First Aid for the USMLE Step 1
This is an 800+ pages long book full of the “high yield” information you’ll need to “pass” the USMLE Step 1 exam. It’s popularly referred to as the gold standard resource for the exam, and interestingly enough, a lot of US medical students use it from day 1 of medical school as a sort of overview or framework in anticipation for the board exams. (Ps: using this book from the start of med school is something I wish I did but too late now, LOL!)
In my opinion, it’s like a table of contents-ish and should be used in combination with a couple of other review books and question banks, not exclusively. This would really depend on your in-depth knowledge of the high yield facts for the exam and of course, personal preference. For instance, a 2nd or 3rd-year medical student who has just rounded up Basic Sciences lectures could easily get away with studying exclusively with this book, as the in-depth information is still fresh memory-wise, but a doctor who did Basic Sciences 5 years ago might not be able to.
The book seems to throw a bunch of seemingly random facts at you in a concise manner, that may or may not be very organized (depends on who’s reading), and so I can imagine it might be difficult if the user’s baseline knowledge isn’t up to speed. Hence my point earlier about using it in conjunction with a couple other high yield resources.
What most users do is annotate the First Aid with high yield info from other key resources fill in the gaps. For instance, you read new information in your question bank, in a textbook, or your lecture notes that isn’t in the first aid and you go ahead to write it in the appropriate section in the book. What I did with mine was de-spine (literally tore each page out carefully one-by-one), 2-hole punch, and put the pages in a pretty colorful binder. Lol! Sounds absurd I know, I mean why will she rip her book apart right? But I did it to compartmentalize my studying physically and mentally (probably emotionally too), also to reduce the weight of my library bag (I don’t like stress mahn!). How it works is this, on a day I want to study Microbiology, I take the microbiology pages out of my big colorful binder and put them either in a clear binder sleeve or in a smaller, more portable binder and be on my way. No unnecessarily heavy bags, and of course no mini panic attacks from constantly sighting the bulk of the entire First Aid book.
The 2018 version (which happens to be the 28th edition) comes with a whopping 816 pages and 4 sections.
Section I contains a “Guide to effective exam preparation” information such as the basics of the exam, goal and strategy setting, study materials, and special situations.
Section II is the “High yield general principles” section with biochemistry, immunology, microbiology, pathology, pharmacology, and public health sciences in order.
Section III details “High yield organ systems” with cardiovascular, endocrine, gastrointestinal, hematology/oncology, musculoskeletal, skin, and connective tissue, neurology, psychiatry, renal, reproductive, respiratory, and the rapid review chapter. In section III, each organ system has it’s individual embryology, anatomy, physiology, pathology and pharmacology chapters.
Then the last section (IV) just talks about the “Top rated review resources” for the exam.
With all these being said, I have just one major issue with this book! The pages are relatively thin and so ink and highlighters are very likely to show up on the page behind. It’s a bit frustrating considering a lot of users end up annotating the book and then again, who doesn’t highlight medical textbooks for dear life right? But the good thing is, I recently discovered something called Bible Highlighters (genius stuff!) and I’ll absolutely recommend them for anyone having highlighter issues with this book or any other books really, as they are less-heavy duty compared to regular highlighters.
To anyone currently preparing for the Step 1 exam, we wish you all the very best! Feel free to reach out to us with any questions or if you’re just in need of some words of encouragement. We’re here for you, always! And if you’ve already completed the exam, CONGRATS! and be sure to leave a comment below about what resources you found the most useful.
Dr. Wendy Evans-Uhegbu is a graduate of The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, with experience in Connected Health, Medical Technology, Clinical Research, Medical Education, and Web Design. She is a member of the Medics Abroad team with the role of Chief Communications Officer. She also runs a Medical Communications and Publishing business (www.odrcommunications.com), and is the author of the newly published children’s book “The Things Around Me”.