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How We Made the New Step 2 & Shelf Exams Qbank from Blueprint Test Prep

Updated January 2024

As a third-year medical student, you no doubt spend a lot of time going through your Step 2 & Shelf Exams Qbank getting ready for your M3 exams. At some point during your study period, you’ve probably asked yourself how your Qbank provider came up with the questions. Who is making sure the content and format is similar to the questions you’ll see on exam day? How are the topics chosen? And how do you know the information in your Qbank is current?

Blueprint Test Prep is excited to share that our NEW Step 2 & Shelf Exams Qbank is now live! In this post, you’ll find more important info about the Qbank itself, how we made it, and how to use it to prep for your USMLE Step 2 and NBME shelf exams.

Introducing the new combined USMLE Step 2 Shelf Qbank from Blueprint Test Prep.Study like you mean it with the new Step 2 & Shelf Exams Qbank, the most representative NBME Qbank with test-like questions to help you pass USMLE Step 2 CK and all your Shelf exams. Get started with 7-day FREE access to 5,500 questions!

What’s Included in the New Combined Step 2 & Shelf Qbank?

Blueprint’s brand-new Step 2 & Shelf Exams Qbank features 5,500 questions to help you prepare for your shelf exams and USMLE Step 2, including 4,000 NBME-formatted shelf questions (500 per specialty) and 1,500 USMLE-formatted Step 2 questions.

The new Step 2 & Shelf Exams Qbank is a combined Qbank featuring questions from the Rosh Review Shelf Qbanks (loved by thousands of medical students across the country), plus all-new Step 2 questions to guide you through M3 year. Our high-yield content aligns with all of your M3 exam content blueprints to guarantee your study time will effectively prepare you for exam day. 

In your Qbank, you’ll get:

5,500 total practice questions (1,500 Step 2 questions and 4,000 shelf questions)

Mock shelf exams for all 8 specialties (110 questions per specialty)

Detailed explanations for both correct and incorrect answers

Create-your-own practice exams

– Official exam-like interface and experience

Powerful performance analytics

– Educators on Call to assist with content questions

As you’ll see, creating high-quality, accurate, and updated questions for your Step 2 & Shelf Exams Qbank is a comprehensive process.

Now, let’s dive into how we made the combined Step 2 & Shelf Exams Qbank!

Who Writes the Qbank Questions?

Usually, we find our question authors through our website or hiring boards. We make sure they have the expertise needed to create questions for the Step 2 & Shelf Exams Qbank by asking them to submit a sample question, which our medical editors, aka “champions,” carefully review. These champions assess writing skills, accuracy in conveying medical info, and suitability for our author teams.

To bring together a diverse group of question authors, we actively look for candidates with different professional backgrounds. This way, we benefit from their expertise and real-world experiences, and we get perspectives from clinicians with varying levels of expertise.

For our Step 2 & Shelf Exams Qbank in particular, our question authors come from various backgrounds. We have talented fourth-year med students who scored exceptionally well on their exams (verified by Blueprint), practicing physicians, and specialists with their own areas of expertise all contributing to the Qbank. Plus, all USMLE content goes through rigorous review and editing by board-certified physicians, too.

How Do We Know Our Content Matches the Actual Exam?

We create content that looks a lot like what you’ll come across on exam day. This is done by identifying important topics and the percentage breakdown based on the exam’s blueprint. For example, our Step 2 content was created using the USMLE Step 2 content blueprint. This means the topics we cover in our Qbank reflect what you need to know for the exam.

Furthermore, the number of questions a particular topic has in the Qbank is proportional to how much emphasis is placed on it in the USMLE blueprint. And as previously noted, the shelf exam portion of the Qbank covers all of the content from 8 specialties (500 questions per specialty, for 4,000 shelf questions total). It’s important to note that all of these questions have just been reviewed and updated, so the content is current!

How Does the Editing Process Work for the Step 2 & Shelf Exams Qbank?

Our content drafting/editing process for the Step 2 & Shelf Exams Qbank is rigorous and guided by experts every step of the way. To ensure you are getting the highest quality content possible, every question goes through the following eight steps before you see it in your Qbank:

Here's how we made the new combined Step 2/Shelf Qbank from Blueprint Test Prep. Learn more.

1. Authors draft the content.

Using exam (i.e., USMLE) blueprint topics, the champions develop learning objectives. An author team will select a particular topic, formulate questions, and submit them for review.

2. Champions complete an initial review. 

The champions review the questions carefully to be sure they address the learning objectives and are well crafted with challenging answer choices. The correct and incorrect answers are reviewed to make sure the information they contain is correct, up to date, and filled with high-yield teaching points. 

