Jul 10, 2013
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Hello fellow med students! I am a current M2 and have younger sibling who is preparing to begin M1 year this August. My brother has recently been asking me many questions about what books/sources he will need, so I figured I would pass this information on to the medical community at large -- perhaps it will help someone else as well!
NB: The following is not a comprehensive list, it is just what I have been using and have found to be extremely helpful over the past 2 years. Everyone studies differently!

M1 Year: suggestions - FIRECRACKER
When I came to medical school, many older told me not to start worrying about boards, just focus on classes. You definitely don't need to purchase and q-banks, etc. etc. While this may be sage advice for some, looking back I think I would modify that advice slightly and suggest getting some sort of interactive source that will enhance your classroom learning. At the time, I purchased Osmosis, as it was the only program I knew about besides various flashcard making sites such as Anki and Quizlet - and I'm not about to spend a whole bunch of my precious time making my own flashcards! Osmosis is a program that has pre-made flashcards, helpful videos, and board style questions. Ultimately, I did not find Osmosis to be useful during M1 year, and did not end up using my subscription. : ( as poor medical students, we should probably avoid paying for things we aren't going to use!
Toward the end of M1 year we had our first Systems course - Neuroscience - and I began to use FIRECRACKER, which I highly recommend! Now that I am studying for boards, I truly wish I had Firecracker from the beginning of M1 year. It has topics you can read about (if you want), as well as pre-made flash cards which I found to be A MILLION TIMES BETTER than the Osmosis flashcards. There are also board-style case questions that I would take before quizzes/tests and you can select which specific topics to include so that you aren't testing yourself of material that is irrelevant to your class exams. One of the things I like best about Firecracker is the level of detail - it is more in depth that First Aid, but sticks to the relevant, high yield facts that will be important for Step 1 (and likely also your classes). You can use the link for firecracker above, or go to this website: http://mbsy.co/g6lHR - I know it looks sketchy but that is for a discount code (~50% off right now - edit: for transparency purposes, Firecracker does sometimes have referral bonuses, and since this is my personal link, if you purchase anything through this link it is possible that I could get a "bonus" which I think is sometimes in the form of $, and other times in the form of added time to my subscription, I don't know if there is always a referral bonus, but there should always be a discount - You can also google Firecracker discount codes to use other peoples referral links, or ask any friends who may already have Firecracker if they can send you their link!). Firecracker - Learn Faster, Remember Everything is their website, feel free to compare prices there with the discount code above, since prices seem to change all the time. There are frequently sales going on, so if there isn't a sale I would recommend taking advantage of their 1 month free trial while waiting for a good discount to come along.
There are other sources you will need M1 year, but nothing you should HAVE to pay for. In every class there will be people who have access to pdf textbooks - ask around, people are usually more than happy to share. I would recommend getting First Aid, Netter's Anatomy, and Robbin's Pathology as pdfs from other students if you can...

M2 Year: suggestions - SKETCHY, PATHOMA, FIRST AID, OSMOSIS, UWORLD
Whenever you have your Infectious Disease system course, I would highly recommend getting SKETCHY with a subscription to get you from your ID course all the way through boards. I know there are versions of Sketchy out there that are pirated, but I would actually recommend purchasing an actual subscription! Sketchy is a subscription service that gives you access to videos, which are silly scenarios with stories to help you remember all the pertinent details of bugs & drugs. One of the best features of the online subscription is they also have pictures of the overall, completed video where you can quiz yourself or refresh your memory by scrolling over certain characters or items on the screen to have notes pop up with details of that particular mnemonic. I'm probably doing a poor job of describing this! If you are entering M2 year, head over to SketchyMedical - Master the USMLE STEP 1 the fast and fun way to see what I'm talking about.
PATHOMA is another video service that also comes with a textbook which you annotate as you watch the videos. It is on all most high yield pathology. I recommend getting a 1 year subscription at the beginning of M2 year. You, or someone from your class, should contact Pathoma to get a discount code! Almost everyone uses Pathoma for Step 1.
Obviously, you will have to invest in the medical school bible, FIRST AID. There is a new, updated version to this book which comes out every year in January. I recommend saving your money M1 year by using a "free" pdf version from an older year to follow along with classes, then purchase First Aid the January that you will be taking Step 1. Also, if you are like me and tend to study at school/library/coffee shop/anywhere you need to travel to, don't be afraid to pull the binding off and three hole punch your first aid so that you can take only the relevant chapter with you. Otherwise, it is a bit heavy and bulky. Plus, if you deconstruct it then you can add in notes from other places such as Firecracker (I copy/paste topics from Firecracker into a Word document which I print out and keep with First Aid).
I mentioned OSMOSIS before, and said it wasn't helpful M1 year. I still stand by that, but for board studying I feel like that completely changes. I don't use Osmosis for their flashcards or other services, but I love their Step 1 Study Plan which creates a checklist based on your Step 1 date and resources you will be using to study from. Even better than the Study Plan, are their board-style questions which I have been using to supplement UWorld. I think they are VERY GOOD questions, even though I didn't care for their flashcards. Osmosis also has video links to each topic, but some videos are better than others. The videos that Osmosis makes themselves are excellent, but many topics have links to youtube videos made by other people, with drastically varying levels of usefulness. I would buy Osmosis again for their question bank (just not in M1 year) - but if you only want to use it for the videos, just search for them on youtube or go to Osmosis because you don't need a subscription to watch those!
Everyone needs UWORLD for Step studying. It is a question bank. Get it 3-6 months before your test date, whichever you can afford/think you will need. This is ESSENTIAL, just like First Aid.

