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Jefferson Medical College Alpha Omega Alpha Guide to USMLE Step II: Clinical Knowledge

The Right Resources

As with Step I preparation, it is vital to know which study aids other students have found to be helpful.

Crush Step II, First Aid for the USMLE Step II CK, and Step-up to USMLE Step 2 provide a broad overview of topics. Most would agree that First Aid for Step II CK is much less useful than its younger sibling was for Step I, particular in regards to Surgery topics and some of the review of Step I material is overkill. Crush Step II, however, is a frequently used resource for Step II CK preparation, and is favored by those that prefer a text-based approach to test preparation. Step-up to USMLE Step 2 is much better laid out (ie. H/P, labs, Radiology, Treatment, complications subtitles for each disease entity) and it had a section on ER, critical care and surgery which was weak in other texts.

Boards and Wards is an almost universally used resource, and provides an outline style review of the pertinent topics for Step II CK. It also contains a bunch of radiographic images. (Some people swear by this book).

When using any of these study guides, it is important to refer to a comprehensive resource (such as Harrison's, MD Consult, or UpToDate) if specific questions arise for better understanding of the material. But, please, do not read lengthy subject-specific books if you can avoid it. In fact, most students agree that even reading individual subject-specific Blueprints or Recall books is not needed. Some students choose to forgo the text route entirely and rely on online resources, either question banks or texts online.  Whether this is a good idea or not depends entirely on you.  You know best what will work for you. 

Practice Questions

Online Resources:
Not surprisingly, it is very important to do practice questions. We recommend starting questions about 1 month before the exam, maybe earlier if you plan to get through all of them although it’s not necessary to complete the bank as long as you feel you are improving.

USMLE World ( The majority of people use USMLE world Q-bank and a supplementary review book (e.g. First Aid or Step-Up to CK). There are approximately 2000+ questions. There are multiple approaches to the Q-bank. Some people will do blocks throughout 3rd year to study for shelf exams and then repeat the questions before taking Step II (this is a good approach if you are going to take the test right after 3rd year). Others wait to purchase the Q-bank when they begin studying for Step II. Either way, getting through all of the questions at least once is definitely enough.

Kaplan Q-bank ( Very few students use this resource. It is another good yet more expensive option and consists of 2,200 on-line questions; similar to Q-Bank for Step I. (However, it has occasionally been criticized for emphasis on zebras and irrelevant details, but may be a good starting point to see what areas you may have forgotten about since your shelf-exam days).

Text-Based Resources:

Lastly, we recommend completing the USMLE Step 2 CK CD-ROM (148 questions) a few days prior to the exam - as with the CD-ROM provided with the USMLE Step I registration materials. These questions simulate those asked on Step II CK most accurately.

If you really want something, you can figure out how to make it happen.


Last updated: March 2013

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