

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    Thanks for your input Phloston

    Quick Questions

    1. What did you score on the Kaplan Simulated exams if you don't mind telling us?
    2. What are your thoughts on redoing the Qbank is it worth the time? I did it once and annotated most of the questions I thought were hi-yield and was thinking not to go through it again just read the annotations and spend more time on Uworld.
     
  7. Phloston

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    I just feel it.

    As Kaputt has pointed out though, the #s would change over time and only serve as my own personal gauge, as opposed to being applicable to anyone else. If I had done this QBank as my first question source, for instance, I might have gained 30-40 questions on my future exam as opposed to 7-12. So timing and order of the QBanks are important.


    Diagnostic (150 questions): ~72%
    QBank (~2200 questions): ~81%
    Exam 1 (322 questions): ~81%
    Exam 2 (322 questions): ~80%

    I'm not really sure what happened on the diagnostic. I may have been tired, but I don't really know. No excuses really. However, IIRC from SAT prep, I had taken the Kaplan course and had done much better on the real thing than on their diagnostic. I think they intentionally make it harder so that you feel your percentages have boosted after using their product, when in fact they've been pretty constant all along, who knows.


    I'm absolutely going to do it a second time. I'll be using September for UWorld, October for USMLE Consult, NBMEs and some other stuff, then November for USMLE Rx, Kaplan and UWorld all for a second time at ~322 Qs/day. I sit the exam December 14th.

    After having gone through Kaplan, most of their QBank is not low-yield at all (except for that Tangier's disease question, which I got correct only because there was a thread dedicated to it a couple months ago, where people were flipping out about its low-yieldness), and it will definitely produce a 1-3 additional points on the real exam going through it a second time. I feel this is due to a combination of building endurance, rapid recall and reinforcement of small details. On the second pass for all QBanks, I would mark any question where you're not 1000% sure of anything related to it, then go back through all incorrects and marked.
     
  8. thatsmate

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    This is a phenomenal review. I should bookmark it so I can post a link to every time someone posts one of the incessant 'Kaplan worth it??!?' threads.
     
  9. cooldoc89

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    thanks for the info
     
    #8 cooldoc89, Aug 23, 2012
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2012
  10. phd89

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    maybe it was just me but I thought the Kaplan simulated exam 2 was much easier than exam 1, i think they may have done that on purpose so it would seem like you actually improved from using their Qbank


    Phloston, how to you manage to retain all that information in FA along with the annotations you made from all the sources doing questions. Your FA must be packed with annotations! Personally I made a separate notebook for annotations since I felt much of Kaplan was medium to low-yield (meaning not in FA when I looked to see if it was there compared to Uworld). But after every Qbank do you tend to reread go through your FA to ingrain what you have annotated from than bank.


    Is there any method you prescribe to getting FA down, or just go through it and do questions for reinforcement?


    And 322q/day for one month, wow that would require an insane amount of stamina on my part my biggest concern would be burning out, I can't even finish a kaplan simulated exam in one sitting I usually spread it over two days... good luck
     
  11. Phloston

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    I had given FA a first cover-to-cover pass before having done any QBank. I then did USMLE Rx, FA Q&A, Kaplan QBook and GT QBank, and annotated all relevant info in FA. I then did a second cover-to-cover pass of FA re-reading all of the annotated stuff in addition to just the text itself.

    Between the recent Kaplan annotations (in orange ink) and next month's UWorld annotations (green ink), I'll go back through FA in October giving a special emphasis to everything in orange and green.

    There was one post I had read on the Scores Thread probably about three months ago that was incredibly helpful. The kid had said that while you study, you think you're forgetting everything, but that you're not: trust it. On the real exam, you'll get cues, or certain words will appear in the stems, where the info just comes out of your preconscious. The moral of the story is not to stress that you're forgetting things. The information doesn't sit in your conscious as much as it does in your preconscious. When you go to sleep at night and dream weird things, just trust that you're storing the info away for later use.

    And, yes, I believe doing questions for reinforcement is the best way for learning FA and all USMLE material. Some things work different for other people, but that's what works best for me.
     