Summary:
Don't burden yourself with too many resources. There are a lot out there, and there is no need to use them ALL! No one has that kind of time, even if you do have that kind of money. For any textbooks you may want, WAIT UNTIL SCHOOL STARTS!!!! Someone is bound to have either a pdf version you can copy or used textbooks you can buy cheap.
If you can afford it, I recommend Firecracker for at least M1 & M2 year. They also have questions/flashcards/info for clerkships M3 year, so I personally plan to use it until Step 2 at the beginning of M4 year. If you cannot afford it, save up your money for UWorld and First Aid which are essential. Sketchy and Pathoma are one slight step below essential. Picmonic is another program similar to Sketchy, some people prefer it. I feel their mnemonic videos to be bizarre and too much of a stretch from reality for me to remember them - but everyone is different! Don't buy both, just one or the other. Same with Goljan for path videos - there are a few people who use his program instead of Pathoma. Take advantage of free trial periods to figure out what works best for you. If you don't have the money, you can find ways to access Sketchy and Pathoma for free, but I highly recommend investing in an actual subscription. Osmosis has been helpful for me M2 year as a supplemental question bank. Also be sure to see what subscriptions your school might have to various question banks - I know ours has one called Exam Master which is okay.

Good luck in Med School, I hope you all do well!
 
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Luka75

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Hello fellow med students! I am a current M2 and have younger sibling who is preparing to begin M1 year this August. My brother has recently been asking me many questions about what books/sources he will need, so I figured I would pass this information on to the medical community at large -- perhaps it will help someone else as well!
NB: The following is not a comprehensive list, it is just what I have been using and have found to be extremely helpful over the past 2 years. Everyone studies differently!

M1 Year: suggestions - FIRECRACKER
When I came to medical school, many older told me not to start worrying about boards, just focus on classes. You definitely don't need to purchase and q-banks, etc. etc. While this may be sage advice for some, looking back I think I would modify that advice slightly and suggest getting some sort of interactive source that will enhance your classroom learning. At the time, I purchased Osmosis, as it was the only program I knew about besides various flashcard making sites such as Anki and Quizlet - and I'm not about to spend a whole bunch of my precious time making my own flashcards! Osmosis is a program that has pre-made flashcards, helpful videos, and board style questions. Ultimately, I did not find Osmosis to be useful during M1 year, and did not end up using my subscription. : ( as poor medical students, we should probably avoid paying for things we aren't going to use!
Toward the end of M1 year we had our first Systems course - Neuroscience - and I began to use FIRECRACKER, which I highly recommend! Now that I am studying for boards, I truly wish I had Firecracker from the beginning of M1 year. It has topics you can read about (if you want), as well as pre-made flash cards which I found to be A MILLION TIMES BETTER than the Osmosis flashcards. There are also board-style case questions that I would take before quizzes/tests and you can select which specific topics to include so that you aren't testing yourself of material that is irrelevant to your class exams. One of the things I like best about Firecracker is the level of detail - it is more in depth that First Aid, but sticks to the relevant, high yield facts that will be important for Step 1 (and likely also your classes). You can use the link for firecracker above, or go to this website: http://mbsy.co/g6lHR - I know it looks sketchy but that is for a discount code (~50% off right now). Firecracker - Learn Faster, Remember Everything is there website, feel free to compare prices there with the discount code above, since prices seem to change all the time. There are frequently sales going on, so if there every isn't a sale I would recommend taking advantage of their 1 month free trial while waiting for a good discount to come along.
There are other sources you will need M1 year, but nothing you should HAVE to pay for. In every class there will be people who have access to pdf textbooks - ask around, people are usually more than happy to share. I would recommend getting First Aid, Netter's Anatomy, and Robbin's Pathology as pdfs from other students if you can...

