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Choosing Step 1 Resources: Comparing USMLE-Rx vs. Boards and Beyond

We discuss two popular lecture series for prepareing for the USMLE Step 1.

When it’s time to start studying for Step 1 you may be deciding on whether to use USMLE-Rx or Boards and Beyond. Maybe even both. We’re here to give you the rundown on how well the two resources have helped some students prepare for their own Step 1 exam. Specifically, we received input from two of our Campus Heroes on this question.

First, let’s dive into a comparison of USMLE-Rx and Boards and Beyond in terms of what the two services offer. USMLE-Rx primarily is known for offering a Step 1 qbank of 2,300+ questions along with two practice assessment exams. In addition to the qbank, USMLE-Rx offers video modules as an extra cost add-on for supplementing the qbank with relevant content. In contrast, Boards and Beyond is recognized for its database of 440+ videos for Step 1 content. Like USMLE-Rx, Boards and Beyond also covers multiple study approaches by including a 2,300+ question qbank. As of December 2020, USMLE-Rx offers a 12-month Rx360+ package for $349, which includes Express videos, the Qmax qbank, Flash Facts flashcards, the Rx-Bricks library, and a digital version of First Aid for the USMLE Step 1. The cost is $249 for the USMLE-Rx qbank alone. Boards and Beyond content, including both their videos and qbank, is $199 for 12 month access.

We heard from Shawn F., an M3 at St. George’s University, that working with both USMLE-Rx and Boards and Beyond can be helpful. In fact, he used both to prepare for Step 1. Shawn found that the USMLE-Rx qbank was a helpful supplement to questions from UWorld. According to Shawn, sometimes he would “get burned out with UWorld” and felt like he needed “questions that are a bit more fundamental… I feel like the USMLE-Rx qbank really helps with solidifying the knowledge base,” he said. What stuck with Shawn about Boards and Beyond was the product’s “incredible library of videos, as well as questions after each video to solidify the information.” He mentioned how Boards and Beyond does “a great job in explaining every single concept in the First Aid book” and that they “go into just the right amount of detail for information on Step 1.”

However, Shawn noted that it was important to balance the respective strengths and weaknesses of the two resources. With USMLE-Rx, he sometimes found the questions a bit too broad and general; Shawn cautioned that using just USMLE-Rx alone may not be challenging enough to adequately prepare for Step 1. Because of the impressive depth of Boards and Beyond, Shawn found that “it takes a long time to go through all of the videos.” He emphasized that it’s important to be diligent with planning how to work through the Boards and Beyond material, and that Cram Fighter was valuable for helping him stay on track while working through all the videos.

Daniel, a 3rd-year student at NYIT, also used both USMLE-RX and Boards and Beyond. He said that USMLE-Rx’s key strength was that “it is a good Qbank for strict recall on First Aid. Any answer you may look for will be found in the Step 1 First Aid book.” At the same time, in his experience, the key weakness of USMLE-Rx was that “the questions tend to not be worded well, and instead of a question bank that helps the student learn the concepts, USMLE-Rx tends to be more of strict recall.”

If he had to pick just one of the two resources to ready for Step 1, Shawn indicated that he’d have to go with Boards and Beyond. “Now that Boards and Beyond has a few Step 1 style questions for each video, I really believe it is superior (the videos and questions) over USMLE-Rx,” Shawn noted. That being said, he did say that “[t]hey both have their own uses.” He thought that it was great using Boards and Beyond for M1 and M2 years to “explain concepts in First Aid” since it “goes into a bit more detail for understanding the basic knowledge” and said that he recommends using Boards and Beyond “for a good foundation and then add on USMLE-RX for their question bank.”

Daniel’s opinion is similar to Shawn’s. He suggests choosing Boards and Beyond over USMLE-Rx “because it dives far deeper into the natural knowledge that every clinician needs to work up and treat pathological pathways instead of just pure fact recall. The questions are great for solidifying the concepts just learned.” The sentiments from both our Campus Heroes are similar to what we’ve seen on Reddit and the Student Doctor Network Forums, where discussions from multiple users affirmed that combining both sets of materials can be helpful, but for different reasons. Boards and Beyond received praise for their comprehensive video resources covering topics from First Aid for Step 1, while USMLE-Rx is favored for its qbank as a complement to First Aid.

No matter which resources you choose, Cram Fighter can help you organize them into a manageable Step 1 study plan that will keep you accountable. Sign up for a free trial today, no credit card required.

About the Author

Erica Forrette is the former Director of Marketing at Cram Fighter.