  12. NewYorkDoctors

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    Nice review

    You obviously a lot of effort into it

    I used Kaplan as well for steps 1 and 2 and I can comfortably say Kaplan does not resemble the real test whatsoever.

    The more difficult topics may be good to hone the mind but there says literally no instance when I thought "oh this was in the kap Qbank" during any one of my real tests.

    Most casual test preparers should take a pass.

    Most serious gunners should take a look. Even though I say it did not directly help, it must have given me some kind of knowledge advantage because I outscored most and all of my classmates who just used uworld on 1 and 2, respectively.
     
  13. Phloston

    Physician Lifetime Donor Classifieds Approved 5+ Year Member

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    Could you please be more specific when you say Kaplan is not like the real exam? Is this in terms of the small details tested or the graph-type questions, or what?

    May I also ask what you scored on Step1 and on Kaplan QBank (%-wise)?
     
  14. OberynMartell

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    If you found one more useful overall, would it be Kaplan or USMLERx?
     
  15. NewYorkDoctors

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    The real exam literally looks (obviously) like uworld and the style/syntax/structure of the questions also are very similar.

    This is also akin to the easy to medium questions on Kaplan.

    The harder questions in Kaplan, while nice to know, never ever showed up on the real test.
    E.g. Tangier disease, during hypovolemia, MAP -RAP = CO x TPR
    Acinetobacter baumanni being a common cause of resistant ventilator associated pneumonia ( though this is highly relevant in real life)

    Just a few examples. Great to know but never showed up on the test.


    257 / 270 and 65% / 71% first pass for 1 / 2 respectively (for the record first pass uworld 70%/81%)

    others scored higher than me, of course.

    But I often remarked during a test: " oh that was in first aid or uworld"

    I never thought: "oh that was in Kaplan"
     
  16. Sir Gillies

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    Thanks Phloston for yet an another incredible review!
    Please keep them coming : )
     
  17. g8orlife

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    Going thru Kaplan now, Pholston. You're not the first to mention th positives of Kaplan's Physiology section, but I thought I heard better reviews of Kaplan's answer explanations.

    Thanks for the review. I really appreciate it.
     
  18. g8orlife

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    I just thought the exact same thing.:smuggrin:
     
  19. dragon529

    dragon529 MS-III
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    Would you suggest using Rx or Kaplan to go along with classes (for ~8 months)? Planning to do that then start UWorld 2 months prior and do that 2 times...
     
  20. Bane

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    I just finished week 2 of M2. I have likely gained 2-3 additional questions correct on my future USMLE having gone through these weeks.
     
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  21. MrBeauregard

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    I literally laughed out loud.
     
  22. g8orlife

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    Ditto;)
     
  23. GTP

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    Lol lets all leave phloston alone. Hes a G
     
  24. Phloston

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    They were useful in different ways. I would definitely recommend doing USMLE Rx before Kaplan because the former focuses more on FA and on the basics. Kaplan has quite a bit of "top-up" info that is helpful after you've already built foundation, but for learning the material from the ground-up, USMLE Rx is better. I would say if it had to be one or the other for going through slowly during MS2, USMLE Rx in tutor-mode, with associated reading of the FA pages, is golden.

    So:

    USMLE Rx > Kaplan in terms of learning FA and biostats.
    Kaplan > USMLE Rx in terms of behavioral, physiology and CT scans.
     
  25. Chirurg

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    I'm waitng for that review, haven't heard much about that particular bank.
    btw, good job philoston, keep it up!
     
  26. Kaputt

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    In all fairness, you haven't taken the actual exam yet, so your opinion of what is low vs. high yield is irrelevant. I did most of the Kaplan qbank, and I found a sizable # of questions to be low yield, and another sizable # to be poorly written and/or not realistic to the exam. The pharmacology of the Kaplan qbank is especially low yield, for example.
     
  27. NewYorkDoctors

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    I had a free subscription to usmle consult for awhile

    Just because Goljian wrote some questions, don't be suckered by it

    Really simple questions or littered with little errors


    I agree with nealy everything pholston says about these alternate qbanks. I use a total of four for each of my step exams.

    But bottom line is past uworld, everything has severe diminishing returns. If you have the time and willpower, it can only help you. But so much more effort is required.
     
