Definitive List of Study Resources for the USMLE Step 1 Exam

It is commonly known and accepted in the medical student community that the USMLE Step 1 exam is the single most important academic undertaking that any medical student will face. How well a medical student does on the Step 1 exam will largely determine how competitive they are going to be when applying for their desired specialty. In other words, the long-term fate of prospective medical professionals is based almost entirely on this one exam. Unfortunately for those taking the test, scores are only getting increasingly more competitive each year. Between increasingly competitive test scores and the reality of having to learn and master a whole lot of extremely difficult material, it easy to see why this test causes so much anxiety and stress amongst those preparing to take it.  

Fortunately, the last few years have seen a surge in extremely effective study aids that focus on delivering high-yield material relative to Step 1 in a manner that is easily digestible. The days of “sit and read” studying are gone. Residencies have become too competitive and there is simply too much material for that to be an effective means of studying anymore. As a medical student, it is critical that you be able to focus on what you need to learn, rather than how you are going to learn it. Bearing all of that in mind, here is a list of the top 5 study resources available to medical students for Step 1 preparation:

1: First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 - (detailed overview)   Commonly referred to as the “Bible” of Step 1 preparation, First Aid is an unequivocally required resource for your Step 1 studies. First Aid essentially functions as an organized compendium of everything that is covered during the first two years of medical school, thereby making it the quintessential source for general Boards review. Each year, a new, updated edition is released, featuring new facts, fresh pictures, etc.  Use First Aid however works for you. Ultimately, there is no right or wrong way to use this resource, so long as you do use it.  For pricing and additional information, check it out at

2:  Pathoma(pathology) - Simply put, there is no more effective pathology review course than this. Pathoma is an incredible resource and has certainly helped to pioneer the movement toward highly effective alternative study aids. Pathoma is made up of a series of very well done video lectures with an accompanying text, that is all designed to break down the high-yield pathology material for Step 1; and it does a remarkably good job. Being that Pathology is one of the most well represented topics on the exam, it makes sense to take advantage of such an amazing resource to help build your confidence in that area. For pricing and additional information, check it out at

3. Physeo(physiology) - Although a newcomer to the scene, Physeo has proven itself as the resource for Step 1 physiology review. Similar to Pathoma, Physeo utilizes a series of extremely well done video lectures with an accompanying text to effectively deliver the high-yield physiology material pertinent to Step 1. It is said that without a good grasp of physiology, it is difficult to achieve a mastery of anything else. Physiology is indeed the foundation of much of what you are required to master for Step 1. The level of detail and clarity in the videos that Physeo offers is absolutely unparalleled.  As far as physiology goes, there is certainly no better resource. For pricing and additional information, check it out at

4: SketchyMedical(microbiology) - SketchyMedical is awesome. It is a very unique product that uses outrageous art and stories told with pictures, to help teach you the details of an organism. Currently, SketchyMedical offers packages for bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites and is preparing a pre-release of pharmacology material as well.  If memorization is tricky for you, or if you would just like an extra edge, SketchyMedical is certainly a very useful tool to add to your bag. This is a truly unique and exceptional alternative study aid.  For pricing and additional information, check it out at

5. Firecracker(general review) - An immensely useful resource to help solidify information during your study routine, Firecracker provides excellent flash card questions for nearly every major topic found in the Step 1 exam.  The Firecracker system allows users to customize their study experience by choosing the information that they will see in their flash cards based on topic. After answering each individual question, you rate how comfortable you felt on the topic, then Firecracker will continue to provide questions based on your feedback, allowing you to spend time focusing on topics that give you the most trouble. This level of customization and attention to detail makes Firecracker stand out as an amazing and indispensable resource for Step 1 preparation. For pricing and additional information, check it out at


While one may not be able to put a price on achieving success in medical school or doing well on the Step 1 Exam below is a list of what you can expect to pay for each of these resources: 

First Aid:  There are five different products offered by USMLE-Rx, ranging from $149 to $349 for a 24-month supscrption

Pathoma:  21-month subscription, $119.95

Physeo:  24-month subscription, $169

SketchyMedical:  12-month subscription, $249

Firecracker:  24-month subscription, $330