Tag Archives: med school book reviews
For 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).
Keep 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.
Congratulations to user Buding, an MS-II at Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences! He is the winner of the below free copy of First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 2012. This contest is now closed.
We’ve gotten so much traffic and positive interest in our First Aid Step 1 2012 review that we just couldn’t hold onto it. For those of you taking Step 1 closer to the spring, this offer is definitely for you. All you need to do is to leave your e-mail address in the comments section to win a free copy of First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 2012 (now in full color). You can say whatever you’d like in the comment itself, but the winner of this giveaway will be selected completely at random. We do however request that you click one of the social buttons below, although this is not necessary to win.
Be sure to subscribe to the RSS feed or check back on the site over the next few months as we expand our posts dedicated to Step 1 tips, schedules, calculators, and online applications.
As with previous contests, this is open only to US students, and e-mail addresses are never displayed on the site, used outside of contests, or given away (we’re all med students and understand the value of spam-free inboxes). Limit 1 entry per med student. The contest follows our usual rules and will close in one month, on February 15, 2012, so drop your comments by then. Good luck!
Biochemistry can be defined as the study of metabolism, and metabolism is the sum of all chemical reactions in the body. That’s a pretty wide field to cover. Even if your professors clearly explain what you’re expected to know, there will always be information beyond your curriculum that could help you solidify your knowledge. With biochemistry in particular, you can go in two directions, ‘down’ to the chemistry and energetics (repressed undergrad memories bubbling up) or ‘up’ to the clinical correlations and differentials which we hope to know by the time rotations start. Faced with a bewildering array of review books at every point on this spectrum, you might ask yourself, what is the best book to help me in my class, for the boards, and for the wards?
A common recommendation from biochem professors and older students alike was Harvey and Ferrier’s Biochemistry, part of the Lippincott’s Illustrated Reviews series, now in its 5th edition. The bulk of the book is a thorough review of proteins, enzymes, and the metabolism of the macronutrients. It describes and comments on important reaction pathways such as glycolysis, the pentose-phosphate pathway, the citric acid cycle, and mechanisms of amino acid synthesis, combination, and degradation. Later in the book, one unit is devoted to integrating these pathways. For example, one chapter looks at the effect on all systems of insulin and glucagon in the fasting and feeding cycle, with chapters covering diabetes, obesity, and nutrition. The last unit covers the special chemistry of genetic information which aims at preserving and expressing information rather than procuring energy or achieving certain concentrations of building block molecules.
My initial look through the book brought an immediate sense of relief. The book seemed organized with a huge number of clear and helpful illustrations. The text itself is succinct but vigorous, like an old-fashioned news anchor might sound if the news of the day for some reason involved the emulsification of dietary lipids. Blocked out in chapters, sections, and subsections, the writing never feels rote or forced but manages to retain a readable, almost “listenable” tone that contrasts favorably to how some other books smother murmur beneath an avalanche of facts. Throughout the text, the authors build on previous topics and indicate points of intersection between pathways, often in the form of strategically placed charts and figures. At the end of every chapter, there is a summary with keywords highlighted, “key concept map” for the chapter, and a few questions and explanations. When that isn’t enough, the thorough index was often handy.
After spending a lot of time with the book, it becomes evident that the editors spent a lot of time designing the reader’s experience. This has the unexpected consequence of making students read more than intended when looking up a particular topic. Often, the next related topic is familiar but not completely solidified. In context, you make a connection you otherwise wouldn’t have, and you can cross one more topic off your list of things to review.
This attention to the reader’s experience is also responsible for what may be the book’s only downside. The details on the diagrams are so focused on making a point that they sometimes have less information than it would appear. In a larger textbook, a chart showing the effect of a drug on blood glucose concentrations over time would probably be large, simple, uncluttered, and accompanied by a lengthy description of the experiment. Here, it is small, marginal, and crowded with word bubbles with arrows overlappingly pointing out features on the graph to which they’re relevant. The effect is that of a comic book: bold, practical, attention-grabbing, but a little bit tiresome all the same.
