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Updated Top Step 1 Resources as of December 2020

At Cram Fighter, we keep an eye on how the popularity of Step 1 resources changes over time. Let’s discuss the most recent trends!

It’s that time of year again, so we’re covering the most popular resources that Cram Fighter students have been adding to their study schedules to prepare for USMLE Step 1. This continues a tradition that we’ve done at the end of 2017, 2018, and 2019 to help med students identify and assemble their Step 1 materials for 2021.

Because thousands of medical students use Cram Fighter to schedule and organize their Step 1 studying, we can get some unique usage statistics for Step 1 study resources. Now that we’re into the fourth year of examining these trends, we can see which resources seem to get consistent use, which may be fading out as time goes on, and which are rising in popularity. As of late November 2020, the following are the top 20 most popular study materials and resources used by Cram Fighter students preparing for Step 1:

Top 20 Step 1 Resources

As with previous years, First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 enjoys its place as the most popular review resource as used by a solid 60.0% of Cram Fighter students as of late 2020. This is about the same as last year, but a departure from the over 67% usage rates from 2017 and 2018. While we can’t identify a specific reason for the slight dip in First Aid’s popularity, a look at some of the other materials’ trends may give insight into possible explanations.

A quick look at the eight resource titles that achieved at least 30% usage between 2017 and 2020 shows largely stable use trends, as seen in the table below.

USMLE Resource Trends

But a major exception to the generally flat trends lies with Boards and Beyond. In 2017, Boards and Beyond was used by a mere 14.8% of Cram Fighter students for Step 1, but it had a meteoric rise to 44.7% in 2018, 47.3% in 2019, and now over 55% in 2020. The exact reason behind the rapid increase in popularity for Boards and Beyond is hard to pinpoint, but one reason may be that it’s both a comprehensive video and qbank resource featuring over 400 videos and 2300 questions. The topics correspond to the First Aid for Step 1 book, and includes review questions at the end of each section to help quiz students on the material and retain facts better. Word of mouth is a big factor too – we’ve seen more and more people recommending Boards and Beyond to their fellow classmates as a useful resource, which is surely contributing to its popularity.

Another resource that had a slight but noticeable increase in popularity was Anki. For those not familiar, Anki is less a specific study material and more a highly customizable flashcard app. Students often use premade decks created by other users for different study topics, so the specific content that each person uses depends on their chosen premade or custom decks. While the less consistent content may be an issue, the popularity of Anki can be attributed to its flexibility, the availability of highly rated premade decks, and the low cost associated with Anki.

Overall, while there have been a few notable changes in which study books, videos, and qbanks are used most often, the top 20 list for late 2020 shares a lot of similarities with previous years. This shows that there are a number of different studying approaches available, so even if the first resource you try doesn’t fit your style, rest assured that there are plenty of good options out there. And while we can’t endorse a particular prep resource, there’s a lot of value even just in knowing what your peers are using to get ready for Step 1. Since word can get around rather quickly about which materials are helpful, the top titles are likely at least good starting points for your studying efforts.

To review the top study resources added by our customers for the other medical exams we support, take a look at this list. And keep an eye on our Most Popular Step 1 Resources chart over time—it could have some new titles show up if the past four years are any indication!

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