Medical School

My Three Favorite Study Aids That Every Medical Student Should Have

Besides caffeine, there are three study aids that got me through medical school. These resources speed up the memorization process, enhance your learning for long-term retention, and help you understand the required mountain of material you learn during the first two years of med school. They were my favorite resources to use during the basic science courses and while I studied for step one. The more I found myself using them the more useful they became. As I’ve written about before, don’t half ass anything– and that includes your study aids. So try these out, see if they help you, and then commit to using them. Without further ado, here are my three favorite med school study tools…you know, besides note cards of course:

First Aid for the USMLE Step One

This is every medical student’s bible. If you ask a med student studying for step one, ‘if your house was on fire and you were only allowed to retrieve one item’, their First Aid book would be the answer. If you are about to start med school just go ahead and buy it. This book provides a backbone outline of your medical education and its up to you to fill in the details. You can almost always tell the first semester students apart from the fourth semesters based on how much white space is left on the pages of their First Aid book. Just remember, post-it notes are your friends, don’t use ink that will run, highlight in moderation, write small but legibly, and always double-check to see if the information you are about to scribble in your book isn’t already there.




Imagine that instead of forcing yourself to memorize every bug, drug, syndrome, system, and tumor that you could just watch cartoons and all the information would just magically diffuse into your consciousness. Picmonic is as close at it comes. Instead of just listing information and letting you figure out how to inject the information into your brain, Picmonic provides you with tons of notecard sized cartoon illustrations that tell unique and memorable stories. Each cartoon represents vital information about the subject at hand. With pathognomonic pictures and rhyming raps about almost everything that med students need to memorize and differentiate between, Picmonic makes memorizing the minutia of med school both easy and fun. I seriously would not have made it through med school without it.




The only thing worse than not being able to pronounce the diseases you are studying is not being able to understand your professor teaching you. Whether your professor has a thick accent or is just a terrible teacher, Pathoma is the answer to your troubles. It’s the gold standard when it comes to studying pathology. The textbook has clear illustrations and descriptions of every disease process you learn about in the first two years of medical school and the accompanying videos explain the pathophysiology in a clear and concise manner. I honestly don’t know a single med friend of mine who doesn’t use it.

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  1. The Pathoma subscription has several limited time offers but all include the text. A 3, 12, or 21 month access to videos plus the text. If I’m just beginning at Ross in September would you recommend waiting or just getting the cheapest one that includes the text?

    • Marc N. Katz says:

      There are students on the island who will gladly share the videos and pdf with you for free. And you can easily print and bind the pdf on the island for a reasonable price (~100EC/$30). Otherwise, I would take the 12 month access. This way you have it for your entire 3rd and 4th semester on the island when you learn pathology. And it should also last long enough to have access to the videos while you study for step 1.

      Also, don’t buy any of the books. Its a huge waste of money. The library has almost all of them. One of the only books that I felt were very useful to own was Principles of Medical Biochemistry by Meisenberg (he also teaches the class…). And if you end up deciding you want to buy the books, there are tons of extras lying around every single store on the island. The market is saturated down there so you can buy the entire library for a couple hundred EC.

      The only other books that are on high demand are pre-made notecards (anatomy, pharm, etc.). I would buy those here and bring them down just in case.

      • Polly Davis says:

        The ebooks are now automatically charged to your student account, so we don’t really have a choice there. Also, did you purchase the 4 year subscription to Picmonic?

        • Marc N. Katz says:

          Wow. That’s kind of messed up.

          As for Picmonic, back in my day (*nostalgically removes glasses*) I signed up for $99 for two years. I doubt they still offer the same deal anymore. But if you are going to use it then the sooner you start the more beneficial your studying experience will be with it. Again, back in my day, it didn’t even have pharmacology. It only added those cards after I finished step 1. Though from my understanding, they have a lot more Picmonics for intro med school classes. So consider it an investment in your long-term studying. I would buy it for at least 2 years. And tbh, even now while I’m studying for step 2 I am still using Picmonic. So I think the 4 year plan is a solid idea. Also, a lot of people on the island would split it between friends. Only one person can be logged on at a time but it saves you some change.

  2. Hey Marc, I like your recommendation ” First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 2014″ as an important medical resource every student should have. Well, have a look at our free USMLE qbank Step 1. I think that this is worth a mention on your page as well. For further information, feel free to contact me. Best regards, Till

  3. Pingback: My Favorite Study Resources for USMLE Step 2 CK

  4. Hey Dr. Katz! My name is Katherine and I am a third semester student at RUSM. Trying to map out/plan for COMP and wondering your thoughts on using Uworld vs RX vs Kaplan. I’ve been getting super conflicting information about using Uworld as subject-based studying. Any thoughts on that would be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

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