Tag Archives: high yield

The High Yield Series: Histopathology, Cell and Molecular Biology, & Embryology

High Yield Histopathology (2nd Ed), High Yield Cell and Molecular Biology (3rd Ed), and High Yield Embryology (4th Ed) are three books in a series whose purpose is to provide high yield topic and content review to prepare us for the boards.

Histopathology topics are covered in 30 chapters and about 300 pages, some of which cover nucleus, cell membrane, bone, blood, muscle, blood, thymus, small intestine, large intestine, respiratory system, eye, and ears.Cell and Molecular Biology topics are covered in about 140 pages consisting of 16 chapters, including, but not exclusively: chromosomal replication, meiosis, mitochondrial genome, mutations, proto-oncogenes, cell cycle, molecular biology techniques, and identification of human disease genes. Finally, the book on Embryology, consisting of about 140 pages, includes topics on overview of fertilization, development of organ systems, and teratology resulting from various external factors such as drug side effects.

These books are fairly comprehensive as far as review books go, but may not be the best books of choice for learning the material for the very first time. Certain topics may require reference or background information from a more comprehensive textbook. The range of topics covered in these books can be described as having more breadth than depth, although depth is generally sufficient for review purposes. Note that these books are in gray scale, which means if you need colorful pictures to keep you entertained, then you probably shouldn’t use these books since they are condensed material with black and white images. However, the inclusion and highlighting of clinically relevant concepts in the “Clinical Considerations” makes these books good sources for review, and helpful for the wards.

Perhaps one of the larger benefits is that these books are much shorter than their corresponding texts. Although many med students will tell you they are too dense or too much to read, other people will tell you that they are perfect for studying. The reason for this disagreement is that people tend to use these books in different ways, for different reasons, and with different backgrounds or expectations. These High Yield books do contain quite a bit of information, which may be considered too dense for those people who are simply looking for a flashcard style review book. However, people who use the High Yield series for learning the material for the first time may find that the information contained in it is insufficient to fully explain the concepts (which is an obvious feature with review books). Few review books are perfect, since there are so many possible topics to be covered, and any topic that one person studied but didn’t get tested on (either in class or on the boards) becomes “excessive material” even though another student may hit questions requiring that knowledge on their Step 1 exam. It’s important to disregard single outlier reports from other med students who took the boards before you. The boards can’t test everything every time.

The fact that these books are black and white makes them a less appealing to study from, but the material included are condensed and easily accessible. Again, they sometimes require some reference/background books from time to time, which is reasonable given that they are review books and not textbooks.

This subset of the High Yield series is good to use for a comprehensive review of the corresponding topics that are likely to be tested on the USMLE and preclinical med school classes. Using these titles by themselves for medical school curriculum may be insufficient, although using them as a “big picture” review for medical school exams is probably fine. Since medical schools rarely teach to the USMLE, it is prudent to keep in mind that these books may not necessarily produce the Honors that you may be aiming for. Use this book when studying for the USMLE, but in conjunction with First Aid and in ways mentioned elsewhere on this site. That way, you can better gauge the highest of High Yield topics and prioritize material to optimize learning for the boards.


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USMLE Step 1 Series: The 7 Essentials of a Solid Study Strategy

To kick off the USMLE Step 1 advice, we present the big picture overview of studying. Some of the below are well known strategies, but we hope to present some clever caveats that have been compiled by a number of med students along the way. Over the next few weeks, in depth articles will detail more of the little tricks that offer that competitive test taking edge. For now, let’s stick to the basics.

Figure Out Your ACTUAL Strengths and Weaknesses, with Evidence.

Early in the study process, you will be bombarded with different strategies and study practices. The problem will always come back to figuring out what works best for your specific learning style and knowledge base. Before you even decide where to start, you should have a basic idea of big-picture learning goals. After all, it would be silly to dedicate the same amount of time to a topic you despise as one you already know really well. Don’t guess. That’s an easy and common mistake. Get evidence.

The National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME), the same guys who bring you the Step 1 exam, have created a number of helpful exams for this goal called the Comprehensive Basic Science Self-Assessment (CBSSA).  They use Step 1 style questions and provide performance profiles (above) similar to that found on your actual Step 1 assessment. It lays out a visual representation of strengths and weaknesses. Hopefully your med school provides them to you for free (if they don’t, petition for it).

