Step 2 Clinical Knowledge (CK) is the second board exam in the USMLE series testing clinical knowledge, and one that many medical students have to pass before graduating and obtaining their medical degrees.  While generally not considered to be quite as high-stakes as USMLE Step 1, it can nonetheless be a pretty daunting hurdle.

McGraw-Hill – a company well known to most medical students as publishers of the First Aid series – presents this review app for the iPhone.  They created USMLE Step 2 CK DejaReview (and a similar app for Step 1 for students preparing for their board exams.  But could the app compete in a market with so many study aids already out there?

On opening the app, the home screen immediately allows the user to start a quiz or explore the app using the toolbar to scroll between Quiz, Browse, Bookmarks, Abbreviation Search, and more.  The main features of the app are found in the Quiz and Browse section.

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The set-up of the quiz allows the user to choose between 7 categories (focusing on the testable clinical specialties), filter cards that have been answered before, and choose the number of questions to include.  However to begin, you must enter a name for each quiz, which seems unnecessary.

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Each question in the quiz is randomly generated and presented in a flashcard format where the answer can be easily accessed by the “tap for answer” button.  The user is then asked to submit whether they knew the answer or not. This format is similar to the Step 1 Deja Review app and, again, is useful for quick review of a large amount of content, but not necessarily as helpful for preparing for the multi-step questions typical of the USMLE exams.

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After completing the quiz, there is a statistical breakdown of the user’s performance, even showing results of performance for each category.  Through the home screen, one can also gain access and evaluate their cumulative performance.

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One big flaw in the app comes due to the random generation of questions; there can be very limited information presented (as the question may be part of a multi-answer question), which makes the question very difficult to answer.

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The app also includes access to cases and vignettes.  These are accessed through the Browse category, and are broken down by subject, and even further by sub-specialties (as in Internal Medicine is further broken down into Cardiology, Pulmonary, Infectious Disease etc).  Each specialty includes quick-hit topics in a Q&A style, and contains a “Make the Diagnosis” where the user can try their hand at the clinical vignettes.

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During the cases, there is also the ability to bookmark cases and vignettes for future review.  However, this feature is unfortunately lacking for the quiz portion of the app.

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The abbreviation search provides an index of medical abbreviations, and allows a quick reveal of the long form.  But again, access to this feature is not available during quizzes.  There is an abundance of abbreviations used throughout the app, which can often lead to confusion, especially in the quiz question stems.

Price:

  • $24.99 from the Appstore

Likes:

  • Easy to use
  • Quick-hit flashcard-style quizzes and cases with high-yield concepts and topics for board preparation

Dislikes:

  • Random generation for quizzes often leads to confusing or not helpful questions
  • Liberal use of abbreviations in quizzes can lead to confusion as well
  • Must enter a name for each quiz

Conclusion:

  • Without the bulk of actual flashcards, this app allows those preparing for Step 2 CK a quick and easy access to review high-yield topics.
  • While $24.99 might seem high for an app, the price is comparable to buying similar study-aids currently out on the market.
  • However, there are still flaws and limitations to this product, which preclude a fully positive rating.

Find this app on iTunes here.