The USMLE Step 2 exam is designed to assess whether medical school students or graduates can apply medical knowledge, skills and understanding of clinical science essential for provision of patient care under supervision. The essential knowledge required to pass this 9 hour exam is highlighted in the latest offering from Elsevier and Mobile Systems in the form of USMLE Step 2 Secrets, 3rd Edition.
Opening the app presents the user with a Table Of Contents with 40 chapters covering a broad range of subjects from Acid-Base to Vitamins and Minerals. Each of these chapters contains between 40-70 individual questions designed to test the breadth and depth of knowledge at a standard required to pass the USMLE Step 2 Exam. Unlike the Skyscape version, it is possible to see the first few words of each question (rather than just a number). Selecting a question shows both the question and answer alongside options to add a bookmark/add a note.
There is a handy arrow navigation system to advance to the next question in the category. There is also a useful search function which can be used to find questions on a specific topic within a chapter. The 100 top secrets section is simply essential high yield facts which are useful to know in preparation for the exam.
One of the main benefits of this application is the ability to test oneself using the built in quiz function. Various topics can be selected to suit the user. The questions are asked in a flashcard format where the question is presented and then you think of the answer.
Tapping the screen displays the answer along with a box asking if you got the question correct. At any point throughout the quiz you can add the question to your bookmarks for later reference. The text is easy to read and the flashcard format is favored by many students as a revision technique.
Whilst using the app, it became clear that the content is designed to test knowledge which has already been taught. It would be inadvisable to use the content in this app to learn basic knowledge for the exam; instead it is much better suited to testing and consolidating knowledge already covered in lectures.
There are over 1,400 questions with which to test oneself covering a wide range of subject material. This was useful in identifying areas of weakness within certain topics. Completing a test displayed statistics such as percentage correct and questions answered along with an option to email these results.
We reviewed USMLE Step 2 Secrets, second edition for Android and highlighted a number of shortcomings in 2010, read here. Thankfully, many of these have been fixed with the update to the third edition. Whilst 1,400 questions is a good number to test breadth of knowledge, I see no reason why the electronic version of this book couldn’t contain even more which would certainly be an improvement. I suspect that this limitation is based on space restrictions in the paper version which could be easily circumvented for the electronic version.
Another point is the cost of the app: electronic textbooks are often notoriously expensive and not subject to the same discounts and offers found in places like Amazon. At $39.99, this app is very expensive to solely be used in the final stages of revision for the USMLE step 2 exam. The paper version of this book is currently available for $27.96 from amazon which is appreciably cheaper.
- Flashcard format with good explanations to consolidate knowledge
- Many questions to test the breadth of knowledge
- Universal app
- App is expensive for many students
- This version of USMLE Step 2 Secrets is clearly a significant advancement over the second edition available from Skyscape.
- Whilst it is a useful resource for revision, the high cost means that it is probably too expensive for most of its intended audience.