Quick Takes on USMLE Step 1 Resources

  • /Reviewed by: Amy Rontal, MD
  • Our Campus Heroes share their opinions on the resources that worked the best for them.

    At Cram Fighter, we keep statistics on the most popular USMLE Step 1 Resources that our customers use, but we also want to know what med students really think of them. That’s why we surveyed our network of Campus Heroes to discover exactly what USMLE Step 1 Resources they were using and which they found the most helpful. Hear their opinions on some of the most popular USMLE Step 1 study resources.


    With just over 50% of Cram Fighter customers using this qbank, UWorld is one of the most popular resources used. Our Campus Heroes had nothing but great things to say about this resource stating that it was “absolutely necessary” and “simply, the best q bank.” One student recommended using active recall techniques to get the most of this resource while another recommended it more for reviewing rather than learning new material.

    • Essential. Questions, figures, and explanations are gold.
    • If you just do UWorld, you learn the most you will ever learn. Active recall and questions are the best way to ingratiate and memorize material.
    • Far and away the best qbank for step. The second best would be a second pass of UWorld.

    First Aid for the USMLE Step 1

    Considered a must-have resource for many, our Campus Heroes had a variety of thoughts about First Aid. Students praised its strengths as being a great reference and providing a broad view of subjects and concepts. Several students did mention the shallow depth of this resource as a drawback, indicating that other study aids may be more helpful in diving into the details.

    • Our Bible. I can’t say anything more!
    • Really helpful to learn about subjects in broad strokes.
    • Good outline & content guide. Gives me a birds-eye view of what I should focus on.


    While it did require a little more effort to complete than other resources, many students praised their retention of microbiology material after going through SketchyMicro. Several mentioned how, although the videos may require multiple views, this resource was “the best source for Micro.” If you are looking for a way to understand both the concepts and retain all of the material, this may be the best micro resource for you.

    • There’s no other way to tackle micro.
    • Phenomenal, a must. [It] requires multiple views, but the retention is groundbreaking.
    • Made it very easy to me, especially [because] I do retain way more using it than just reading.


    Many students who used SketchyMicro also liked SketchyPharm. Although the course is lengthy, students liked the fact that it had detailed content on more obscure diseases and really helped them remember the names and material.

    • Always struggled remembering the names, but using it helped me a lot.
    • SketchyPATH is great, particularly for more obscure diseases (Lymphomas, Inherited Immunodeficiencies, Brain Tumors).


    Considered an essential resource for pathology, med students felt that Pathoma provided a great outline and good explanations of the concepts in pathology. There were some criticisms though. Several students mentioned that they thought other resources, such as Boards & Beyond or First Aid for the USMLE Step 1, were better at covering the material.

    • The videos and the books are essentials. Dr. Sattar changed my perspective on pathology. I used not to like pathology in general since I always felt it was bland and not a fun material, but the way he explains everything changed it completely. Can’t live without Pathoma 🙏🏼
    • Great resource. Love his explanations and interactive explanations of [histology].

    Boards and Beyond

    Universally, our Campus Heroes raved about Boards and Beyond with several praising its videos and summaries of key concepts. In fact, we’ve seen Boards and Beyond climb in our rankings of the most-added resources, to #3 on our list as of October 2019. Many students used it as an initial review after learning new material to make sure they understand the concepts properly.

    • Great review for 1st pass of new material and/or trying to recall old material for boards.
    • Really great videos, but lots of content. Definitely good to use for the stuff you struggle to remember.
    • Widely underrated. Other than UWorld, B&B is the best Step 1 resource there is. Pure gold.
    • Hands. Down. The. Best. Why⁠—It has everything you need, nothing you don’t AND explained & walks you through it. Brings me PEACE in this stressful period. ALSO, an underrated feature is the FORMATTING of the SLIDES⁠—so organized. The color schemes & bolding of only key-words really draws the eyes to important facts, helping to filter out the rest.


    With some students stating that they have used it for multiple hours every day for the past year, it was clear that Anki, the popular flash card app, was immensely popular in studying for the USMLE Step 1. Many students praised its strength in reviewing material rather than in learning new concepts.

    • Essential! Helps to retain all of the above materials.
    • The best method to manage learning material.
    • I used Anki for 6 hrs a day [in the] past year.

    USMLE-Rx Qmax

    Sneaking in at #9 of the top 10 most popular USMLE Step 1 Resources, nearly 15% of Cram Fighter customers use the USMLE-Rx Qmax qbank. Many students said that this resource was a great refresher before using UWorld. Several students also used it as a supplement to First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 stating that it helped them memorize crucial details from First Aid. However, one student did say that they “stopped using [Qmax] after I got UWorld.“

    • I used their qbank, really helpful to clear up some things from FA, and it helps to memorize some details from the FA which are crucial.

    Hopefully this information from some of our medical student leaders is helpful as you think about which study materials you’ll use for the USMLE Step 1. If you’re ready to build your selected resources into a personalized study plan, try Cram Fighter for 7 days, free. You could also check out one of our sample study schedules, available in a variety of durations, for ideas on how to set up your own study schedule.

    About the Author

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