M2 Year: suggestions - SKETCHY, PATHOMA, FIRST AID, OSMOSIS, UWORLD
Whenever you have your Infectious Disease system course, I would highly recommend getting SKETCHY with a subscription to get you from your ID course all the way through boards. I know there are versions of Sketchy out there that are pirated, but I would actually recommend purchasing an actual subscription! Sketchy is a subscription service that gives you access to videos, which are silly scenarios with stories to help you remember all the pertinent details of bugs & drugs. One of the best features of the online subscription is they also have pictures of the overall, completed video where you can quiz yourself or refresh your memory by scrolling over certain characters or items on the screen to have notes pop up with details of that particular mnemonic. I'm probably doing a poor job of describing this! If you are entering M2 year, head over to SketchyMedical - Master the USMLE STEP 1 the fast and fun way to see what I'm talking about.
PATHOMA is another video service that also comes with a textbook which you annotate as you watch the videos. It is on all most high yield pathology. I recommend getting a 1 year subscription at the beginning of M2 year. You, or someone from your class, should contact Pathoma to get a discount code! Almost everyone uses Pathoma for Step 1.
Obviously, you will have to invest in the medical school bible, FIRST AID. There is a new, updated version to this book which comes out every year in January. I recommend saving your money M1 year by using a "free" pdf version from an older year to follow along with classes, then purchase First Aid the January that you will be taking Step 1. Also, if you are like me and tend to study at school/library/coffee shop/anywhere you need to travel to, don't be afraid to pull the binding off and three hole punch your first aid so that you can take only the relevant chapter with you. Otherwise, it is a bit heavy and bulky. Plus, if you deconstruct it then you can add in notes from other places such as Firecracker (I copy/paste topics from Firecracker into a Word document which I print out and keep with First Aid).
I mentioned OSMOSIS before, and said it wasn't helpful M1 year. I still stand by that, but for board studying I feel like that completely changes. I don't use Osmosis for their flashcards or other services, but I love their Step 1 Study Plan which creates a checklist based on your Step 1 date and resources you will be using to study from. Even better than the Study Plan, are their board-style questions which I have been using to supplement UWorld. I think they are VERY GOOD questions, even though I didn't care for their flashcards. Osmosis also has video links to each topic, but some videos are better than others. The videos that Osmosis makes themselves are excellent, but many topics have links to youtube videos made by other people, with drastically varying levels of usefulness. I would buy Osmosis again for their question bank (just not in M1 year) - but if you only want to use it for the videos, just search for them on youtube or go to Osmosis because you don't need a subscription to watch those!
Everyone needs UWORLD for Step studying. It is a question bank. Get it 3-6 months before your test date, whichever you can afford/think you will need. This is ESSENTIAL, just like First Aid.

Summary:
Don't burden yourself with too many resources. There are a lot out there, and there is no need to use them ALL! No one has that kind of time, even if you do have that kind of money. For any textbooks you may want, WAIT UNTIL SCHOOL STARTS!!!! Someone is bound to have either a pdf version you can copy or used textbooks you can buy cheap.
If you can afford it, I recommend Firecracker for at least M1 & M2 year. They also have questions/flashcards/info for clerkships M3 year, so I personally plan to use it until Step 2 at the beginning of M4 year. If you cannot afford it, save up your money for UWorld and First Aid which are essential. Sketchy and Pathoma are one slight step below essential. Picmonic is another program similar to Sketchy, some people prefer it. I feel their mnemonic videos to be bizarre and too much of a stretch from reality for me to remember them - but everyone is different! Don't buy both, just one or the other. Same with Goljan for path videos - there are a few people who use his program instead of Pathoma. Take advantage of free trial periods to figure out what works best for you. If you don't have the money, you can find ways to access Sketchy and Pathoma for free, but I highly recommend investing in an actual subscription. Osmosis has been helpful for me M2 year as a supplemental question bank. Also be sure to see what subscriptions your school might have to various question banks - I know ours has one called Exam Master which is okay.

Good luck in Med School, I hope you all do well!
I just bookmarked this.:bow:
 
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Frogger27

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Thanks a lot for this OP! I would love to hear what other medical students who have finished pre-clinical years think of the above post.
 

libertyyne

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I would love to hear a run down about other sources as well.
Kaplan qBank
Anki , bro's deck
Goljan
Different UWolrd Strategies
 

ridethecliche

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Bros deck is great for making yourself remember those easy to forget facts. It's not a primary learning tool though. You need to have a decent understanding of the material otherwise you have no idea what you're learning since you can't place it.
 
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Astra

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I heard this is also a good resource. thoughts?

 
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GoljansRightBicep

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Bros deck is great for making yourself remember those easy to forget facts. It's not a primary learning tool though. You need to have a decent understanding of the material otherwise you have no idea what you're learning since you can't place it.

How does Bro's deck compare to Firecracker? FA Step 1 Flash Facts (USMLE-Rx)? From what I hear from others, I get the impression that these are somewhat interchangeable but I'd be curious to hear from someone who actually used/tried some of them.
 

intubesteak

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I'm an M1 and have been using firecracker religiously this semester. It has become an excellent all-around study tool for classes, and I know from others experience that it will pay off for boards. Another way I am using it in addition to doing specific questions before exams and the daily review, is just reading through the summaries for a quick refresh. Its not as powerful as forced recall of cards in random order, but it helps me solidify and make comparisons as I go. Typically I will mark new topics right after seeing them in lecture or reading them in Robbins (best book ever). I do not anticipate using first aid at this point as it would be redundant. X1000 for FC
 
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intubesteak

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How does Bro's deck compare to Firecracker? FA Step 1 Flash Facts (USMLE-Rx)? From what I hear from others, I get the impression that these are somewhat interchangeable but I'd be curious to hear from someone who actually used/tried some of them.

FC is much better than flash facts IMO. FC is not a direct transfer from FA. I have found some striking similarities between FC and Robbins, as well as Costanzo (two of the best med school books for the most important subjects, IMO). FC references pathoma and FA but it really is on another level. Its definitely worth a free trial at the minimum. I have not used bros extensively to be able to comment on content, but I enjoy the interface and organization of FC much more than anki.
 
