Tags: USMLE® Step 2 and COMLEX® Step 2
Ahmad Malik, MD; Internal Medicine Resident, New York
My personal goal since entering medical school was to match for a training position in internal medicine in the United States. As I did just a little above average studying UWorld for USMLE® Step 1, being from Pakistan, I knew I needed to kill USMLE® Step 2 CK. Before making my decision, I reviewed the top five sites according to my peers and one outlier.
What I found were five very similar testing databases and one standout. Kaplan, BoardVitals, Ambrose, UWorld, and TrueLearn all have solid databases of multiple-choice questions with teaching points. All of them had databases of 3000-4000 USMLE® Step 2 CK questions. Pricing varied with the number of months accessing the database; the more months, the more expensive but the per month price diminished.
The most expensive was UWorld. Other than Kaplan, it is the oldest database and seems to have a strong following. It had several slick features, such as using the timed-mode and random mode that allows for mimicking the actual USMLE® Step 2 CK examination. You can also divide it into subject matter blocks. The one major drawback was a limited pool of about 3,000 questions.
Another system I looked at in detail was Ambrose. It has a larger database of questions than UWorld, and it is less expensive. You can break each question down into subject areas on the exam. The explanations are particularly well done.
Kaplan, BoardVitals, and TrueLearn all had similar features, and each had about the same number of questions. Pricing was somewhat lower than UWorld but still very expensive.
The last database of questions proved to be the most interesting. StatPearls I learned was founded by a group of academic physicians who also founded www.emedicine.com, which is one of the most used databases of articles in the world and is a regular source of learning for many students. StatPearls was developed by the same academic physicians to allow students to go from a question to four teaching points, and then with one button click go to an entire PubMed indexed review article on the subject.
The StatPearls articles and questions on most topics are written and edited by residents and attendings. The system covers all basic science and clinical science, with over 8,500 articles written by over 7,000 authors and editors. The site has over 19,000 USMLE® Step 2 CK and COMLEX® Step 2 questions and breaks them down into each clinical rotation area. They even have articles and questions for most electives. The price of the system is the lowest of all the databases, and I eventually learned the entire project was developed by senior academic physicians as a donation to help medical education worldwide.
Since the system allowed me to do several free questions, I did well over a hundred before deciding to purchase access. The question quality was very good, and the depth of information on each topic was extensive. Every once in a while, I would find a small error and report it. Much to my surprise, I received an email back almost immediately, and usually within minutes, the question was fixed. I ended up doing over 15,000 of the StatPearls questions and received a high score on the USMLE® Step 2 CK. I feel if I had more time and completed all 19,000 and repeated those I missed, I would have crushed the exam.
In any event, I have had several program directors call me and encourage me to apply, and I matched outside the match with my top choice.
After completing the USMLE® Step 3, I noticed a job was available as an administrative copy editor for StatPearls. What I have found is a strong team of dedicated academic physicians trying to build, improve, and update the largest database of multiple-choice questions and articles ever conceived. I have copyedited a little over 15,000 questions, and each day, my knowledge is incrementally improved. Further, the quality of the questions is as good or better than I have seen with any of the other systems.
I think I made the correct choice!
Muhammad Ali Tariq, MD, Internal Medicine Resident
My dream throughout medical school was to match in pathology or internal medicine. This year I received 25 interviews, including some from the top training programs. What was my secret? Very high USMLE® Step 2 CK and USMLE® Step 3 scores.
How did I do it? I reviewed over 18,000 practice questions once and another 4,000 I missed twice. I took meticulous notes during my studies and reviewed the questions I missed three times. I took a year off, and while doing pathology research, I spent 4 hours every day doing multiple-choice questions, and then each night before I went to bed, I reviewed my notes on the topics I missed.
While I only studied UWorld for USMLE® Step 1, and my performance was average, for USMLE® Step 2 CK and Step 3, I did all the StatPearls questions and then followed up with NBME®️ Self-Assessments to evaluate my progress. As the exam approached, my performance on the practice exams approved to the point that my confidence level was very high.
