USMLE Step 1 mobile learning tools

USMLE Step 1 mobile learning tools

USMLE Step 1 mobile learning tools

The following are a list of apps and resources that can be utilized by medical students when studying for step 1.

Osmosis Med

This app was created by a group of medical students at Johns Hopkins with the goal of approaching question banks in a different way.

The app has the following unique characteristics
– Strong use of multimedia
– Push notifications, so you are “constantly learning”
– Utilization of spaced repetition (more on that later)
– When answering questions, even if you answer correctly, it is able to determine if you are blindly guessing or not
– Have the ability to “play with friends” — and compete with them for various scores and have leaderboards.

Some of their content partners are the American College of Physicians, and their questions are reviewed by a Clinical Advisory Board with professors from Hopkins, Harvard, WashU, among others.

The app comes with a starter pack that includes more than 150 questions — questions that are covered range from Step 1 to Step 2 content.

Even if you don’t download the app, you should follow them on Twitter and Facebook as they have daily questions they push out — making it a great source for passive learning.

Price: The app is free to download, and contains more than 150 free questions that students can try out. The Step 1 Full Pack is 700 questions and cost $30. There is no subscription fee for this. These questions include almost 200 pictures, and over 250 youtube explanations. You also get more push notifications as well that helps with spaced repitition.

Price per question: $0.04 per question.

iTunes Link
Android Link
Website store(You can also purchase other packages, such as ECG learning)

Video demonstration:

AnkiMobile Flashcards

Anki is a multi platform open source flash card tool that utilizes spaced repetition.

Screenshot 2014-12-04 23.43.01

A great figure from Ebbinghaus that shows how cramming is a poor form of learning — to counter this, spaced repetition is born:

Screenshot 2014-12-04 23.43.17

(Source: Wired)

Spaced repetition helps you counter the forgetting curve. Prior to smartphones, spaced repetition was difficult to perform because you had to be on your computer, or have a notebook with you at all times.

With the proliferation of smartphones, spaced repetition has flourished, but clearly not been adequately utilized. Now smartphones can send notifications and prompts to help quiz you throughout the day. Based on this concept Anki was formed.

Anki is open source and it’s free to download on your computer, and various developers have made paid versions of apps that sync to your datasets.

Link to the most popular dataset for the USMLE step 1:

This dataset is based on FirstAid 2012, and has almost 7000 flashcards. It’s free to utilize on your computer.

Key things to keep in mind when using Anki:
– First download the program onto your computer and set up an account (free to do). Then search for shared decks and start using Anki and see if it’s a learning method that suits you.
– If you like how the desktop application works, you should consider downloading the paid version of the app.
– First “sync” your cards on your desktop before you download the app.
– Once you have “synced” the cards, then download the app and your cards will sync once you enter your login information.
– Remember to look at reviews of the decks prior to download, and it is important to make sure information is up to date when you choose to use it.
– Don’t hesitate to make your own cards as well.

Even if you choose not to use Anki as the primary way to memorize content for Step 1, it’s a great tool to have in your box for learning specific content that you’re having a difficult time memorizing.

Cost: Free for computer version, $24.99 for app that syncs content, but if you have an Android phone, the app is free as well.

Link: Web version download
Link: Anki USMLE decks
iTunes Link
Android Link (Free)


Score95 USMLE Step 1 Practice Questions

Score95 is a relative newcomer to the arena. It gives you over 2000 practice questions and has no subscription fee. The web based version costs $59.00, but the app is cheaper and costs $24.99.

There have been criticisms of the question bank in the past due to short stems, and questions not simulating the USMLE enough, however, over the past year this has turned. You get a tremendous number of questions and the app has been updated frequently in the iOS and Google Play stores — the same can’t even be said about many Kaplan or USMLE World apps.

In the video I go through a set of 30 questions rapidly so that you can see the question stems and the explanations so you can decide for yourself if the app is worth the download.

Price: $24.99 (for mobile version)
Price per question: $0.01
Coupon code for web based version: twitter20 (gets you $20 discount)

iTunes Link
Android Link


Exam Master Portal

This is a free resource for Wake Forest medical students. You need to use the Wake Portal to access the content initially and set up a separate login for it. Exam Master is a large question bank that has questions

The best way to use it is to set up your user ID and password online, and then set up a sets of questions. From there, look at the video as I show you how to create a homepage icon on your phone or your tablet. Portrait mode on the phone pulls up nicer, and on a tablet it does pretty well.

Obviously, it would be more ideal if students had access to the actual app for free, but nonetheless the web portal has a huge index of thousands of questions and it’s definitely worth a look.

Link: Wake Forest Portal


Exam Master App

Exam Master also has a native app you can download onto your phone and tablet. It costs $19.99 and includes 336 questions. The native app is done very well, has been updated frequently, and has a great user interface.

However, I do not recommend you purchase this since students already have access to the web portal that includes several more questions.

iTunes Link
Android: Not available for Android

Scrub Wars

Scrub Wars is a hilarious app for iOS platforms (iPhone and iPad) that lets you play a video game and learn for step 1 at the same time. This is a new type of learning that is referred to as gamification.

It’s difficult to describe the app in words, so the best way for you to visualize the app is by looking at the video demonstration I made. The app includes several in-app purchases that are relatively cheap ($0.99 a pop), and included over 2600 questions. The questions have very short stems without significant clinical scenarios explained.

This app definitely teaches in an innovative fashion, and utilizes spaced repetition — but fails to give explanations for questions. That alone is probably the biggest negative of the app.

You can try the app for free, and it’s not necessarily a bad idea to try one of the $0.99 sections of the app (such as physiology) to see if you like the app and are a fan of the gamification included in the app.

Android: Not available



CrossWards is similar to Scrub Wars in the sense that it uses non traditional methods to help teach. Similar to Scrub Wars, it doesn’t give detailed explanations of the answers, but delivers content and questions in an innovative fashion through a cross word puzzle.

Cost: $19.99
Google Play


Review Points for lecture:

* USMLE World vs Kaplan
* Evernote / Dropbox
* Quizlet
* Khan Academy
* Apps to stay away from
* First Aid for iOS / Android
* Library clinical references

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