  28. Phloston

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    In all fairness, with regard to knowing low- vs high-yield, whether one has actually sat the real Step is irrelevant.

    We all know everyone's exam is different. Some people get lots of micro and histo; some might not get any at all.

    Therefore, what is high- vs low-yield is determined through having done thousands of questions and seeing what shows up repeatedly across the various QBanks. Power is in numbers, as you know, not the random 322 one gets on the real USMLE.

    To that effect, Kaplan is not low-yield for pharmacology. They mention a few drugs that are not common, however I had come across these in the Brenner/Lange cards, and they weren't a shocker (e.g. aprepitant).
     
  29. Phloston

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    I'm going to tackle Consult in the same way that I had GT QBank: blast through the questions, do an ultra-cursory skim of explanations, and not freak out about poorly written vignettes. I'm not expecting much out of this QBank based on what I've heard, however if I can get even one additional question correct on my future USMLE by having done it, then it's a success.
     
  30. sharklasers

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    How specific can one go in Kaplan and UWorld, in terms of question choices?

    I am trying to decide which one to do alongside M2 classes.

    I want practice questions for the basic immuno, pharm, path we are doing. But I don't want to do questions, realize it involves knowing content I have not yet covered, and just waste my time.
     
  31. NewYorkDoctors

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    Good attitude. All the best to you. You are a "pioneer."

    Btw, ever consider looknig at the Pretest qbank? (which is the same as USMLEasy)

    I did them for Step 2 and despite the amount of hair pulling I did, it LITERALLY DID give me 3 questions on step2CK which I would NOT have gotten from uWorld alone.
     
  32. Kaputt

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    Um, my opinion on the Step is far more valuable than yours, because I took mine already. Yes, there is variation from test to test, but the exam is written in such a way that you would score in the same range on most administrations.

    Not all question banks are created equal. The NBMEs and UWorld are by far the most reliable question sources, and Kaplan cannot hold a candle to those resources. Additionally, all of the "difficult" Kaplan questions simply test obscure facts, which are often not even in First Aid. Now I know First Aid isn't comprehensive, but it is the definition of "high yield".

    Kaplan tests minutiae. Plain and simple. But that's probably not the worst thing about it -- it structures questions very poorly, and not at all like UWorld, NBMEs, or the real thing. UWorld and Kaplan could both have questions that rely on the same fact, but the UWorld question will be far superior.

    Brenner/Lange cards are low-yield too. You may get ONE question on your exam that is an obscure drug, and the likelihood that this was one of the obscure drugs you put to memory is slim to begin with, even if you try really hard. There are diminishing returns on the kind of minutiae Kaplan emphasizes.

    Come back when you've done UWorld and you'll clearly see how terrible Kaplan is.
     
  33. Phloston

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    Kaputt, are you making this personal?
     
  34. sharklasers

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    any thoughts on this phloston?

    and if i were you, i would try no to take anything people say personally. it seems as though a lot of people have beef with you, but it is 100% because you are doing so well AND are lucky enough to have so much time to prepare. this forum is full of gunners (myself included) and they are projecting because they are insecure about their own score/progress

    either way, everyone needs to calm down and let people use this forum for what it is, a medium for people to help each other succeed. if you dont like advice, ignore it, or kindly say you disagree and say why

    anyways, back to my question :):):)
     
  35. Bane

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    You do realize Kaputt already has taken the exam and scored better (on the actual exam) than Phulston has on anything yet, right? I do enjoy how anyone in disagreement on this site can't actually be in disagreement, they are either projecting, insecure, or jealous... they can't fundamentally disagree and there's no possible way they may have a more qualified opinion.


    The formula for doing well on this exam has been laid out a million times - there are no secrets.

    Gunner gonna gun though.

    So the search continues for something other than Uworld/FA/Pathoma to do well.
     
    #34 Bane, Aug 24, 2012
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2012
  36. sharklasers

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    i actually didn't realize he had done better. either way, i figured there is no formula that works for everyone. people just do what works best for them, and this forum is a great guide for giving you a good place to start.

    i think most people agree that those three sources are the best. if it was only during prep time, then only those 3 would be the best option.

    but for others, like myself, looking for a good qbank for the year, im not sure if uworld is the best choice for me right now. do you have any thoughts on this?
     