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intubesteak

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Btw the OP is going to get referral bonuses (cash) if you sign up through their link. Sorry OP but that is a little sneaky giving a major fc plug and posting your referral link.
 
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GoljansRightBicep

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FC is much better than flash facts IMO. FC is not a direct transfer from FA. I have found some striking similarities between FC and Robbins, as well as Costanzo (two of the best med school books for the most important subjects, IMO). FC references pathoma and FA but it really is on another level. Its definitely worth a free trial at the minimum. I have not used bros extensively to be able to comment on content, but I enjoy the interface and organization of FC much more than anki.

Thanks for the info, that's very helpful. I'm an M1 as well, but my school is organized by organ system (5 blocks in a year, MS2 serves as a second pass and focuses on pathology). Up to this point, I've been making my own Anki cards and it's worked very well, with two major drawbacks: 1) HUGE time commitment to make good cards, 2) Overemphasis on nitty-gritty details that are specific to my school/lecturer. Do you think it'd be worth switching to FC once this block is over, for the final block of MS1?

Edit: Not trying to derail thread with my own questions, but figured this is as good a place as any to ask them since the answers may be useful to incoming med students.
 

intubesteak

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Thanks for the info, that's very helpful. I'm an M1 as well, but my school is organized by organ system (5 blocks in a year, MS2 serves as a second pass and focuses on pathology). Up to this point, I've been making my own Anki cards and it's worked very well, with two major drawbacks: 1) HUGE time commitment to make good cards, 2) Overemphasis on nitty-gritty details that are specific to my school/lecturer. Do you think it'd be worth switching to FC once this block is over, for the final block of MS1?

Edit: Not trying to derail thread with my own questions, but figured this is as good a place as any to ask them since the answers may be useful to incoming med students.

Totally depends. I would get a one month subscription and try it out over the summer to see if you can catch up, or maybe at the start of your next block. I'm no expert in anki but maybe you could somehow switch to bros deck while keeping up with your own, It might help with the time issue. I also started with anki but felt exhausted making cards and could hardly study them. My curriculum also switched to straight pass/fail preclinical so there is less pressure for soaking up all the pHdetails in lecture (I still study slides from class but not as intensely).
 

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Btw the OP is going to get referral bonuses (cash) if you sign up through their link. Sorry OP but that is a little sneaky giving a major fc plug and posting your referral link.
As someone who used it religiously I'll happily endorse Firecracker, but providing referral links without a disclaimer should be against the TOS as far as I'm concerned.
 
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As someone who used it religiously I'll happily endorse Firecracker, but providing referral links without a disclaimer should be against the TOS as far as I'm concerned.
Hey guys, thanks for pointing this out, I have edited the original post so that it is clearer!
Sorry, I honestly wasn't trying to be sneaky. I gave both that link and the regular Firecracker link, and thought I was clear and encouraged people to compare. The reason why I provided referral link was because if someone uses it THEY will get a discount, which again you would be able to compare discounts since I provided both links, and I encouraged using the free trial option. You certainly don't have to purchase anything from the referral link - you could try to find someone else who has one instead! And I'm not sure but I don't know that the referring person always gets a bonus? Anyway. Take it or leave it, it is a discount link for the the person purchasing, ultimately. Or google firecracker discount and use someone else's link. I was just trying to put together a list of what I found to be the best study resource M1 & M2 year. For the sake of transparency, yes, there is a referral bonus at the moment. I have never received any money from Firecracker. I seriously just use it, it is my favorite resource aside from Sketchy which is just plain fun.
 
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How does Bro's deck compare to Firecracker? FA Step 1 Flash Facts (USMLE-Rx)? From what I hear from others, I get the impression that these are somewhat interchangeable but I'd be curious to hear from someone who actually used/tried some of them.
I have never used FA Step 1 Flash Facts, but it is my understanding that they take straight from First Aid only, vs Firecracker goes a little more into detail than FA. Can anyone who has taken Step 1 or is a current M2 recommend their favorite source for Pharm review? I bought Pharmnemonics flash cards but am feeling meh about them.
 
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Thanks for the info, that's very helpful. I'm an M1 as well, but my school is organized by organ system (5 blocks in a year, MS2 serves as a second pass and focuses on pathology). Up to this point, I've been making my own Anki cards and it's worked very well, with two major drawbacks: 1) HUGE time commitment to make good cards, 2) Overemphasis on nitty-gritty details that are specific to my school/lecturer. Do you think it'd be worth switching to FC once this block is over, for the final block of MS1?

