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Top Books for USMLE Step 2 CK Prep

  • by Erica Forrette
  • Dec 09, 2020
  • Reviewed by: Amy Rontal

We list the most important study resources for M3s as they get ready for the USMLE Step 2 CK.

We find that med students often rely on the tried and true advice of upperclassmen. So we asked Joselyn M., class of 2021 at VCOM and one of our Campus Heroes, to share some pointers for M3s who are choosing USMLE Step 2 CK books. There are hundreds of possible choices, so before you find yourself too far into the weeds, check out Joselyn’s thoughts on what she considers essential and optional.

Must-Have USMLE Step 2 CK Resources

Joselyn lists 4 resources that, when used together, are necessary for a comprehensive review of the content tested by Step 2 CK.

1. Master the Boards
“MTB is written in plain words, and I like that the text is separated by specialty. That makes it easy to follow when you’re on rotations,” said Joselyn. However, Joselyn also stressed that MTB is not comprehensive by itself, since it’s missing diagnoses and adequate explanations. Therefore, she felt that it shouldn’t be used as primary text.

2. Step Up to Medicine
“Step Up can be a bit overwhelming at first but it provides the most comprehensive review,” said Joselyn. “As students do practice questions should review this text and highlight/read each bullet point to make sure the topic is mastered.”

3. OnlineMedEd Whiteboard Notes
“Based on the OnlineMedEd videos, this is a quick reference list of fun facts that are pertinent for every topic and all of the main specialties,” said Joselyn. “Some of the videos are out of date according to new research and guidelines, but overall general content is presented in an easy to understand way,” she added.

4. UWorld
Above we gave Joselyn’s take on the best books for USMLE Step 2 CK prep, but no prep strategy is complete without UWorld. Joselyn emphasized that “UWorld is the go-to question bank for any student, MD or DO, preparing for Step 2. It’s a must-purchase.”

UWorld is the go-to question bank for any student, MD or DO, preparing for Step 2. It’s a must-purchase.

Nice-to-Have USMLE Step 2 CK Resources

Joselyn also gave 2 examples of resources that can serve as supplemental reading material for the above.

1. First Aid for the USMLE Step 2 CK
It may be surprising to see FA listed as merely a nice-to-have, but Joselyn tells us, “Although First Aid was the ‘GOAT’ for Step 1/Level 1 prep, this is not the case for Step 2.” According to Josleyn, First Aid doesn’t include enough the content you need to study to be considered a must-have. As of Dec. 2020, we find that about 19% of our customers used First Aid to prep for Step 2 CK.

Lots of med students find AMBOSS useful for its qbank. We find that about 16% of our customers used AMBOSS to study for Step 2. However Joselyn had a different angle on this resource. “I’ve never used AMBOSS for practice questions, but for review I have used AMBOSS Medical Student Resources Knowledge Library. It has helped clarify some topics for me,” she said.

Still not sure which Step 2 CK books to choose for your study plan? As a starting point, feel free to consult our stats on which Step 2 CK resources we see customers adding to their Cram Fighter study plans most often.

We hope this advice helps you choose study resources, the first step towards tackling the USMLE Step 2 CK! The next step is to create a board exam study schedule to ensure you stay on track and finish everything on time. To create a personalized study plan using these resources or any of hundreds more, start a 7-day free trial at

About the Author

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