  37. NewYorkDoctors

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    If you insist on something extra to do int he year, do USMLERx.

    It is more on point and uses First Aid explanations.
     
  38. Bane

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    I agree with the post I quoted below, add USMLERx (as I've heard from many others)... but here's another idea, does it really matter. Just do something/anything. The whole idea of finding the perfect whatever (which we're all subject to) is just fear or worry expressing itself. Use Kaplan, Use Rx, use neither, use both... whatever. Just ensure you work your ass off on FA + Uworld whenever that time comes (AND work hard during M2). Will not using or using extra qbanks add 3-6 points or 2 or lose 6 or add 7.5 or ... does it really matter? If you're doing very well a few points here or there won't change your residency application.

    Endlessly dissecting Step 1 resources is not useful. It's like searching for the best workout for 30 days instead of getting in the gym with a good plan on day 1.

     
    #37 Bane, Aug 24, 2012
    Last edited: Aug 24, 2012
  39. Kaputt

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    Nope! Apologize if you took it personally. I just want to make it clear to onlookers that there are wide opinions on expensive resources such as a Kaplan qbank. I bought it, used it, and found it to be a poor product in retrospect after I took the exam.
     
  40. tortuga87

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    Since some of the topics covered in Kaplan QBank are irrelevant to step 1, would it be better to only do the easy and medium questions (since the hard questions tend to require obscure facts)?
     
  41. Morsetlis

    Morsetlis I wish I were a dentist
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    How do you know which are the medium questions and which are Tangier's Disease questions? . . .
     
  42. Phloston

    Physician Lifetime Donor Classifieds Approved 5+ Year Member

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    Just do the whole QBank. If you encounter a question that you undeniably believe is WTF-question info, then feel free to skim the explanation if you're crammed for time. But I'd recommend doing every question and perusing (critically reading) every explanation.

    Not sure. I never selected out questions by difficulty, but just did the whole QBank in timed-random. And I like how you mention the Tangier's disease question; that's become a legend here on SDN.
     
  43. IntelInside

    7+ Year Member

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    So in your opinion phloston if you had to choose one: kaplan qbank or usmlerx
     
  44. Phloston

    Physician Lifetime Donor Classifieds Approved 5+ Year Member

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    USMLE Rx > Kaplan QBank

    Rx closely follows the content in FA.

    Although you should do both because each one fills you in on areas that the other doesn't, if it has to be one, I advocate Rx > Kaplan.

    Rx + FA should be viewed as one collective resource (after all, Rx was created by the FA authors).
     
  45. Jorje286

    Jorje286 Member
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    Kaplan QBank is valuable for micro and anatomy the most. The rest imo is almost all useless. Do it only if you have like a year or something to prepare so you can consolidate the information. I also think there are too many WTF questions whose only purpose is to bring your score down rather than to explain difficult concepts.

    I don't agree you have to do it. FAid + USMLEWorld + anatomy/path sources is "all" you need to really kill the exam.
     
  46. calvnandhobbs68

    calvnandhobbs68 I KNOW NOTHING
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    What I love most is when they reference a random page in first aid with kaplan that has about one word on common with the question.
     
  47. MedAction

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    I just finished the Kaplan simulated exam 1 with a 74%. What does that correlate to on the 3 digit score?
    I can't seem to find any links to correlate that score anywhere. Spent 8 hours on it...
    Thanks

     
  48. Phloston

    Physician Lifetime Donor Classifieds Approved 5+ Year Member

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    I wouldn't rely on the Kaplan material for score prediction.
     
  49. aspiringmd1015

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    did you answer the questions system based(organ based) or totally randomized? or subject wise?
     
  50. Wizard of Gauze

    Wizard of Gauze Membership Revoked
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    sorry to spam - but if anyone's reading this and looking for a USMLE-Rx discount code.. DOWNQMAX1 available until 9/4/14 $129 for 12-month subscription, you can buy now and activate up to 6 months later if you prefer to wait. Cheers!
     

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