Edit: Not trying to derail thread with my own questions, but figured this is as good a place as any to ask them since the answers may be useful to incoming med students.
I would recommend doing a trial, since it is free. If you do the free trial and still aren't sure, just wait until M2 year and do another free trial with a different email address. ;)
 
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I would love to hear a run down about other sources as well.
Kaplan qBank
Anki , bro's deck
Goljan
Different UWolrd Strategies

1) Kaplan qBank - I didn't want to invest in this since I had other programs, but I have done some questions with my roommate who has it. BTW- I think you get a 30% discount if you join AMA. I also got a free First Aid through joining AMA in Dec '16 (so that the FA I got would be the 2017 version). Anyway, back to Kaplan. So first of all, it is difficult to do board style questions like Kaplan or UWorld until you have had enough courses under your belt, because it is very integrative. Also, I have heard students from years above me claim that Kaplan questions are easier than UWorld. I don't know anyone that bough Kaplan INSTEAD of UWorld, I think it would just be a supplemental program for access to more board questions. How I would approach it- I don't know personally that I would get much out of it unless I whizzed through UWorld and was in need of more questions that I hadn't seen before. Or, if they have a free trial you could do that along with whichever block you are on and see if it is useful to you.
2) Unfortunately, I don't know much about Anki bc I'm not into making my own flashcards. I do know people who use it though - most people do learn better making their own flashcards, but it is extremely time consuming. You can search for med school flashcard decks other students have made for free on Quizlet - although of course then you don't know if the information is 100% correct, or if it is complete for that subject. I don't know anything about Bro's deck, sorry!
3) Goljan - Goljan was the gold standard for path before Pathoma arrived on the scene. If you want cut and dry info while sitting at your computer desk - get Pathoma. If you are an Audible type of person, you can listen to Goljan while doing household chores or in the car. I also hear he is kind of entertaining. I could be wrong about this, but I don't think Goljan is something to purchase, I think it is a lecture series that someone at some point recorded and is now widely available online or on your fellow student's flash drives. Or possibly even on your school's computer lab computers.
4) Different UWorld Strategies - honestly, there are so many of these and there is no one right way to approach UWorld! It is going to depend on the type of studier you are. See this one doc's opinion HERE. I think he makes some good points about not waiting until you have re-studied everything to start doing your UWorld questions - but I do find the idea of doing a 40Q block for 1 hour then spending 4-6 hours going over the answers a bit much. I try to keep it around 1 hour to take the block, 1 hour to review the questions. There are lots of suggestions/opinions online of how to use UWorld but ultimately I'd say do you and make sure you get through all of it at least once. If you are interested, I also found this USMLE Score Calculator - I have no idea how accurate this actually is though. Don't forget to do some NBME practice exams as well!
 
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libertyyne

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1) Kaplan qBank - I didn't want to invest in this since I had other programs, but I have done some questions with my roommate who has it. BTW- I think you get a 30% discount if you join AMA. I also got a free First Aid through joining AMA in Dec '16 (so that the FA I got would be the 2017 version). Anyway, back to Kaplan. So first of all, it is difficult to do board style questions like Kaplan or UWorld until you have had enough courses under your belt, because it is very integrative. Also, I have heard students from years above me claim that Kaplan questions are easier than UWorld. I don't know anyone that bough Kaplan INSTEAD of UWorld, I think it would just be a supplemental program for access to more board questions. How I would approach it- I don't know personally that I would get much out of it unless I whizzed through UWorld and was in need of more questions that I hadn't seen before. Or, if they have a free trial you could do that along with whichever block you are on and see if it is useful to you.
2) Unfortunately, I don't know much about Anki bc I'm not into making my own flashcards. I do know people who use it though - most people do learn better making their own flashcards, but it is extremely time consuming. You can search for med school flashcard decks other students have made for free on Quizlet - although of course then you don't know if the information is 100% correct, or if it is complete for that subject. I don't know anything about Bro's deck, sorry!
3) Goljan - Goljan was the gold standard for path before Pathoma arrived on the scene. If you want cut and dry info while sitting at your computer desk - get Pathoma. If you are an Audible type of person, you can listen to Goljan while doing household chores or in the car. I also hear he is kind of entertaining. I could be wrong about this, but I don't think Goljan is something to purchase, I think it is a lecture series that someone at some point recorded and is now widely available online or on your fellow student's flash drives. Or possibly even on your school's computer lab computers.
4) Different UWorld Strategies - honestly, there are so many of these and there is no one right way to approach UWorld! It is going to depend on the type of studier you are. See this one doc's opinion HERE. I think he makes some good points about not waiting until you have re-studied everything to start doing your UWorld questions - but I do find the idea of doing a 40Q block for 1 hour then spending 4-6 hours going over the answers a bit much. I try to keep it around 1 hour to take the block, 1 hour to review the questions. There are lots of suggestions/opinions online of how to use UWorld but ultimately I'd say do you and make sure you get through all of it at least once. If you are interested, I also found this USMLE Score Calculator - I have no idea how accurate this actually is though. Don't forget to do some NBME practice exams as well!
Thank you once again for a great write up. I did really well on the mcat by doing lots of questions, provided I had taken the pre-reqs already at that point. How could I maximize practice questions?
 

ridethecliche

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How does Bro's deck compare to Firecracker? FA Step 1 Flash Facts (USMLE-Rx)? From what I hear from others, I get the impression that these are somewhat interchangeable but I'd be curious to hear from someone who actually used/tried some of them.

No idea.