Nonetheless, this book is very good for its purposes. Though it is an ideal adjuvant to a textbook, it probably is not a substitute for one if you’re being introduced to biochemistry for the first time. Opinions about it for Boards Review are mixed: though it covers all the topics that are likely to come up, some students feel that it is perhaps too thorough for high-yield review. On the other hand, if you use this book during your biochemistry class, you will probably know where to look for what you need to review. Its lucidity and completeness would then be a plus.
Overall, if you’re looking for a book to help you make sense of biochem – to help you know what’s important and give you a sense of how the discipline is used in medicine – Lippincott Biochemistry is highly recommended.
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.
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.
The 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.
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.
This contest is currently closed – the winner has been contacted.
Continuing our trend of offering absolutely free books to fellow med students, we are happy to be giving away a free copy of Bates’ Guide to Physical Examination and History Taking. We recently reviewed Bates Physical Exam on the site, and have gotten great feedback from it so far.
In our last giveaway, a student from the University of Pittsburgh took home a free copy of Pocket Medicine by giving great advice to incoming first year medical students. In a similar fashion, the winner of this contest will be able to provide the best feedback for the following challenge.
If you could improve MedStudentBooks.com to help med student readers from around the world, what would you add to the site? The winner not only gets a free copy of Bates, but may also have their idea implemented on the site.
Please check out the About section to get an idea of the original site goals, but keep in mind that the winner will be chosen based on the helpfulness of their ideas. We not only host reviews, but create new applications as well, so anything is fair game. All contest ideas can be submitted by replying in the comment section of this post, and you may submit multiple ideas for this contest. While it doesn’t improve your chances of winning, be sure to also subscribe via RSS or click on any of the social network links at the bottom of this post or top of the page.
As this is valued at nearly $100, the winner will need to provide a valid US medical school e-mail address to confirm their status. E-mail addresses are never displayed publicly, and will not be used for any purpose outside of contests. The contest will end on Friday, November 18th 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.
Pocket Neurology (also known as “The Yellow Book”) can be readily found in the white coats of many Neurology residents. Unlike its Medicine counterpart (The Green Book), Pocket Neurology does not seem to hold the same popularity among medical students. There are a few reasons for this. First, it hasn’t been around as long, and thus it hasn’t had time to built up the full extent of its reputation. Few attendings will readily reference it during rounds, and residents simply won’t expect students to own or have access to a copy. Second, Neurology is usually a clerkship of shorter duration compared to Internal Medicine in most medical schools, and therefore comprehensive pocket guides are less bang for the same buck.
What Pocket Neurology covers, it covers very well. However the target audience for this title is not the same as for Pocket Medicine as a result of the focus in our medical education. We are taught the core principles of Internal Medicine from an early point on entering medical school, including history taking, physical examination, general findings, and many organ system courses focused on Internal Medicine subspecialties. It is because of this focus that new third year medical students can open a copy of Pocket Medicine and understand the more advanced topics without the need for referencing the basics.
This is not the case on a Neurology rotation, where most students are just starting to learn the specialty’s language, techniques, and the significance of common findings. For example, students may be frustrated if trying to use the book to assess the common presentations of migraine prodrome, despite a concise and comprehensive overview of headache differential diagnosis and workup. Getting past the basics quickly to fully utilize this book is highly recommended, as it will certainly be a strong resource to those who can wield it well.
As with all of the titles in the Pocket Notebook series, downsides include lack of space for annotation, and small print font, but these come with the territory of creating pocket reference guides. Another consideration for this title specifically is an index section that is somewhat lacking. Topics not contained within tidy concepts involve a good amount of searching in the appropriate chapter. As a result, many residents will place labeled flags or earmarks on pages to quickly access commonly referenced topics.