It is recommended that you take an untimed enhanced CBSSA exam early on or even before you start studying. Assessing your Step 1 knowledge before studying, and seeing the score and performance profile early on will definitely sting, but the purpose is to push you in the right direction. It can serve as a strong motivator, and has been shown to increase board scores at certain med schools by 1/4 of a standard deviation.  If desired, take another one about 10 days before the actual exam for comparison and reevaluation of focus. Using a question bank to accomplish this goal is an alternate option, but they are focused on teaching topics, and nothing is as authentic and insightful as an exam coming directly from the NBME.

Get a Plan, and Stick To It.

Once you figure out strengths and weaknesses, creating a study schedule is the next essential step. We’ll cover the various types of plans more extensively in future posts, as there are many out there. The big picture point is that it should keep you focused but remain flexible. This can be a large stress-inducing topic for med students, as gunner plans will require no sleep and IV hydration. Construct something right for you that also maintains sanity.

Get a Copy of First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 2012

First Aid USMLE Step 1 2012 reviewIt has been reviewed and highly recommended on this site, and even given away in a contest. This should be at the core of every med student’s study plan, and can be purchased confidently, regardless of your individual study strengths. However, this absolutely cannot be the sole source of information for Step 1 studies. Every commercial question bank and review course will cite some arbitrary number that suggests First Aid doesn’t hold 100% of the needed knowledge. They’re right.

The proper way to use First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 is as a guide. The sections corresponding to the subject of your focus should be lightly overviewed first. This should then be followed by in-depth learning from a dedicated resource. Some students like returning to review First Aid after that, and/or in the days just before the exam. Either way, it should be used as your starting marker to point you in the right direction, not your end point. Furthermore, it should be annotated thoroughly, which will be discussed with tips in an upcoming post.
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Stock Up on the In-Depth Books NOW

Now that we convinced you that First Aid won’t make you a Step 1 superstar by itself, let’s look at what else to consider. You will find that there are about three million medical books out there. After narrowing down the list to those designed specifically for med students studying for the USMLE Step 1, you will find yourself left with about 43,943 books. Pro-tip: you can’t read them all.

Feuds have started over which books present the highest of yields. You could sink a lot of time into researching every title, and fall prey to the gunners and trolls of the SDN forums, never wanting to hear the term “high yield” ever again. Here at MedStudentBooks, we like to keep things simple. Below is a list of recommended titles to support various Step 1 topics. As always, we highly recommend using the titles you already know and love to jog your memory. But if you don’t have a favorite, the following is a list of highly recommended titles from the MedStudentBooks team, surveyed med students, and med school administrators that you should consider first:

MedStudentBooks Recommended Step 1 Resources
Lippincott’s Biochemistry (full review here)
Q&A Review of Biochemistry
Clinical Microbiology Made Ridiculously Simple (full review here)
Q&A Review of Microbiology and Immunology
Lippincott’s Microcards
BRS Physiology (full review here)
BRS Behavioral Science
BRS Pathology or Goljan’s Rapid Review Pathology (full review here)
Robbins and Cotran Review of Pathology (question book) (full review here)
MedMaps for Pathophysiology for true visual learners
Lilly’s Pathophysiology of Heart Disease (full review here)
High-Yield Gross Anatomy with your favorite atlas for reminders
High-Yield Neuroanatomy with this gem

Clearly you should not seek out every book on this list. In fact, purchasing too many books can stress you out if you have a large pile of materials you feel you must get through, without the time to actually do it. These are just top recommendations for the subjects with which med students tend to need extra help.   The key is to figure out what topics need to be strengthened as mentioned above, and focus on them from the above list appropriately. We’ll go over general question and case books in another post.

Do not be that med student who waits until the day before they are scheduled to start reviewing a topic to buy the associated book. You should not dedicate any brain power on bookstore trips or figuring out why the postal service didn’t deliver your Amazon order in the middle of your studying. Added stress is not welcomed. Figure out what books you need from your self-assessment, and purchase them early.

Use a Question Bank to Complement Your Studies and Track Progress

Your med school may host an obligatory Kaplan lunch talk, or notify you of a USMLERx “scholarship” (?). Maybe you’ve heard some rumors about a new and upcoming question bank weapon for gunners. Like books, there are several options out there, but this choice is even simpler than books: use USMLE World.

