The most common question I get is, “what books/resources did you use?” Like many med students, I experimented with lots of resources and learned tons from trial and error.
Below are the collection of the resources I found most useful, and the ones I would recommend to a close friend.
“Affiliate Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, which means we will earn a commission if you purchase one of these products. This commission comes at no additional cost to you, and doesn’t impact whether an item is included on this list or not.”
First Aid for the USMLE Step 1: The resource virtually 100% of medical students use for preparing for the USMLE Step 1. If you don’t yet have an electronic copy, I strongly recommend you do so. Read how I used First Aid to master pharmacology here, and how I used it to raise my score from 236 to 270 here.
Rapid Review Pathology (Goljan): Still the best book for learning pathology. Detailed enough that I was able to teach myself many of the pathophysiologic mechanisms I still use and apply today, it is condensed enough that you can be efficient with your studies. I recommend using the electronic/Kindle version to make searching for particular topics faster.
Costanzo Physiology: The best combination I found between depth and brevity for learning physiology. I used this book as a medical student to learn physiology with my classes, and found its explanations to be the clearest of difficult subjects, particularly for difficult subjects like renal physiology.
How the Immune System Works: By far the best book I’ve ever read on integrating/applying immunology. Either before/while taking immunology, or during your Step 1 studying, if you’re pressed for time I suggest you read the first chapter, as it gives a fantastic overview of the entire immune system…in a dozen pages! The link above is for the Kindle version. If you’d like, the paperback version link is here.
Clinical Microbiology Made Ridiculously Simple: My preferred book for learning microbiology. Combining both useful mnemonics as well as actual explanations for understanding how infectious diseases initiate, progress, and are treated, it is the book I always recommend to the students I tutor for learning this difficult subject.
- Anki: The program that launched it all. THE best program using spaced repetition, based on memory science to ensure you have maximal retention for the least amount of work. Best of all: it’s free!
- AnkiMobile: Mobile version for Anki (for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch). My only regret is that I didn’t get this sooner. If you intend to use Anki, I strongly recommend purchasing this, as it has made my reviews seamless, whether I’m studying on the bus, between classes, or in little breaks during a clerkship. I have been amazed at how little review I have to do when I get home, because of all of the cards I do throughout the day!
- Self-Control: I have a hard time studying when I’m also on the internet. With this app, you can 1) completely block all internet (“white-list” function with no websites listed), 2) completely block the internet EXCEPT for designated sites (“white-list” function with certain websites, like Wikipedia, allowed), or 3) block only particular websites (“black-list” function for particular sites, like Facebook). Free, open-source app.
- Drug Pronunciations: It’s hard enough to learn all of the details for drugs, but we also have to learn the pronunciations?? I remember feeling overwhelmed with how to approach pharmacology. With this app, I memorized not only the drug pronunciations with minimal effort, but also found that I could remember the drugs themselves much more easily, as well. I was SUPER glad on wards that I had taken the time to learn pronunciations, as many of the other students felt even more nervous on rounds since they never learned how to pronounce drug names correctly. Learn how I creatively combined learning the drugs with their pronunciations in this article.
- Microbiology Pronunciations: If you think drug names are difficult, try Wuchereria bancrofti, or Strongyloides stercoralis. Using the same tricks I used to learn drug pronunciations with only a little effort, you can use this app to do the same thing for those seemingly impossible micro pronunciations!