In the next week or two, I will reveal exactly what my study strategies were to do better than average on my COMLEX Step 1 exam. But before I do so, I want to first talk about what resources I have used to prepare (and they are not just books). In the previous article, I did list my resources, but I would like to talk about them more in depth so you can understand why I used what I did.
Well, let’s get started.
What Resources Did I Use?
I used 3 books, 3 question banks, and 2 flashcard sets to prepare for my first board exam.
- First Aid for the USMLE Step 1
- USMLE World Step 1 question bank (aka UWorld qbank)
- Kaplan USMLE Step 1 question bank
- Combank Level 1 question bank
- OMT Review
- Board Review Series Microbiology flash cards
- Board Review Series Pharmacology flash cards
(If you click on the link, it will bring up more information about the item in a new window.)
First Aid for USMLE Step 1
If you refer to my medical school books section, you will know that I hate textbooks. (In that section, you can see other must-have books for all classes and board exams.) When I read textbooks, the words flow into my mind only to leave seconds later. Although you will not be using a textbook, you will be using a review book, namely First Aid for the USMLE Step 1. It will be your reference. This was one of the must-have sources for medical school.
Pretty much everything that is high yield will be in this book. Right now, even as a third year medical student, I sometimes refer to this book when I need a quick review about any topic. Just yesterday (October 20, 2012), I referred to First Aid for a quick refresher on leiomyoma (fibroid).
It is a very, very useful book and you are doing yourself a disservice if you do not use it to help you prepare for the board exam.
USMLE World Step 1 question bank
If you are a medical student, you have definitely heard of USMLE World (aka UWorld). This question bank is known to be the closest thing there is to the USMLE itself. It is a solid question bank and is quite hard. It will teach you how to think for 2nd order and even 3rd order questions. I will write a more detailed review about this later.
Kaplan USMLE Step 1 question bank
For some reason, my school makes everyone get the complete Kaplan package. It charges each student a couple thousand dollars extra in tuition and in return, we get a question bank for the USMLE, question bank for the COMLEX, books on all the subjects, videos on all the subjects, and live Kaplan lectures at school for all the subjects.
Personally, I do not know if this is a good deal because the only Kaplan resource I have used to prepare is the question bank for the USMLE. I elected not to use the question bank for the COMLEX because I have heard it was too easy. So I basically paid thousands of dollars for the use of only one question bank.
(I also wonder if my school or anyone in the administrator is getting any kickback from forcing Kaplan down every student’s throats.)
Overall, the Kaplan USMLE question bank is pretty good. I have definitely learned much from it. It is a very good question bank to learn neurology. It has lots of CT images of the head, so you will get good at reading those. It also has good pictures and charts to help explain the concepts better.
The downside of this question bank resides mainly in pharmacology. Its pharmacology questions are way too nitpicky. I do not think I finished the pharmacology section just because it was too pointless.
I will also write a more detailed review about this in another article.
Combank Level 1 question bank
This was the only question bank I have used that was specifically geared towards the COMLEX. In the beginning of last year, I was not aware that Comquest had a Level 1 question bank, so my only choice was to use Combank.
I have heard that this question bank contains multiple errors and that I should be cautious when using it. But I have to say that this question bank was not too bad. I only found a few errors. I did learn some things that I did not learn in the previous two question banks.
How is Combank different from USMLE World and Kaplan?
- First of all, this has OMM questions.
- Second of all, the way Combank asked questions were more similar to the style of COMLEX.
Overall, this is a good question bank to prepare for COMLEX, but I have three main complaints against it.
- First, the questions are way too easy. They are too short. I could finish a block of Combank questions and have 20 minutes left over. On the actual exam, I had 10 minutes or less left over because the real questions were much longer. Basically, I did not feel the questions were a good representation of the questions on the COMLEX.
- Second, Combank does not have good customer feedback. I sent two or more comments regarding why I think the “right” answer (according to Combank) is in fact the wrong answer. I never got a response to any of my comments.
- Third, since this question bank is supposed to mimic the COMLEX, I expected the Combank interface to be a representation of what I would experience on test day (like how USMLE World can mimic the USMLE almost exactly). But the Combank interface did not match the real interface exactly. This is a minor point though.
I plan to have a detailed Combank review sometime down the road, so stay tuned for that.
I wrote about this book in the medical school books section, so you can go there to read more about it. But basically, this book is golden when it comes to learning the high-yield facts of pathology in an efficient and understandable manner.
When you buy the book, it also comes with online videos for each chapter. The videos are superb and will not take too much time. There are options to view the videos at a higher speed than normal.
If I had to learn pathology again, I would choose Pathoma in a heartbeat.
I also wrote about this book in the medical school books section. This is the go-to book for anything related to OMM. Most of my OMM knowledge came from this book. Although the title has the word “review,” this can actually be used as a textbook. (I seriously doubt anyone would use the dry, 1,400+ page monster of a textbook, Foundations of Osteopathic Medicine.)
This book also comes with over 300 questions to test your knowledge. The questions also come with answers and explanations, which is so helpful for learning.
With OMT Review, your OMM knowledge will be solid.
BRS Pharmacology flashcards
If you have taken pharmacology, you will know that this subject requires a whole lot of memorization. Using flashcards is a good way to drill the materials into your head. Repetition results in mastery.
Pharmacology is one of my stronger subjects, even to this day.
The BRS flashcards has really high-yield information that came up over and over again on the practice questions. It is highly recommended.
BRS Microbiology flashcards
Microbiology is another subject that requires a lot of memorization. Again, this is where flashcards come into play. Repetition. It sucks, but it has to be done.
The information on the flashcards was again right on the money — high-yield and frequently encountered on practice exams.
Applying My Recommended Resources to You
I have listed quite a few resources. You may be asking if you really need all of them. Must you absolutely get everything I have listed above? The answer is no. But there are some which you will definitely need.
First Aid is necessary.
Question banks are necessary. Now you may be asking if you really need to do three of them. And the answer is yes. You will see why as I reveal my exact study methods in how you can study like a rockstar.
Some of my classmates like Rapid Review Pathology by Dr. Goljan, and that is a fine substitution for Pathoma. Since pathology is so important to understanding medicine, I would recommend you get some kind of resources that focuses specifically on pathology.
OMT Review is necessary.
And if you are good at memorizing (maybe you got a photographic memory or something), the BRS flashcards are not necessary. But for someone with a poor memory, such as myself, the flashcards were very much needed.
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This article is part of The Complete Guide to COMLEX. Click on the link if you want more tips and hints about the osteopathic medical board exams.