I use pathoma and boards and beyond to learn things and supplement (more like replace) lectures.
I use robbins when I have time to read things and get a better foundation.
I use first aid when I can be bothered to because I abhor reading it outside of exam prep, though I'm obviously using it now since I'm in dedicated.
I recently started using bros but need to be more on top of it. I like using it to keep old material fresh, i.e. my curriculum is organ systems based so I'm concentrating on other things right now. I went through a decent chunk of the organ system related bros cards and do the reviews here and there as they come up. I'm going to do the same when I finish reviewing biochem etc. It's not perfect, but it helps me keep things fresh. I'll go back sometimes and pick a topic to review in between breaks. I find bro's to be extremely frustrating to do but it helps me remember things so I suck it up and do it.
And I use question banks not enough.

There's such a thing as too many resources. Don't play that game. It's awful. I used organ systems through the year and kind of regret it looking back. I should have spent those hours doing questions after I was done pathoma and boards and beyond.
 
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YoungDoc25

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So it seems like most would say FC would be great to use alongside class and boards, where bros is great for board prep/memorizing FA facts...?
 

intubesteak

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So it seems like most would say FC would be great to use alongside class and boards, where bros is great for board prep/memorizing FA facts...?

Ehhhh not exactly. They are essentially the same thing, which is a spaced repetition flashcard tool. The interface is different and the content is somewhat different. People typically use one or the other (if they use them at all), not both. Both are good alongside classes for long-term board prep and to help memorize facts alongside classes. Both draw heavily from first aid and pathoma. Both will get you to "memorize FA facts".
 
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Thank you once again for a great write up. I did really well on the mcat by doing lots of questions, provided I had taken the pre-reqs already at that point. How could I maximize practice questions?

Sure, let me just make something clear though -
For the M0's out there, looking forward to beginning M1 year: Relax and enjoy your last summer of freedom! This post is my way of saying I don't recommend people buy anything now, including "required" textbooks. The last thing anyone should be doing before medical school is trying to study. And when the time does come to start really considering resources, DO NOT burden yourself with too many - it is so unnecessary.

And now, for a really long-winded, round-about approach to answer your question (I swear I get there in the end):
When you start M1 year: 1) make friends, socialize, HAVE FUN, get to know your community especially if it is new to you, 2) figure out the study habits that work best for you, 3) get used to how your school does lectures, 4) find pdf textbooks to sample so if you are a textbook person you can at least make an educated decision before you buy, 5) utilize some sort of flashcard program to supplement classwork (you might not learn everything in classes) - NOT ESSENTIAL - options include Anki (FREE!), Quizlet (FREE!), Firecracker, USMLE Rx, Osmosis, Bro's, etc. as reviewed by various people here and elsewhere. You don't need to do board style questions M1 year. If you do, just use whatever questions come with resources you already have. BRS Anatomy and High Yield Neuroscience are books with questions in them I used M1 year. Osmosis and Firecracker have questions I used M1 year. I'm sure there are many others!
When you start M2 year: same as M1 year in terms of just using the resources you already have grown accustomed to for questions. Layer in SEMI-ESSENTIAL & ESSENTIAL study materials as outlined in original post. Utilize all your *select few* study materials along with your classes to enhance learning. For example, if you are in cardio, you have lectures on topics x, y, z on day 1. Morning of day 2, review relevant sections in whichever flashcard service you have IF you are using one, Pathoma, and FA. If you are the kind of person who annotates, add important information to your FA from other board studying sources you are using such as Pathoma, or Osmosis/Firecracker/USMLE Rx/Bro's, whatever. Don't annotate from lecture, there is probably a lot of additional material in there that you don't need for boards if your lectures are anything like my school's lectures.
When you are 3-6 months out from Step 1 Date: NOW start hitting those practice questions! I know it probably seemed like I wasn't really answering your question before. However, I honestly feel the BEST way to get the MOST out of your practice questions are to have worked hard M1 & M2 year to have a solid foundation. Within reason, leaving time for BALANCE in your life. These are all equally important components to maximizing your practice questions. The way you approach you questions is going to be unique to you, and if you are an M0 it is too early to start thinking about. You will need to know for sure how you prefer to study, and even then stay flexible in your approach and open to modifications. Research study strategies around January of M2 year (or whenever you are ~6mo out) - and even then take everything with a grain of salt. There is no one right way to tackle questions, and if you were to go around and ask 50 of your classmates how they are doing it, you will probably get 50 different responses.
 
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littledreamer

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Thanks for all your help in this thread!

Does anyone have any advice for those of us that are headed somewhere with a re-done curriculum, in a very different manner from the typical structure? I'm likely headed to a school that has re-formatted their curriculum (MSU; Drexel; etc) so that there are no longer typical blocks. I'm not sure if this greatly affects how one would use FC, Pathoma, Anki, etc or any of those types of programs.....since theoretically, for example, pathology is integrated the whole way. So I won't be able to tackle a pathology deck of cards until the end.


I could totally be misunderstanding how these things work though, but I just wanted to see if there were any particular suggestions for this type of curriculum.


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intubesteak

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Thanks for all your help in this thread!

Does anyone have any advice for those of us that are headed somewhere with a re-done curriculum, in a very different manner from the typical structure? I'm likely headed to a school that has re-formatted their curriculum (MSU; Drexel; etc) so that there are no longer typical blocks. I'm not sure if this greatly affects how one would use FC, Pathoma, Anki, etc or any of those types of programs.....since theoretically, for example, pathology is integrated the whole way. So I won't be able to tackle a pathology deck of cards until the end.