USMLE World Step 1 Question Bank

Much like First Aid, this is not a question of learning style. If you’re a visual learner, use UWorld. If you’re an auditory learner, use UWorld. If you work for Kaplan…  use UWorld. We’ve previously mentioned that we’re not a fan of their company policies or prices, but the high quality of their question bank is undeniable, which is why they are the gold standard. Unless your exam is scheduled within the next 8 weeks, get a 3 month subscription. We’ll discuss question bank strategies and alternatives in upcoming posts, but for now rest assured that you don’t need to worry about other companies unless you’ve blown through UWorld and come out hungry for more. Again, the price is unfortunately high, but it is an absolute necessity.
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Learn by Rote Memory Over Time

So far we’ve covered basic science subjects that are largely conceptual. Unfortunately, Step 1 (and the rest of your career) will require straight up no-thinking-through-it memorization. By this point in med school, you’ve probably created lists that you’ve stared at for so long that you not only remember the factoid, but the irregularities of the paper as well. This will most likely come up for Step 1 in pharmacology and microbiology. It is an unfortunate necessity, however it can be improved slightly. Just remember that large amounts of rote memorization are best retained with spaced repetition. In other words, you should identify the long lists somewhat early, and continue to review them in short bursts throughout your study schedule instead of dedicating large chunks of time without returning to the information.

(Try to) Relax

A lot of us really neglect this one, and it can have devastating effects on productivity and exam scores. We’ll be discussing burnout in greater detail soon, but you should start thinking of things that keep you sane now. Step 1 sucks, but you are awesome.
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First Aid USMLE Step 1 2012 Errata Posted

First Aid USMLE Step 1 2012 reviewFor those interested in making corrections to information in your copy of First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 2012, the official FA errata is now posted to the FirstAidTeam.com website.  You can check out the webpage to learn more about the process, or RSS subscribe for updates. If you’d like to bypass the site and just go straight to the errata, the document can be found here (pdf).

Contribute to First AidKeep in mind that you can send in a correction for any mistake you find by clicking on the “Contribute” button on the right side of their site or this post (both bring you to the same place on their site). While they promise $20 Amazon gift cards for new information, someone else has probably already beaten you to any given correction. Nonetheless, making any submission will get your name printed in the preceding version of Step 1.

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Sneak Peak at First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 2012

First Aid USMLE Step 1 2012 reviewMedStudentBooks.com got a hold of an early copy of the upcoming First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 2012, and we are proud to offer the first internet review.

The 2011 version of First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 was previously reviewed on this site as the must have gold standard of Step 1 board review, and this only builds on it. Reportedly the “world’s bestselling medical review book,” First Aid 2012 continues its long line of teaching with a noticeable update. As the rainbow bar on the cover suggests, First Aid is now in full color. The company also reports approximately 20% new content across the additional pages.

There are a good number of benefits that come with the color upgrade. Previous versions stored a small section of pages near the back of the book with certain must-see color images. In 2012 however, they are blended seamlessly around the relevant text, allowing users to go directly from text to image without page references. The color also seems to make a number of the images pop a bit more. Drawn diagrams are easier to encode into memory, and line graphs are easier to trace (although this may be difficult to appreciate in the below image).  There also appears to simply be more color pictures in general, complementing the text more completely than previous versions.

First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 2012 sizing

Pages without images still have subdued hues of blue and red around the border. Bolding is now in a dark blue, which seems to conflict with one of the improvements many people liked between the 2010 and 2011 versions: bolder, darker font.  Nevertheless text remains easy to read.

First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 2012 QR CodeThe other noticeable addition to the book is the use of QR codes found at the start and end of every chapter, linking the user to updates, errata, “and more.” They all actually appear to be the same QR code throughout the book, and come with a link to the title’s associated question bank. As an aside, that same link is where students can submit errors or recommendations to improve the subsequent version, and get their name printed in it as well. While it is difficult to see the practical use for this electronic QR connection, board-study-psychosis can produce erratic behavior in medical students, and it certainly isn’t a detracting feature.

In general, First Aid Step 1 2012 also does a better job with spacing and sizing, as seen in the above image, although this comes at the expense of smaller margins. As mentioned in the previous 2011 review, most students annotate the book’s blank space.  Because of this, margins have historically been important, although a good amount of white space still remains.  In regard to the physical size of the book itself, it is surprising to see the dimensions to be about equivalent to the 2010 version, despite an additional 50 pages. The downside to this is that the pages are very thin and don’t hold certain inks or highlighting as well as prior versions.

