How to Study for USMLE Step 3: What Resources Should I Use?

  • /Reviewed by: Amy Rontal, MD
  • Let’s face it: The most difficult thing about USMLE Step 3 is actually finding the time to study for it in the midst of your busy clinical rotations.

    So with that in mind, it is more important than ever that you maximize the time you do have and use the best possible resources available to you. Fortunately, we are here to help with the best resource recommendations taken from our extensive experience.

    The Best Step 3 Resources and How to Use Them


    UWorld is absolutely most important resource for you to use. If you are going to do nothing else to prepare for Step 3, then this is what I would recommend. By now, you should be very familiar with how UWorld works and the value of studying using practice questions.

    Rather than restate these points, I will highlight how to best use UWorld for Step 3 with a few big points:

    1. Start early

    As always, your goal should be to complete the question bank at least once, with enough time left over to at least review your incorrect responses. With that in mind, give yourself more time than you think you’ll need. Residency is busy, and even the most dedicated student can easily get behind in their Step 3 prep. Planning ahead will increase the chances that you are able to complete the entire question bank.

    2. Consider using tutor mode

    Especially if you are using UWorld as your only resource, you may want to consider doing the majority of your questions on tutor mode. This will allow you to focus on one subject at a time and can allow a more focused approach to your studying. However, you should still do the occasional block of mixed questions so as to simulate the actual exam.

    3. Use the Clinical Case Simulation (CCS) bank early and often

    Too many test takers put off the CCS cases far too long and miss an easy opportunity to master this material. I advise students to incorporate the corresponding CCS cases in to each subject they study. For example, while doing the cardiology questions, also work in the cardiology CCS cases.

    4. Don’t put your own specialty off

    Again, I often hear students telling me that they are doing the questions for their own specialty last since they feel like they know it the best. While that may be true, what I commonly see is that residents struggle with the questions in their own specialty because what they might do clinically can be very different from what the correct response on an exam is. So keep that in mind and make sure to tackle these questions early—especially if they correspond to some of the more high yield topics.


    Previous posts have addressed the benefit of using the NBMEs as a way of predicting your final score. One new recommendation is to take an NBME at the very beginning of your Step 3 study period. Doing this can give you a baseline score, and will often make students much less nervous about the exam. Moreover, it will highlight your areas of weakness and point you towards the areas you should be spending the most time.

    Step 3 Review Books

    For better or worse, there is no single text that I would recommend for every student. I also caution students to avoid prioritizing reading for this exam over using your question bank. Instead, reading should be used as a way to supplement your knowledge, refresh yourself on topics that you may not have seen for several years, and to address material that you are struggling to learn through the question bank. So with that in mind, if you do decide to purchase a text, here is what I recommend:

    1. Step-Up to Step 3
    2. First Aid for Step 3
    3. Master the Boards for Step 3


    For anyone who hasn’t checked these videos out, I would recommend taking a look at This website is full of free, high yield videos geared toward USMLE Steps 2 and 3. Each video is very quick and tends to cover high yield material in a way similar to how it will be tested on the exam. While all of these videos are high yield, I typically encourage my Step 3 students to view the Intern Content as well as the videos corresponding to subjects that are not covered in their specialty. For example, medicine and pediatrics residents can benefit from the obstetrics and gynecology videos while a psychiatry resident may benefit from the cardiology refresher.

    Hope this cleared things up.

    So, which resource will you be using?

    Looking for more Step 3 resources? Read on:

    USMLE Step 3: 6 Tips to Help You Ace Exam Day

    Your USMLE Step 3 Study Plan

    Cracking the CCS Cases: Preparing for Step 3

    How I Scored a 258 on Step 3 While Figuring Out How to Be an Intern