For most medical students, surgery is one of the most daunting rotations of third year.

Between the long cases and demanding attendings, students need to use study time wisely.

The Pretest series provides a convenient question bank for board prep, so naturally it seems that Pretest Surgery would be tremendously helpful for surgery students.

Unfortunately, in my experience, it was at best a mediocre study aid.

The Pretest Surgery app, like all the other Pretest apps, provides a friendly user interface, the ability to create timed quizzes, record your stats, and easily access answer explanations.

(For more detail on the Pretest interface and features, see the summary article on the Pretest apps or one of the previous Pretest app reviews in psychiatry or internal medicine.)

The app has 518 total questions and covers a wide scope of surgical topics. There are fourteen sections, including:

  • Pre- and Post-operative care
  • Critical Care: Anesthesiology, Blood Gases, and Respiratory Care
  • Skin: Wounds, Infections, and Burns; Hands; Plastic Surgery
  • Trauma and Shock
  • Transplants, Immunology, and Oncology
  • Endocrine Problems and the Breast
  • Gastrointestinal Problems, Liver, and Pancreas
  • Cardiothoracic Problems
  • Peripheral Vascular Problems
  • Urology
  • Orthopedics
  • Neurosurgery
  • Otolaryngology
  • Pediatric Surgery

However, the content was of variable quality and utility for the shelf exam. The app did hit on a few points that seemed to be high yield and that I found reiterated in other study sources such as the NMS Casebook.

In this way, the app was somewhat helpful in exposing me to some frequently tested facts and reinforcing my knowledge.

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But the useful content I did find in the app was overshadowed by an emphasis on material that turned out low-yield on the shelf exam. For example, the section “Transplants, Immunology, and Oncology” quizzed me on many basic science facts that seemed more reminiscent of Step 1 questions than surgery board questions. (The question in the screenshot below discusses the origin of tumor necrosis factor.) Anesthesiology and respiratory questions also seemed overemphasized by the app (slightly over one-tenth of the questions) as compared to its representation on the NBME.

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Unfortunately, there are precious few resources for surgery practice questions, so for medical students that rely heavily on questions to study, purchasing this app may not be a bad idea. However, it would definitely not be my first choice study tool, even as a question bank, and I would use it with caution. Many of the topics covered just were not useful on the shelf. Overall, I was disappointed, especially since some of the other Pretest apps have proved very helpful in the past.


  • $29.99


  • Familiar, friendly user interface
  • Broad coverage of surgical topics


  • Some of the heavily covered topics seemed low-yield for the actual surgery exam
  • Somewhat lacking in higher order questions


  •   Buy it if you absolutely need another source of practice questions, but as a whole, not the best study aid for the surgery NBME exam

iTunes Link