I could totally be misunderstanding how these things work though, but I just wanted to see if there were any particular suggestions for this type of curriculum.


Sent from my iPhone using SDN mobile

With firecracker you select each specific topic that you want a part of your deck. You can use the search function to find topics that you covered in class but may not be in an obvious location within firecracker. That being said what you describe as pathology integrated the whole way sounds like organ system blocks..which is more of the norm these days anyways..
 

littledreamer

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With firecracker you select each specific topic that you want a part of your deck. You can use the search function to find topics that you covered in class but may not be in an obvious location within firecracker. That being said what you describe as pathology integrated the whole way sounds like organ system blocks..which is more of the norm these days anyways..



I think for MSU, if I recall correctly, it's going to be based around "chief complaints". Drexel may be organ blocks though, I can't quite remember..... regardless! Thank you :) it sounds like firecracker will still be pretty helpful then.


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To the current M2s and M1s out there: I very recently heard about a program called PHYSEO. Allegedly, it is supposed to be like Pathoma - but for physiology with videos and a pdf text. Since it is a brand new program, they are having some interesting deals. If you go to the website and click on "Contact Steve" you can request discount codes for your school! There are two deals I have heard of: one where you can get any length up subscription (options go up to 2 years) for $30, and a second where you get 30% off the total cost... obviously try to go for the $30 deal if you are able to. There is also a 14 day free trial but with very limited access to content.

I can't fully review this product since I literally just heard about it, but I did check it out real quick. I watched one video and took a peek at the pdf. The video was pretty good, it definitely helped elucidate a few points on phys I didn't even realize I was rusty on. The pdf text is meh though, compared to the Pathoma book. However, for $30, it might be worth looking into!
 

Affiche

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Chiming in here with a different perspective (but disclaimer: i'm just finishing up M1)

I tried firecracker (twice) and absolutely hated it. I'm in a systems-based curriculum where most of my classmates use FC, but I just couldn't get into it. Some people swear by it, some people force themselves to use it because of the hype, others (like me) despise it.

I adore Anki. I like making my own cards, including anything and everything I want in them, formatting cards how I like them, and tagging/organizing them in a way that makes sense to me. I truly believe that organization is the key to doing well, and I just couldn't get into the structure of FC. With so many different resources for so many different subjects, it's too easy to get disorganized with your materials, but Anki keeps all of my material in one place with a search function that FC doesn't compare to. I can look up any disease/term that we've covered since Day 1 of classes in literally seconds, review the card, move it to my current deck, mark it for review, mark it as material from lecture versus FA/Pathoma, bury it, etc. When it comes to anatomy and histology, the image utilization features in Anki have been amazing. Plus, Anki's free, so there's that lol.

The major con with Anki is that making cards does take time, though I still feel like I'm studying significantly less than most of my classmates. I do tend to know less than my classmates for the first 2/3 of every block (while I'm still leisurely making cards and they're reading through FC for the second, third time), then I tend to fly through my cards in the last 1/3 of the block and all of a sudden have a very strong grasp of the material. I focus on concepts while making the cards, then cement the details in while reviewing them. It's worked incredibly well for me so far.

Anyway, just wanted to throw that out there. You don't have to use FC to do well, and using FC doesn't seem to guarantee any kind of success, either. Try out a few different things and decide what works for you, but for the love of god don't conform to the study methods of the masses just because you feel pressured to. Do what works best for you and keep an open mind.
 
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FutureDoc1088

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3) Goljan - Goljan was the gold standard for path before Pathoma arrived on the scene. If you want cut and dry info while sitting at your computer desk - get Pathoma. If you are an Audible type of person, you can listen to Goljan while doing household chores or in the car. I also hear he is kind of entertaining. I could be wrong about this, but I don't think Goljan is something to purchase, I think it is a lecture series that someone at some point recorded and is now widely available online or on your fellow student's flash drives. Or possibly even on your school's computer lab computers.

Very good advice to everyone. I got overwhelmed trying to use his book on top of it but I think the book is best used as a reference to cover topics not in Pathoma. I listened to Goljan 1-2 times just from driving and doing house chores. Once throughout M2 and once during dedicated. I don't think I got many questions just from his tips/tricks but I think listening and quizzing yourself as he talks is a great way to keep your mind on the prize.
 

ronnicus

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I've never seen a thread on SDN this laudatory of Firecracker, and that makes me suspicious. I do know real people who think it is a good resource, but 99% of the time mentioning FC on SDN/reddit ends with countless people voicing the opinion that it takes too long, has too many poorly thought out questions, and is hard to keep up with. If you don't think at least a few of these accounts were made by FC, you're crazy. If I owned a medical school study resource, the first thing I did upon starting the company would be to create a ton of profiles and start posting with them to make them seem real. Over the years I'd have these accounts subtly mention that great study resource or claim it was my secret to a 260+. Every test prep company is doing that. It is low commitment, free, effective advertising. I'd argue that word of mouth on SDN is the most effective form of advertising in this market.