Specific sections include neurologic emergencies, lesion localizing in clinical neurology, neuroimaging, vascular neurology, neurocritical care, acute intracranial hypertension, interventional neurology, seizures and other spells, electroencephalography (EEG), delirium, dementia, movement disorders, behavioral neurology, poisons and vitamin deficiencies, meningitis / encephalitis / brain abscesses, infectious diseases, headache, central nervous system vasculitis, pain, dizziness and deafness, demyeliminating diseases of the central nervous system, spine and spinal cord diseases, motor neuron diseases, peripheral neuropathy, radiculopathy and plexopathy, neuromuscular junction disorders, myopathy, electromyography (EMG), neuro-rheumatology, neuro-oncology, sleep medicine, pregnancy neurology, neuro-ophthalmology, consult issues, and selected pediatric disorders.
Overall, this is a title worth purchasing for all Neurology residents and medical students interested in the field. Medical students who wish to excel in their Neurology clerkship or enter a field that uses neurology such as Internal Medicine, Trauma, or Ophthalmology should consider purchasing Pocket Neurology with the above considerations, based on their personal preferences. This is probably not heavily needed for students who have no interest in neurology.
Many will argue that the first mistake third year med students make is buying this book, while others will claim that it is an essential and invaluable survival guide. 250 Biggest Mistakes 3rd Year Medical Students Make and How to Avoid Them by Dessai and Katta is the semi-popular successor of the 101 Mistakes book. As the title suggests, it reviews all of the big issues bound to cause trouble on the wards. But how helpful is it really? The answer depends upon the direction and perspective from which the book is examined.
If an attending were to be pulled aside and asked to write a list of all the things that bring down 3rd year med student evaluations, it may very well produce this book. Therefore, many reason that the opposite must be true: buying this book prevents students from making these 250 mistakes, thereby instantly increasing their grades. That’s essentially the fear hidden in the title of this book: buy it or you won’t get good evals.
Looking at the same scenario from the medical student’s point of view produces different results. If a fourth year medical student were asked to write a list of all the things they wish they knew for themselves coming into med school (one of the very goals of MedStudentBooks.com), only a small portion of this book would be reproduced. The reason for this distinction is because the large majority of “mistakes” in this book are common sense items that the large majority of medical students either don’t make, or adapt to with effortless efficiency.
So why the discrepancy in appreciation of this book from readers? For medical students who have worked in “the real world” or have been held to rigid professional standards previously, pieces of advice such as “show up on time” or “dress professionally” or “get your work done on time” come as an expectation. Others however need gentle reminders that there is a clear distinction in the environment between preclinical and clinical med school years. The majority of medical students come directly from college, and may face an actual professional setting for the first time in their lives at third year. This latter group comprises the students who would most benefit from the nuanced recommendations of 250 Mistakes.
The big picture consists of the following. First, med students should be professional. Second, they should ascertain the characteristics on which they are evaluated by directly asking residents or attendings at the start of each rotation, and reevaluating methods based on feedback along the course of the rotation. It can be an intimidating process for someone unfamiliar with the culture of medicine, but such open communication is a common occurrence. Most attendings at teaching hospitals are happy to help, and do not mind offering feedback. It should be noted however that this falls under a common rule of medicine: don’t ask the question if you don’t want to know the answer. Feedback is only helpful if it is used, and being defensive about feedback is looked down upon.
If you can accomplish these goals of professionalism and open communication that seeks out feedback for improvement, there’s not much else this book has to offer. If however you are new to the working world or want a few gentle pushes in the right direction, this can certainly help. Despite it’s 200+ pages, it’s a rather fast read with big bullet points. The book itself is relatively cheap (compare prices below), but it can usually be found at your local medical library, or borrowed from friends or student lounges.
Since reviewing MKSAP 4 for students previously, we have received a question and several lost googlers trying to ascertain how to reset or restart MKSAP for Students 3, MKSAP for Students 4, and even MKSAP 14 for residents digital question banks.
Resetting these qbanks is straight-forward if you know where to look. Regardless of whether you are using MKSAP 3, MKSAP 4, or MKSAP 14, the process is generally the same. Just click on Answer Sheet, followed by the Clear Answers button. That’s it! You’re all set to restart and reuse your MKSAP question bank. For the visual learners out there, large purple arrows always help:
For the wayward residents who stumbled onto this med student resource site, we’ve also uploaded a visual on how to reset MKSAP 14 as well.