I hope you’re ready for a boatload of information about how to study for Step 2 CK. This will be an all-inconclusive ultimate guide on how to study for Step 2 CK.
This will also be significantly longer than most of my posts (which are long as is). To help you digest the info and be able to come back to it later, I’ve put together this blog post into a PDF (for free of course).
You can get your free PDF here.
But no more time to waste. Here’s what we’ll cover in this guide.
- What Resources To Use For Step 2 CK
- What Is The Best Text To Use For Step 2 CK?
- How To Study for Step 2 CK
- How To Increase Your Step 2 CK Score
- How Long To Study For Step 2 CK
- Sample Study Schedule for Step 2 CK
- Tips To Do Well on Exam Day
But before we begin, if you find this content helpful consider sharing it with a friend or through social media. The only way I’m able to reach more people and grow TheMDJourney is through kind recommendations by readers like you!
Also I’m gradually adding more YouTube videos on the topic.
Here is my first in the series about my top 5 tips to doing well on Step 2 CK.
Let’s get to the tips!
What Resources Should I Use For Step 2?
When it comes to resources for Step 2, I have some good news and bad news.
Good news is that there are fewer resources to use for Step 2 compared to Step 1.
The bad news is that there are fewer resources to use for Step 2 compared to Step 1.
You may recall back to the good old (not really) Step 1 study days, where you seemed to have an endless amount of choices. You could study with UWORLD, Kaplan, Pathoma, Sketchy, and of course First Aid.
For Step 2, the options, or at least good options, are pretty limited.
Honestly, I prefer it this way, but I know many students (you may be one of them) who love to have 5+ resources to use during their dedicated.
Here are the resources I recommend you definitely have when studying for Step 2.
UWORLD For Step 2 CK:
This is a big duh. If UWORLD was considered king for Step 1, it’s a freaking emperor for Step 2.
Whenever I’m asked about how to study for Step 2 CK – I mentioned UWORLD and give this one simple advice. Use it.
I’ll discuss how exactly I recommend using UWORLD, but here’s the simplified version – do as many iterations as possible.
UWORLD was the closest thing to the real thing I found during my study prep. The vignettes are close to the length of the actual Step 2 exam and the questions are also similar difficulty.
We’ll discuss how to use UWORLD in your study schedule, but it’s never too late to begin doing questions.
I did UWORLD 2.5 times before my exam. I attribute my score in large part to this!
OnlineMedEd For Step 2 CK:
If you follow TheMDJourney then you know I love to rave about OnlineMedEd (OME).
After getting my Step 2 CK score, I’m going to rave about them even more.
Here’s why – Step 2 really doesn’t have a great comprehensive text. For Step 1 you could turn to First Aid and Pathoma. That doesn’t really exist.
But imagine if high yield info from First Aid and Pathoma were combined together for Step 2. That’s exactly what OME is.
I’ve made a totally separate post about OME which you can check out here.
Here’s my YouTube video with my exact plan on how I used OME to increase my score by 25+ points!
OME was golden for me. I’m someone who loves when someone tells me what’s important to know (save the BS please). OME and Dr. Williams did that for me.
After reading this post and watching the video, if you’re interested in trying the premium content for OME for Step 2, use this discount code (OME17) for $80 on an annual subscription.
You can check out OME here.
We’ll talk about in the rest of the post how to use OME for Step 2 CK!
Step 2 Secrets:
Now I know I just got finished bashing the various text resources for Step 2.
This is the exceptions.
I loved Step 2 Secrets. I think it’s because I love learning in Q&A format (think Pestana for Surgery but for Step 2 instead).
This book was great as review towards the end of my study prep.
I convinced myself for confidence that if I could answer the questions in this small book (quick 300 pages) then I should know most of the high-yield info for Step 2.
I was right.
Again we’ll go over how to use this text later in the post. But I recommend you get yourself a copy.
Here’s a link.
Picmonic For Step 2 CK:
Now I don’t know about you but I’m a visual learner. So I loved Sketchy Medical when studying for Step 1.
Unfortunately, there’s no Sketchy Micro for Step 2 (that would be helpful!)
But there’s another way. Try out Picmonic for the same style of videos which combine silly images with high-yield info.
The one thing I liked about Picmonic, even more so than Sketchy, is that the videos are significantly shorter. Most were 2-6 minutes!
This helped save a lot of time.
I used Picmonic to look up topics I kept missing on UWORLD on practice exams. I for the life of me couldn’t remember the difference between CML and Leukemoid reaction (don’t panic if you don’t either).
I would use the search function and create a personalized playlist of all the topics I’d always miss (I’m looking at you Aspergillus).
The videos were great overall and a good supplement to my studying.
UWORLD Self Assessment Exams:
Now you may notice that I’m talking about UWORLD’s practice exam before I even mention NBME practice exams.
In fact, I’m not even going to talk about NBME practice exams at all.
Does that mean you shouldn’t use the NBME tests?
Absolutely not, you should definitely use them!
The tests, however, are notorious for having crazy fluctuating and steep curves. Thus they can really mess with the mind of a student who’s freaking about Step 2 (likely you but hopefully not by the end of this post!).