Personally, I've been using it for about 2 months through the last bits of M1 and I think I can voice a real opinion. Firecracker is everything people say it is online, the good and bad, but it won't help you with classes, not nearly as much as simply studying your class material anyway. If you want honors in preclinicals, the #1, #2, and #3 ways to do that are to make ankis from your professors lecture notes with all the testable facts and then smash those ankis until you can do them in your sleep. End of story. FC will not help you with classes, but if you're careful you can minimize the damage it will do while helping you review. That, to me, is where it shines, and the criticisms people have of it are 100% valid. It is, as FA rates it, a B+ resource through and through.

Here's my evaluation so far. I'll do my best to address the common concerns, quoted in bold.

FC is probably the only step 1 oriented resource aside from BRS that is useful in M1 for a traditional curriculum (e.g. anatomy + physio M1, path M2). Bros does not fit well into this sort of curriculum. It follows FA too closely and is really classic M2 material. Now let me address the real concerns always brought up.

"Some of the questions are terrible, especially the lists": Depending on how you use it, the questions are actually better. They are about 1 level deeper than Bros anki deck, and take far longer to chug through. Bros is really only useful for spot-checking factoids. With FC you'll think harder and put stuff into context. This, for me, was why I chose to actually buy FC rather than stick with bros. The lists... kind of do suck though. It's hard because at the same time, many step 1 questions center around you recognizing a list of symptoms. I don't know a "best" way to handle this conundrum, but FC's list cards are not the idea solution for sure. Lippincott's Q&A is actually great for this, as are any Q banks. You need to see the presentation, labs, and treatment all in one place, and you need to know how to differentiate between similar diseases.

"It takes way too long. You can't keep up with it.": Another valid, but inescapable point. I get about 170 Qs per day, this takes me at least 90 minutes to do, more often 2 hours. At the same time, doing a cursory review of bros isn't really the same type of review. The truth is, step 1 requires more than memorizing factoids. FC will make you take that extra step. That being said, you could easily get your "deeper thinking" fix elsewhere and save flashcards for the factoids. That's up to you. Either way, keeping up with step 1 material takes time. At the end of the day, gunners gonna gun. You're either a genius, or you have to put in the work. No way around that.

"The pictures suck.": This is true. It's basically a pure text resource, because even when they have pictures, you have to click through to them, and they rarely align well with the card. It sucks answering cards about inhibitors in gluconeogenesis and not having the pathway right there. As a visual learner, this is my biggest criticism.

Going through random cards each day isn't cohesive: The lack of pictures make context difficult to get. The random cards each day make it even harder. If it's a concept I don't have a fantastic grasp on, I feel like I'm memorizing text.

The algorithm is inferior to anki: This is also true. You see fewer cards per day. You spend more time between each card. This is fine for the more conceptual cards, but I "lapse" on little factoids A LOT. Sometimes it takes me a week to learn a particular factoid (e.g. Hepcidin is the APR most responsible for anemia of chronic disease). I've relapsed on that card 3 times now, and I only get it once every 2-3 days, even if I mark it "1".

Again, FC is a B+ resource. Probably in 5 years it will be a step 1 machine, but right now it lacks the building blocks, and still struggles with the algorithm and how to teach list recognition. There really isn't anything else out there like it though, and the ability to flag topics makes it way, way easier to tailor to your curriculum. The biggest risk with FC isn't the money, it's the time. If it isn't oriented towards your learning style, you'll spend a ton of time on it and yield very little results.
Absolutely. I am 100% convinced that many of these reviews are posted by Firecracker, which is why I am strongly leaning towards Bro's deck now. I've talked to several med students IN REAL LIFE (not these anonymous accounts on SDN) who have said they find it too hard to keep up or that looking back they could've picked a more efficient resource.
 
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YoungDoc25

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Anyone in a systems based curriculum use the USMLE-Rx qbank during M1?
 
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raiderette

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Anyone in a systems based curriculum use the USMLE-Rx qbank during M1?
I use it. It has made review easier for me. I found I prefer qbanks to flashcards. My curriculum is condensed, so I will start Uworld in January, but will probably keep Rx for classes.
 

YoungDoc25

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I use it. It has made review easier for me. I found I prefer qbanks to flashcards. My curriculum is condensed, so I will start Uworld in January, but will probably keep Rx for classes.
Have you felt like their explanations were thorough enough? That's my biggest kicker on a lot of this stuff. I don't see myself making flashcards.
 
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t5Nitro

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To those that have already taken step 1, would you say Goljan rapid review textbook or FA is the better time investment? I feel like a lot of qbanks hit everything in FA, and I've done pathoma multiple times but hear such good things of RR. Time crunch < 1 mo until test day.
 

raiderette

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Have you felt like their explanations were thorough enough? That's my biggest kicker on a lot of this stuff. I don't see myself making flashcards.
It has been enough for me, and anything that truly stumps me sends me back to the source material.
 

LyMed

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To those that have already taken step 1, would you say Goljan rapid review textbook or FA is the better time investment? I feel like a lot of qbanks hit everything in FA, and I've done pathoma multiple times but hear such good things of RR. Time crunch < 1 mo until test day.
I've always done the the tried and true FA, especially since I've had it since MS1 and it's full of my notes :)
 
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