How to Supplement Your Step 1 Studying with YouTube Videos

  • /Reviewed by: Amy Rontal, MD
  • As a 2nd year med student preparing for Step 1, when you’re staring at piles of books, digital flashcards, and Qbanks, sometimes it’s hard to get motivated to dive in.  While we certainly don’t encourage foregoing the crucial material in First Aid, Qbanks, or other printed materials, sometimes you just need an overview of a topic, or for a difficult concept to be explained visually. Plus, many students just need repetition of key lecture concepts from the classroom. Watching videos on a given topic can help to reinforce the most important learnings. And you can watch short bite-sized videos when and where it’s convenient for you. This is where YouTube videos come in to supplement your Step 1 studies.

    SketchyMedical videos are one thing for going deep, but free YouTube channels with videos on key medical concepts provide an alternate way to introduce yourself to medical topics. These videos can be good for getting an overview before diving in to your First Aid chapters.  And videos are also good for people who are visual learners – videos can obviously help to bring concepts together visually.  Concepts such as anatomy, where you can get an overview or “big picture” layout of how everything ties together with a visual description, are ripe for coverage in YouTube videos. Then, of course, you can dig deeper with your other resources and your classwork once you have an understanding of the basic concepts.

    MedCram is one great video resource to use in this way. The channel contains video lectures on medical education topics, hosted by Dr. Roger Seheult, a board-certified Internal Medicine doctor and exam prep instructor. MedCram features over 100 free videos, organized in alphabetical order, and the lectures follow a simple format, covering the signs, symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of medical topics, explained clearly and with the help of visual sketches as the lecture proceeds.

    YouTube channels from real-life practicing doctors, such as this one from Dr. John Gilmore, include videos of their patients and individual cases, which they use to further explain key concepts or to illustrate procedures and explain their course of treatment. There are also videos from actual patients – often people who suffer from rare diseases post videos of their day-to-day experiences and doctor visits. One way to use the concepts from these types of YouTube channel is to remember the patient’s face and story – it’s a great way to contextualize an obscure disorder and to better remember the key concepts by humanizing them – such as this one.

    YouTube channels such as DirtyUSMLE take a whole different approach – they operate as a free YouTube tutoring channel producing videos based on polling from actual Step 1 exam takers on what are the most high-yield concepts in given topics. They then create videos based on that input, using “dirty” mnemonics and visual hooks that will help you remember these concepts even better. Warning – explicit language ahead!

    One last video resource we’d like to mention is from Armando Hasundungan, who creates drawings of key medical concepts while explaining them. He does not purport to be an expert, but he creates these because he enjoys art and science, and he does try to make sure his information comes from credible sources. They’re quite beautiful to watch!

    As you can imagine, there are tons and tons of videos to choose from; these are just a few channels to check out for their unique approach to visually presenting medical concepts. Notably, there is a long running list of free video resources posted on the Med Students subreddit.  What are some of your favorite medical YouTube videos/channels?

    About the Author

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