Compare First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 2012

Overall, it is highly recommended that every second year medical student has access to a personal copy of First Aid for the USMLE Step 1. Unfortunately, it is generally contraindicated to obtain a used copy of this title due to the annotation produced by most users. The color update with a reported 20% increase in content represents an improvement that should not be overlooked for a new copy of a previous version. Therefore, we strongly recommend picking up a new copy of First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 2012. As we get further into Step 1 season, MedStudentBooks.com will post any discounts or deals on purchasing this title online, and possibly give one away for free. For now, shop around the below links to find the best price, and be sure to look for the color version.


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Win a Free Book: Pocket Medicine (AKA The Green Book) Giveaway!

This contest is currently closed – the winner has been contacted. Thank you to everyone who applied. Stay tuned for the next free giveaway, coming this Halloween!

Pocket Medicine: The Massachusetts General Hospital Handbook of Internal Medicine

Win this book free!

Med Student Books is proud to announce our first of many book giveaways: Mark Sabatine’s Pocket Medicine. You have probably already heard it referred to as “The Green Book” (the newest edition after “The Red Book“), and seen it sticking out of white coat pockets. Pocket Medicine has been previously reviewed on this site as a “Must Have” book for third year medical students on the wards.

Thanks to our friends at Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, we are happy to give away a brand new copy of this highly recommended resource. As this site is dedicated to using the experiences of medical students to help one another, Pocket Medicine will be awarded to the US medical student who offers the best advice to incoming first year medical students in a comment to this post.  It can focus on anything, including but not limited to study tips, ways to adjust to med school life, your favorite anatomy resources, or anything else that you wish you had known coming into medical school.  It just needs to be tailored to first years.

As this book is valued at over $50 and we wish to restrict it to the medical community, we ask that you use your medical school e-mail address as verification of your status.  Alternately, you can use another e-mail for now, but winners must verify their med school e-mail when contacted.  E-mail addresses are not displayed publicly, and will not be used for any purpose outside of this contest.  The winning entry will be selected on Friday, October 7th at 11:59pm, and the winner will be notified by the e-mail they provided shortly thereafter.

See our complete contest rules for further details.

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Best Ob/Gyn Review: Blueprints Obstetrics and Gynecology

Best Ob/Gyn Book: Blueprints Obstetrics and Gynecology

Best Og/Byn Review: Blueprints

While this site had previously reported on the vast shortcomings of Blueprints Pediatrics, the writers of Blueprints Obstetrics and Gynecology, now in its fifth edition, have thankfully delivered one of the best ob/gyn review resources for medical students who are not going into obstetrics and gynecology. The book itself follows the same format and design as the others in the series, but don’t judge the book by its cover.

The major strength of Blueprints Ob/Gyn is that it is specifically streamlined for NBME exams, which means it strips down all the unnecessary detail and presents the core topics that will aid you in rocking the shelf, as well as the ob/gyn questions on Step 2.  One of the tough areas of ob/gyn is learning all new normal anatomy and physiology while currently learning the pathophysiology.  The book does a good job of breaking this up into an easy to read flow, with chapters that have a manageable length.  This includes both big-picture overviews (e.g. things that go wrong in third trimester) as well as drill down topics (e.g. preeclampsia). Furthermore, the book also has its own question sets which further solidify the topics as you go. This book also doubles as a great guide on Family Medicine as well.

Specific chapters include Pregnancy and Prenatal Care, Early Pregnancy Complications, Prenatal Screening/Diagnosis/Treatment, Normal Labor and Delivery, Antepartum Hemorrhage, Complications of Labor and Delivery, Fetal Complications, Hypertension in Pregnancy, Diabetes in Pregnancy, Infectious Diseases, Other Medical Complications in Pregnancy, Postpartum Care, Benign Disorders of the Genital Tract, Endometriosis and Adenomyosis, Pelvic Relaxation, Urinary Incontinence, Puberty and Menopause, Amenorrhea, Hirsutism and Virilism, Contraception and Sterilization, Elective Pregnancy Termination, Infertility and Assisted Reproduction, various Cancers, and Breast Disease.

Keep in mind that this latest fifth edition has very few changes compared to the previous two versions.  If you can pick up the older copies for cheap or free, they will provide the same knowledge.


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Sites to See: The Eyes Have It

University of Michigan Kellogg Eye Center: The Eyes Have It
As a complement to the latest post on ophthalmoscopes, we are happy to share an excellent online resource for medical students to learn about ocular findings and signs that may pop up on physical exam: The Eyes Have It, from the University of Michigan’s Kellogg Eye Center.

