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Choosing the Right Resources for M3, Shelf Exams, and Step 2 CK

  • by Erica Forrette
  • Apr 21, 2020
  • Reviewed by: Amy Rontal

We follow up on our “How to Study for Shelf Exams” post with a closer look at M3 study resources for each clerkship and for shelf exams.

We recently interviewed redditor /u/DukeofBaggery, a med student who scored a 268 on Step 2 CK and now provides helpful advice online for his peers. With his permission, we’ve listed his top picks for shelf exam and Step 2 CK resources. It’s important to note that these resource recommendations are based on one person’s experience, and your personal experience may vary. These recommendations, like our statistics from the most popular resources page, can be used as a starting point when creating your own, personalized study plan.

For more details on this approach to M3, check out the original Reddit post and our full interview on M3 study planning.

Study resources for all clerkships

The base of your studying for every clerkship should be UWorld and flashcards. Making flashcards takes too much time, especially on surgery and ob/gyn, so it’s better to find a pre-made deck. I used the brosencephalon Step 2 CK deck. Frankly, I do not think this is a very good deck—it’s outdated, many cards lack sufficient context for the factoid being presented, and there are a fair amount of algorithmic management errors. It still gets the job done, so I used it. Next, you need to limit yourself to one additional resource per clerkship.

My selected additional resources, and some reasons for picking them

Case Files

Pre-Test: The peds shelf has a lot of zebras (sick kids get zebras). [Ed. note: “Zebras” refers to rare disorders that could be initially misconstrued as common illnesses. More info here.] This book covers those (including Kasabach-Merritt syndrome, my favorite).

None. Step-Up is most commonly used, but it is just a dense, 600-page outline. You’ll barely have time for one pass, and you’ll retain none of it. Time is better spent on just UWorld and flashcards.

Family Med
Step-Up (ambulatory chapter only): This is the only time I recommend an outline-based text. Doing just this one chapter is manageable, and will help with learning society-recommended management guidelines and vaccine schedules. For your Family Med block, continue to review your medicine flashcards because the FM shelf is largely IM with a smattering of random facts that aren’t covered in any comprehensive resource.


None. It’s just not necessary if you do flashcards and UWorld. Make sure you know pharmacology well.

AMBOSS: I’m actually not a fan of AMBOSS at all. I think the questions are esoteric to the point of barely being useful. However, UWorld surgery questions are not enough by themselves. Many people use Pestana as a text resource. If you’re using the Bros step 2 CK flashcard deck, Pestana is abundantly covered.

Step 2 CK
I just took a month to redo UWorld (~2–3 blocks/day) and do my Bros reviews every day.

Lastly, there are NBME’s for each clerkship. Schedule them in during the last week of your clerkship.

About the Author

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