The CrossWards USMLE Step 1 app introduces a new way to study for the Step 1 board exam.

This app uses a crossword game interface to help users learn facts that are relevant to the exam.

The app contains 44 puzzles with varying difficulties and allows the user to keep track of their progress.

User Interface

The app starts off with a list of different crossword puzzles that the user can choose.

Most of the puzzles are broken down by subject, although there is a Step 1 Potpourri puzzle that contains multiple topics. The percent completed by the user is displayed next to each puzzle.

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Once the user selects the topic they want to explore, a crossword puzzle is displayed. The user can click on any box and a clue is presented at the top. If the user gets stuck, they can press on the wand on the keyboard and one letter will be filled in automatically.

One of the annoying aspects of this app is that the in-app keyboard has very tiny keys. As a result, when the user wants to type an answer into the puzzle it makes it difficult to type answers. The app should allow the user to use the native iOS keyboard. The app also tends to have basic, first order concepts that are asked in the clues even on the most difficult, largest puzzles.

An example of a clue is Reed-Sternberg cells seen in _____ disease. This clearly means that this app cannot really be used as a study aid in any way. The best use of this app is as a productive distraction when memorizing textbooks or flashcards gets too boring.

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The app also has a menu bar that has several useful features. The user can use this menu to change the size of the puzzle from small to extra large. An image on an extra large puzzle can be seen below. The image above shows a large puzzle. This menu also allows the user to check answers and, if any answers are wrong, they will be highlighted in red after the option is selected from the menu. The solve puzzle option shows the puzzles with all of the answers filled in.

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The menu also has an About section that presents a small blurb about the app as well as a set of instructions on how to use the app.

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  • $19.99


  • Interesting way to expose students to Step 1 related material
  • 44 puzzles for users to choose from covering various categories


  • In-app keyboard is difficult to use
  • Very basic information tested in the puzzles

Healthcare workers that would benefit from the app

  • Students who are tired of studying using traditional textbooks for boards and want to do a light skim of material.


  • The CrossWards USMLE Step 1 app is an app that was developed to use crossword puzzles to help students learn material for the Step 1 medical board exam. The app, unfortunately, only includes very basic information that is not close to enough to cover the material for the board exam.
  • This app can be useful for students who get bored of studying with textbooks and want to do a light review during breaks or while procrastinating, but cannot be used as a way to ace the exam or master the USMLE as the app claims.
  • As of publish, no Android version of the app is available.

Type of Device used to review app–iPhone 5
Version of App–1.0.7

iTunes Link

Rating: (1 to 5 stars): 1.8/5

  1. User Interface: 3 – Keyboard is difficult to use due to small buttons. Otherwise easy to use app.
  2. Multimedia usage: N/A
  3. Price: 1 – $19.99. Way overpriced for the content that is provided.
  4. Real world applicability: 1.5 – The app cannot be used for the purposes it was developed; mastering material for the USMLE Step 1. It can be used as a resource to review basic facts when students are taking breaks or have down time.

This post does not establish, nor is it intended to establish, a patient physician relationship with anyone. It does not substitute for professional advice, and does not substitute for an in-person evaluation with your health care provider. It does not provide the definitive statement on the subject addressed. Before using these apps please consult with your own physician or health care provider as to the apps validity and accuracy as this post is not intended to affirm the validity or accuracy of the apps in question. The app(s) mentioned in this post should not be used without discussing the app first with your health care provider.