UWSA exams, in my opinion, were the best predictor of my final score. This seems to be the norm across the med school forums as well. (Mine actually significantly underpredicted mine but they’re usually spot on.)
So use USWA. Take both of them.
We’ll talk about in the study schedule how to space them out.
Brosencephalon Anki Cards For Step 2:
Now again if you know me and TheMDJourney, you know I love my flashcards.
Brosencehaphalon cards were great for Step 1 and they’re just as great for Step 2.
Do I recommend you use them for your dedicated however? Not really.
I would use the cards for the topics you’re weak on. If you have a good amount of time before your exam then definitely consider starting them.
But regardless they’re a great easy and refreshing tool to learn the high yield info. Most of the questions are also from UWORLD so it’s helpful to see how much you’ve retained.
Here’s a link the Anki deck.
What Is The Best Book For Step 2 CK?
Now you may notice that I didn’t really mention a true text you can use during you Step 2 CK study prep.
As I said before, unfortunately, no one resource serves the purpose for Step 2 the way First Aid did for Step 1.
Most of the texts are long, boring, and often not comprehensive enough.
So if you’re looking for a text to depend on, it sadly doesn’t exist.
But perhaps you need a text to study well.
Here are a few options you have.
A quick disclaimer, I didn’t use these texts in my own study plan but am familiar with the books.
I bought this book because of the reputation its predecessor has.
Did I use it?
Don’t get me wrong, it seems to have a lot of useful information, but I personally hate reading review books.
Still the book is less dense than the following resources we’ll cover. (A brief 500 + pages)
If you’re one who needs a text this may be a good supplement to UWORLD.
I personally didn’t have this in my study schedule so I can’t recommend a good way to go through the book. It should be possible to go through a major section in two days if you’re on dedicated time off.
With anything, it’s best to start with the topics you struggle with the most. Gain a few points on your final exam this way.
Here’s a link to the book and you can check out the Amazon reviews to see if the book would be a good fit for you!
I loved this series for my IM rotation, and it looks like it’s Step 2 version is just as good.
Seems to be one of the shorter texts of the three I’ve suggested for you (~400 pgs). Similar to the rest of the books on this list, it’s likely a good option as long as you don’t use it as your sole resource.
The book is informative and many students do use it for the test.
Check out the book and its reviews here.
I personally have little experience with MTB but it seems to be the go-to book for students who need a text.
It is about700 pages, so again be wary of how likely you’d be to go through the book + UWORLD + practice questions.
Many students appear to enjoy it according to the reviews. One of the common cons, however, is that it’s not all-inclusive.
I can see how students can combine MTB with UWORLD to fill in the blanks the text may leave out and do just fine.
If you need a text, this may be one worth checking out. Here’s a link.
How To Study for Step 2 CK:
I’m going to suggest the Step 2 CK study plan and strategies that I used.
Since I didn’t use a text (aside from Step 2 Secrets) I won’t suggest that in this section. Adjust if you do have a text.
The Sandwich Method For Step 2 CK:
Did someone say sandwich? You probably deserve one if you made it this far into the post. But sadly this is a figurative sandwich.
The sandwich method is how I structure my studying for big (and little exams)
Here’s how it goes:
- Master High-Yield (first week)
- Fill In Details (middle)
- Master High-Yield (last week)
Now, this method would be done during your dedicated. For roughly the first week, your goal is to learn the basics and high yield info that you know will show up.
This includes like topics the test makers love like shock, depression, kidney injuries, prolactin stuff etc.
You will likely see all of these show on your actual exam.
How you gain this basic knowledge is up to you. I recommend OME because you have both videos and notes to obtain just the high-yield info. Plus it’s much easier to read notes I know have already been distilled to high-yield facts rather than reading a 700-page text.
So first find out how you’ll obtain this info. Try to do it as fast as possible to give yourself time to fill in the details.
During this first week or two, you’ll still be doing your UWORLD questions btw.
Then your middle part of your studying is when you go 150% at doing questions. More often than not you’ll miss questions regarding detail you never knew mattered. Well, now it matters. So learn these bits of info.
In the next section, I’ll suggest how to memorize the details.
But to finish off the sandwich method, at the very last 1-1.5 weeks of your studying, come back to the high-yield info.
This is the time to raise your confidence going into the exam. You want to feel prepared for the exam and trying to memorize detail is likely not going to do it.
So go back to a resource like OME or Step 2 Secrets and make sure you know the info there cold. The exam won’t be stressful then!
How To Increase Your Step 2 CK Score:
So you know the resources and you now have a general structure. But what can make the difference between an average score and a score you’re beyond the moon about?
The following two strategies will lay out techniques that were valuable to me to decrease my mistakes and improve my scores!
The Flashcard Method For Step 2 CK:
Now how do you learn the detail?
I honestly think the best way to do this is via flashcards. In particular, using Anki.
Here’s what I recommend. When you’re reviewing your UWORLD question, make short and to the point flashcards for any question, you missed or guessed correctly on.