The Eyes Have It is a site that provides a split instructional and quiz portion to both review and solidify ophthalmology knowledge. The information is straight forward, and creates a great overview for med students in the primary care settings, and a starting point for ophthalmology clerkships.

Papilledema and Retinal Artery Occlusion

For the first-year medical students, after you purchase your ophthalmoscope for the first time, take a good hard look in as many eyes as you can.  When something looks weird, this is the site to go to as your first step.  For the third year medical students, here’s a pimp tip that will make you look like a rock star: involvement of herpes zoster on the nose is known as Hutchinson sign, and is a good clue that the eye is involves in the outbreak as well.  Bonus points are given to anyone who can comment on the pathology of the above two images from The Eyes Have It.

Iris Collage

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Surgical Recall: Ultimate Pimping Handbook

Blackbroune Surgical Recall for Third Year Med StudentsSurgical Recall is one of those third year med student books that can be your secret phone-a-friend ace up your sleeve, and concurrently your downfall. There are a number of books you will encounter throughout medical school where the outcome of that class or clerkship is dependent on how the book is used. Just as you wouldn’t use Netter’s or Rohen’s to replace an anatomy text, Surgical Recall must be used properly.

As the title implies, Surgical Recall is your guide to all things pimping on surgery.  Unless surgery is your first rotation, you should already be aware that the pimping starts on the very first day. Accordingly, you should ideally grab a copy of this during the weekend before your surgery clerkship starts and dig in quite a bit by time you hit the first day.  This is the book that’s going to help you avoid looking like a total newbie, because common surgical etiquette and culture is not taught in preclinical classes.  This is the book that’s going to tell you all the usual abbreviations, the names of all the different scissors you enounter, why you should NEVER touch the mayo tray (and what that is), and all of the common pimp questions you will commonly encounter.

Like other books in the Recall series, Surgical Recall uses a split page question and answer format that quizzes the reader on all the common things seen in surgery.  The book does a good job in its use of pictures, especially on sections dedicated to surgical instruments and consumables.  This is important as most third year med students don’t know what a JP drain is, what JP stands for, what they look like, and how they are different from other drains. You could responsively google “JP drain” right now, but you won’t know the names of all the other commonly used tools, which is why this book is helpful.

The latest edition (as seen above) has taken on a somewhat retro look.  Perhaps market research has shown med students go for books that are already on fire to quell the need to later set them ablaze in frustration, or perhaps this just allows for the subsequent edition to look modernized in comparison. Nonetheless, we can’t judge a book by its cover, else the BRS series of books would have gone extinct long ago. The first section of Surgical Recall is going to touch on the big picture and background of surgery, including abbreviations, surgical signs, syndromes, cutting, suturing, tying, instruments, preoperative requirements, wound care, hemostasis, nutrition, shock, complications, and surgical anatomy pearls.  Section II goes over the main general surgery areas, including GI hormones, GI bleeds, hernias, laparoscopy, trauma, burns, bariatric surgery, appendicitis, ostomies, fistulas, IBD, portal hypertension, other hepatobiliary diseases, the breast, endocrine, melanoma, vascular, and intensive care unit knowledge.  The third and final section hits the surgical subspecialties, including pediatrics, plastics, hand, otolaryngology, thoracic, cardiovascular, transplant, orthopedics, neurosurgery, and urology.  This book is around 800 pages long, and while the question and answer format allows for a faster read, you should generally focus on the general surgery knowledge and the topics that specifically correspond to your surgical service.

Surgical Recall Illustrations: JP drain and Scalpels

Included with this latest version is the promise of free “Mobile Access.”  As of now, the jury is still out as to whether this is legitimate, as a number of students have had a hard time actually accessing it through their phones without paying the additional ~$45 app price through Android or Apple. It may be fixed in the future, but don’t purchase this book thinking it will instantly be on your phone.

Surgical Recall can be the downfall for the occasional medical student who believes this is the only book needed during surgery.  Indeed it will seem like a cheat sheet, whereby memorizing this book will produce superstar results in the operating room and floors (and it will).  However, the NBME Surgery Shelf Exam doesn’t care about the things that make awesome operating room medical students that get all the obscure attending questions. There is no Surgery Shelf question on one-handed ties, no Surgery Shelf question on drain choices, and no Surgery Shelf question on how your attending likes their coffee.  Make the distinction: there is OR / floor knowledge, and there is NBME Surgery Shelf exam knowledge, with a minority of overlap.  You need both to go for the gold on your surgery clerkship, and Surgical recall is the tool to help with the former.


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