The USMLE Step 2 CK (Clinical Knowledge) assesses medical students’ understanding of the clinical sciences and patient care, with special attention to prevention and health promotion. Just like Step 1 preparation, Step 2 preparation should include taking practice exams (a.k.a. self-assessments). We asked Ryan B., a med student at Medical College of Wisconsin, about his advice for using practice exams in a Step 2 study plan.

“I took one practice exam, the UWorld Step 2 CK Self-Assessment, about two weeks before the exam,” he said. “I used their self-assessments for Step 1 and Shelf exams too. The user interface is closer to that of the actual test, the answer explanations are more thorough (and you don’t have to pay extra for them). There are many different qbanks that people use, but I haven’t met a single person who did not use UWorld. Everything else is just supplemental.”

I used Cram Fighter to make appropriate adjustments to my study schedule and ensure that my personal weaknesses and high-yield topics were incorporated into my study plan early and often.

In addition to UWorld’s Step 2 self-assessment, students also have the option of taking NBME self-assessments (also known as CCSSAs). The NBME offers four practice exams, the NBME 3, 4, 6, and 7. Cram Fighter users often use UWorld to simulate the experience of taking the test, without scheduling an entire practice exam. The USMLE Step 2 asks no more than 355 multiple choice questions in total, and no more than 44 questions in each block of time. So scheduling a 40 to 44 question session helps acclimate you to the experience of working through part of the actual USMLE Step 2. At Cram Fighter, we find that students schedule about 2200 questions on average when they prepare to take Step 2.

Looking back, I probably would have taken one more self-assessment just to get even more questions under my belt.

Ryan explained that he used UWorld self-assessments to prepare for Shelf exams as well. He told us that his performance on Shelf exams helped in prioritize his Step 2 prep.

“Step 2 is largely review—it is essentially a combined shelf exam,” Ryan explained. “Your shelf exam performance can and should guide where to spend much of your time. I used Cram Fighter to make appropriate adjustments to my study schedule and ensure that my personal weaknesses and high-yield topics were incorporated into my study plan early and often.”

We asked Ryan if there was anything he would have changed about his Step 2 prep. “Looking back, I probably would have taken one more self-assessment just to get even more questions under my belt. I considered taking an official NBME self-assessment about a month prior, but did not have time due to a busy sub-internship.”