When I took the USMLE® Step 2 Ck and USMLE® Step 3 board exams, they were easy compared to the more challenging questions provided in StatPearls. While I found UWorld to have excellent questions for USMLE® Step 1, they simply did not have enough questions if you wanted to smoke the exam.
The match is coming up soon, and after carefully preparing my personal statement and doing practice interviews, I felt I was confident that I would be a positive contribution to any program. Much to my surprise, my two top picks called me back and invited me to rank them at the top of my list! It looks like I am going to match.
Aayush Dhakal, MD, Internal Medicine Resident
I am from Nepal, a very beautiful but poor country. I finished medical school in the top 10% of my class, but due to the small number of training spots, if I stayed, I knew I was destined to a life of general practice. I wanted to learn more.
My only hope was to match in the United States, which I knew would be challenging and beyond my means. I evaluated the cost of multiple USMLE® Step 2 CK training sites, and all of them were 300 to 600 dollars a year and only offered about 2000 to 4000 questions for each of the USMLE® exams. Because I was inexperienced in the U.S. style of question, I knew I needed to do many questions to achieve top scores. This would mean purchasing several of these databases and thousands of dollars, well beyond what I could afford.
Luckily I found StatPearls. For each exam, they had over 15,000 questions and the option of breaking the questions down into each basic science or clinical science area. The explanations were solid and to the point, plus with one button click, they had an entire article. Best of all, if I wrote an article with my professor’s help, I would receive free access to the entire system. I put in four long weekends and was able to have four topics accepted and published in PubMed. This was a great addition to my resume. Further, I had earned myself free access to all the StatPearls questions.
Instead of working for a year in Nepal, I lived at home and put in 14-16 hour days and did over 20,000 StatPearls questions, repeating every question I missed. The questions are challenging as they are written primarily by attendings, many of which are program directors. Virtually all of them are case studies, so I felt I was learning patient management skills in the process. I managed to complete USMLE® 1, USMLE® 2 CK, and USMLE® 3, all with very high scores.
This year I applied for an internal medical position and received 11 interviews and matched. While they seemed pleased with my USMLE® board scores, they were all impressed I had published four articles and had done so well coming from Nepal. I am now waiting for the match, but I have to say I don’t think I could have done it without StatPearls.
Hajira Basit, MD, Internal Medicine Resident, Brookdale University
I was selected for an internal medicine residency outside the match on my first attempt coming from Pakistan. I had board scores in the top quartile and a few publications.
During my five years of medical school, I knew I wanted to train in the U.S., so throughout my training, I focused on doing practice USMLE® Step 1-3 questions for at least an hour every day. From our library and borrowing from friends, I was able to get access to board review textbooks from Kaplan, Lippincott, and McGraw-Hill. I must have done over 10,000 practice questions during medical school. While completing the questions, I took very brief short statement bulleted notes regarding facts that I knew I needed to commit to memory. My notes looked something like this …..
- The drug of choice for early-stage Lyme disease is doxycycline for adults and children older than 8, or as an alternative for adults, younger children, and pregnant or breast-feeding women, amoxicillin or cefuroxime.
By the time I finished medical school, I had over 250 pages of short single statement notes for each USMLE® exam, and I was in the habit of reviewing them for 30 minutes each night before I went to bed and for a few hours on days off. I would start at the beginning and eventually, work my way through all of them and repeat the list. Over time, my review became faster and faster.
After medical school, I did another 20,000 practice questions at StatPearls while completing USMLE® 1, USMLE® 2 CK, and USMLE® 3. The questions in StatPearls are tougher than most of the questions in the review books. They are almost all case vignettes that require a lot of thought. While doing them, I continued to take notes. Soon my bullets swelled to over 500 pages for each test, but gradually, I would cross off the bullets that I thought I knew.
I eventually took all of the USMLE® Steps and scored well on all of them. When I applied for training programs, one program had a position outside the match. I was contacted by the program director, and after interviews with faculty, I was offered and accepted a position. It was years of hard work and dedication, but it has paid off. The clinical scenarios I studied over and over at StatPearls taught me to be a better doctor. I have excelled in my training and now plan to move to anesthesiology.