Internal Medicine Shelf Exam Prep: The Three Best Resources

  • /Reviewed by: Amy Rontal, MD
  • Scoring high on the Internal Medicine Shelf Exam is essential for honoring the medicine clerkship. Excelling in your medicine clerkship is important for obtaining the residency of your choice. A high score on the Medicine Shelf will also lay the groundwork for a productive and successful Step 2CK campaign, which too impacts your residency and career outlook. For many years, MST has worked with students throughout their rotation years, helping them to manage their limited study time and learn the core material well enough to excel on their Shelf Exams. Here are the top three resources students should be using:

    1. USMLE World Step 2CK Qbank

    A great strategy for any 3rd year student is to work from the medicine questions in this Qbank from the beginning of the rotation. Students often mistakenly believe that they should spend the early-to-mid part of their rotations just reading. This is a very bad idea. The Medicine Shelf is a question-based exam. Thus, a question-based study approach is optimal. Step 2 Qbank contains 1300+ high-quality medicine questions. You should work through ALL of these, at least once, before your medicine exam. Carefully review your mistakes. Take notes, make flashcards, look up difficult content in quality clinical references (i.e. UpToDate, Medscape, Google). DO NOT WORRY ABOUT USING UP THESE QUESTIONS TOO EARLY! At MST, we’ve come to understand that the key to success on medical exams is comprehensive question completion and rigorous review of explanations. Start NOW!

    2. MKSAP for Medical Students

    The MKSAP question books have proven to be outstanding supplementary question resources for busy students on medicine rotations. The books are filled with challenging, highly clinical cases—each supported by a recent literature reference. The evidence-based MKSAP questions complement the more boards-driven USMLE World questions quite well. That saying, we at Med School Tutors would not advise justdoing MKSAP questions for the medicine shelf. This is because: a) MKSAP follows a specific style that may not be fully replicated on the NBME shelf exam; b) there are insufficient questions in MKSAP to adequately prepare for the NBME shelf exam. However, when used in combination with USMLE World, MKSAP has shown to be a potent resource that will leave you well-prepared for your medicine exam.

    3. Case Files for Internal Medicine

    This resource is rightfully well regarded for its comprehensive coverage of core medicine topics through case presentations. It is ideal for the busy medical student who finds himself/ herself with small windows of opportunity during otherwise hectic clinical days. Take this book with you to your clinical sites and read a case or two during downtime. Create a schedule whereby you read a certain number of cases every night (e.g. 1-2). You will be surprised at how quickly you can cover the entire book. Read these cases X2 for optimal effect. The second pass will be easier and should be completed in the last 1-2 weeks before your shelf.

    There are other resources to consider when prepping for the IM shelf (including Step Up To Medicine—an MST favorite), but the above three will set you up for successful Shelf and Step 2CK campaigns. Remember, these exams are question-based, so the best way to prepare is by doing lots of questions. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

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