After conducting their initial review, the champions will submit questions back to the authors and recommend changes if necessary.

3. A copyeditor reviews the question. 

After the first review is completed, the questions are submitted to a copyeditor. Before the copyeditors fully read through the content, it’s run through a plagiarism checker to make sure the work is original. Why? Because the wording shouldn’t be precisely what you’d read in a textbook or journal article. It’s supposed to be in the author’s own words.

Once the document is checked for plagiarism, the copyeditor gets to work on it. Our copyeditors are trained to pay attention to spelling, grammar, sentence flow, and inclusive language (among other things) to ensure the information is clear, consistent, easy to understand, and respectful toward hypothetical patients. For example, the copyeditor will make sure you don’t see alternate spellings (like “fundoscopic” and “funduscopic”) occurring in the same explanation.

4. The questions are sent back to the authors. 

After the copyeditor has a look at them, the questions are sent back to the author team for revisions.

5. Champions conduct a second review. 

Once the authors make any necessary changes, our medical champions have another look at the questions, and double-check them to make sure they address the learning objectives and are medically accurate. 

6. A second copyeditor reviews the question. 

After the champions review the questions a second time, they are passed along to a different copyeditor for another round of edits. This copyeditor reads through all of the questions and makes further changes to correct any issues with grammar, sentence flow, or word choice.

This editing process also includes making sure we use inclusive language in all of our practice questions. We’re passionate about using inclusive language because everyone deserves to be treated with respect, whether they’re in a clinician’s office or reading about a hypothetical patient in our Step 2 & Shelf Exams Qbank. This is important because the more we think about how to respectfully discuss people, the more it carries over into our day-to-day activities and patient interactions.

7. Our medical director conducts a final review.

After a copyeditor does a second round of edits, our medical director conducts another review of the questions to make sure everything is accurate and ready for publication. 

8. The question is published in your Qbank.

Once the medical director gives a thumbs up, the questions are uploaded into the Step 2 & Shelf Exams Qbank.

How Do We Create Images for the Step 2 & Shelf Exams Qbank?

During the editing process, after carefully reading the question and associated explanations, the champion picks an image from our large illustration library or requests a new image they feel will best represent and reinforce the question’s teaching point.

If a new image is requested (or an existing one is altered according to current guidelines or other information), the champion creates a mock-up based on a pertinent source. The illustration team then evaluates these mock-ups and determines how they can best present the information. 

The team uses a style guide to keep colors, labels, shapes, and templates consistent and creates the images with standard image-creation software. Then, the illustrations are reviewed by the champion and copyeditors for accuracy and clarity. Once the quality of the image has been verified, it’s uploaded into the Qbank.

Some incorrect answer choice explanations also have links to images, so you get the added benefit of seeing related information on a distractor answer choice. For example, if a question tests whether you can spot the clinical manifestations of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), the main image will link to information regarding diagnosis of SLE. If another condition (like rheumatoid arthritis) is included as a wrong answer choice, often there is a link from the wrong answer to an image that has more information regarding rheumatoid arthritis.

How Frequently Do We Update Step 2 & Shelf Questions? 

Rest assured, we’re on the lookout for any changes that would impact the accuracy of our questions. When any guideline updates that result in a clinical practice change are released by different societies, our questions, images, and Rapid Reviews related to the topic are reviewed and constantly being updated to reflect the most current guidelines.

Our Qbanks are also reviewed and updated regularly to provide you with current standard of care information on each topic. In fact, some of these updates are identified through our Qbank by students like you, as each question has a “submit feedback” option that is reviewed by the specialty clinician expert.

Each specialty has one or more content support agents (clinicians who are experts in the field) that are available to answer questions you have about content questions or offer clarifications. These agents work with the champions to update questions based on your feedback, if needed, after a careful review of the content and literature.

As this post hopefully makes clear, we’re always striving to include improvements and make sure our Step 2 & Shelf Exams Qbank remains the most representative of your actual exams as possible. And we’re constantly exploring ways to innovate and integrate new information and technologies into our editing process to assist (but never replace) medical professionals in developing Qbank items.

Further Reading

So, there you have it! Now that you’ve gotten a peek behind the curtain and have some idea as to how we create our content, we hope you can appreciate all the work that goes into your Step 2 & Shelf Exams Qbank. Its content closely resembles what you’ll encounter on exam day, and it should help you take that next big exam with increased confidence! 

And if you’re looking for (free!) Step 2 and shelf exam content written by Blueprint tutors, check out these other posts on the Med School blog:

About the Author

Sarah Platt is a life enthusiast and believes that the best lessons are learned outside of the classroom. She is a graduate of the University of Michigan Medical School and is board certified and licensed in Family Medicine.