Do your cards the next morning before your beginning with a few review cards. This will help you avoid making the same mistakes again on UWORLD and for sure on the real Step 2 exam.
So if I missed a question about shock I’d make a short sentence about the key concept or try to replicate the vignette. Then I’d put just the important info that I didn’t understand quite right before.
Remember these shouldn’t be elaborate flashcards. Don’t waste too much time on making the flashcards and have no time to actually study them. Make sure they’re in a quick question and answer format.
If you don’t like flashcards then try out this next technique.
Notebook Method for Step 2 CK:
I’ve talked a lot about my notebook method before in the blog.
I also mention it in more detail in my newest book, How To Study in Medical School. You can check out the book here.
But here’s a quick rundown about the notebook method works.
Write your short questions on the left and short answers to the right.
Similar to the flashcard method, do this for any question you miss or guess correctly on.
Then the following morning go through your notebook and see if you can answer a few pages of missed/guessed questions.
Both of these methods are designed to make sure you don’t make the same mistakes again. This is all about preserving the points your hard work has gained and trying to raise your score.
Try these techniques out and let me know what you think! They were huge for my success and hope they can be the same for you! 😀
How Long To Study For Step 2 CK:
The June or July month is the typical time students study for Step 2. But what’s the ideal amount to study for the test?
Usually, students take 4 with either no rotations or a light elective. This should be more than enough time to improve your score.
You can also do what I did, which is study for a longer period of time throughout your rotations. I studied a little (1-2 hours) for 7-8 weeks. I wanted the extra month I saved for vacation (and to plan a wedding!).
If you take my approach, be realistic how much time you can devote to your rotation and Step 2 studying. I did 4 weeks of my study prep during an Emergency Medicine rotation which had a lot of days off.
But anywhere from 4-6 weeks of light or uninterrupted time should be more than enough!
Sample Study Schedule and Plan for Step 2 CK:
Since most med students take the 4 weeks off during June or July, I’ll lay out a sample study schedule for a 4-week study prep.
- Review Flashcards and Missed Questions
- Block 1 UWORLD 40 questions (Random Tutor) -> Review and Make Flashcards
- 7-8 OME Notes or Read Preferred Text (Make Flashcards for Anything you struggle with)
- Block 2 UWORLD 40 questions
- 40 UWORLD questions
- 7-8 OME Notes/Preferred Text
- 40 UWORLD questions
- 4-5 OME Notes
I know this may sound like a lot of questions and notes but my main goal for you during these first 1.5 weeks is to get through all the high-yield info.
Once you understand the key ideas, you can transition close to 100% of your time to questions and really boost your grade!
Take your first NBME (either 6 or 8) at the end of Week 1.
Take a UWORLD self-assessment at the end of Week 2 to see where you’re really at.
Increase UWORLD questions to 4-5 blocks. You should have been done with your reading material (OME or text) by now. So go at your questions and flashcards 100%.
You can replace 1-2 of these days and take NBME 7 (the trickest one with the steepest score) and ideally NBME 8.
At the end of Week 3, start reading Step 2 Secrets and see how much of the high yield you’ve retained.
You should also be coming closer to finishing UWORLD at the end of Week 3. Get ready to do your marked questions during Week 4.
Along with Step 2 Secrets, return to OME and skim the notes and look for any info you’ve forgotten since you first reviewed the material
Take UWSA #2 the Monday or Tuesday before your exam date. This should be a good predictor of your final grade.
If you need more practice, take the Free 120 self-assessment that the test creators provide for free.
The final step is to take the test and kill it! Reward yourself afterward!
Tips To Do Well on Exam Day For Step 2 CK:
The last part is all about how to do well on your exam.
You’re Earing Points Not Losing Them:
When we typically test like Step 2 CK, we see every question as an opportunity to lower our grade. This is a common reason we’re always anxious throughout and after the exam. We just focus too much time and energy on what we don’t know.
But instead, think about earning points! Think about getting excited about the questions you know well and see your grade getting higher.
If you have a WTF question (which you will) shrug your shoulders, guess, and think that getting it right may only help your score.
This shift in mindset can help you so much during your preparation and test.
You’ll feel more confident and not give too much weight to the questions you don’t know.
Plan Out Your Breaks:
The test is long. 9 hours to be exact. So make sure you have a gameplan.
When will you take your breaks? There is a total of 45 minutes (1 hour if you skip the tutorial. Also, any extra time from your blocks will be added (but don’t count on this).
During the last few weeks of your prep, try to do a few blocks of UWORLD in a row. When do you find your energy tanking? This is probably a good time to introduce a break during the real exam.
I took a 4-7 min break between every section and I needed those breaks! So listen to your body!
So there you have it guys! I know that was a ton (>3000 words!) but I hope the information was helpful!
If you have any questions feel free to comment below and I’ll try to answer your question as quick as possible.
Also, remember you can download this guide for free for future reference. Download it and other free guides by clicking here!
If you enjoyed the study methods I mentioned in this article – be sure to check out the top 5 study methods for medical students here.
Good luck on your test!
Until next time friend…