Step 2 CK Archives - USMLE Experiences & Best Books for USMLE Preparation

Category Archives for Step 2 CK

My experience with Step 1 (264) & 2CK (265)

Hi guys,

I’m new to this forum and have been looking at it for past few weeks. Unfortunately, when I was preparing for these exams, I was not aware of this forum. First of all I would like to say thank you to the staff (Sabio, Steptaker and all) and the members for making this site what it is today!

I truly believe that one should never copy the study pattern of another, but should develop his/her own pattern that suits the most to their needs. I will mention the study material I used while preparing for these two exams and if someone finds it useful, it’ll be my pleasure!

For step 1, I used KLN, Goljan RR Pathology, FA (as a reinforcer), Lippincott biochemistry for genetics, BRS behavior science and most importantly, UW QBank. Towards the end, I did NBME 7 and UWSA 1 and 2.

For step 2CK, I used KLN for CK, MTB for step 2CK and some topics from CMDT 2011. Again most importantly UW QBank and in the end NBME 7 and UWSA.

But the real thing I wanted to tell everyone is don’t over burden yourselves with these exams. Honestly I’m an average student, graduated from an average medical college of India. I’m serious when I say that if I can do this, you can do it better! There is no secret to these exams, we all know which books to read, which QBanks to solve. It’s only about hard work and dedication. Everyone of knows most of thing that will come in the exam, we all have graduated from a medical college after all, one of the toughest courses there could be! And those who write the review books like Kaplans FAs, they are truly masters of this field and they write everything for us that is needed for the exams. The key does not lie in WHAT we read, but HOW we go about it. Being faithful towards prep and ourselves is the “secret ingredient” (for all the Kung fu Panda fans!). I would never give an advice of what you should read and from where you should read, my only advice is be dedicated and enjoy your studies and life at the same time! This is just a “step” and our ultimate destination. I recommend everyone to read what Dr. Conrad Fischer has written in the initial few pages of his book MTB.

Feel free to ask me anything you want to, I would be glad to help anyone in what little way I can.

Thank you again for creating this wonderful platform! And God bless you all!

Good luck

If this experience helped you, check out the following experiences:

How much MONEY do DOCTORS in the USA make ?

USMLE Step 1 260 Experience – Dr Shaheen

STEP 1 EXPERIENCE – 260 – Dr Vashistha (Indian IMG)

December 26, 2017

USMLE Experience by Dr. Lewis Latt – Part 2 – Step 2 CK Experience


I got my result today. I got 261. It’s a tough one. I even worried that I am gonna fail this one. For those who have taken NBME 7, my exam was a more extended and challenging version of NBME 7 for step 2 CK. But Some people got an exam resembling Uworld, so don’t worry.

Study materials used

Kaplan lecture notes for all subjects (IM, OG, Ped, Sur, Behavior);

MTB 2 for IM, MTB 3 for the rest,

UW Q-bank, Kaplan Flashcards.

That’s all I used.

But the first thing to make clear is, all the stuff I read, including UW, only helped me with about 30% of exam questions, step 2 CK is an exam of decision making. But don’t be worried by my experience. Because there are exam days when people get UW like question, as I mentioned above.

I think the right way to study is doing more questions rather than reading the books. If you are not good with basics, then fine, please read the book, I was one too, and I read them. But if you are already good with them,please focus on doing more questions so your decision making will be stronger.


I took UWSA (got 265) and NBME 7 (got 267).

Exam day

Most things are Low-Yield topics, I honestly never read 60-70% of them before at all, but I realized since the start of step 2 CK, it’s a game of decision making so I decided what I think and chose them, that’s all it’s to it. NO drug ad in my exam. 2-3 Abstracts. Most questions are so vague like NBME 7. But don’t worry, what they want from you are your calmness and your decision-making, you can do it.

The last and most important advice is exam may be very hard.But don’t be depressed, don’t be struck down by their questions, the questions are designed to make us feel like this, but even I can do it although I thought I would fail, you all can do it too. Best of luck to you all.

Doubt Solved by the Author

Doc…I m planning to start my NBMEs…I have my exam in a month…can you plz tell…which NBME should I begin with…and any info about NBME 4 and 5…which one to do near to exam…

It’s hard to decide because most people prefer to do NBME 4 or 6, but I did NBME 7 only, and the exam turned out to be like it, so vague like it, but doing NBME is quite helpless, if you did well, you would get confident, that’s all to it

If this experience helped you, check out the following:


Satish Advani – USMLE Step 2 CK 271

Ahmad Ziad Mahadeen – Jordanian IMG – USMLE Step 2CK Experience


December 26, 2017

USMLE Step 2 CK Experience – An IMG Perspective

In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful.

Here’s my full experience and advice for USMLE Step 2 CK takers in the near future.

Background: Recent Cairo University graduate. Didn’t do Step 1 or CS at the time of writing this article.

My Goal: +240

PHASE ONE (more than a year of almost wasting time!)

That was during my “internship” year here in Egypt or what we call according to the British system we’re following to some extent “training year as a Preregistration House Officer”. I just watched the whole 140-hour Kaplan video lectures except pediatrics because I couldn’t stand that guy (The Kaplan pediatric book is great but the video lectures are just the author reading his book out loud!). Then I spent about 3 months doing almost nothing regarding my USMLE preparation because of getting married .

So, about this phase: This was a huge waste of time! Don’t get me wrong; Kaplan is great and I’ll write about that in details just in a minute but doing one lecture this day and another the next week and then get busy with hospital shifts then go back to do another lecture is just not the optimal way to prepare for the USMLE. 140 hours means about 30 days of 5 hours a day and another 30 days for reading the 1400 pages set of lecture notes. That’s enough and much better than what I did, not just because of saving your precious time but also because spreading the studying over a long period of time doesn’t help in making connections between information sets you’re learning about. So, the first lesson: study every day for a decent amount of time & don’t make gaps in your studying timeline.

About Kaplan Video Lectures: all of the doctors are great (except the pediatrician). Conrad Fischer is great and everything but he tends to drop out a lot of important material, so you have to do an extra effort to understand the chapters explained by Dr. Fischer! On the other hand, you have tutors like Elmar Sakala, Charles Faselis, Steven Daugherty…you won’t really be required to do anything other than listening to them carefully and reading lightly after the lecture is finished.

Bottom line

If you want a solid introduction to USMLE Step 2 Ck do Kaplan videos.

About Kaplan Lecture Notes: They should be your main study material in all disciplines except internal medicine and surgery. Kaplan Internal Medicine is good but not very well organized (I used Master The Board for most internal medicine chapters). Kaplan Surgery book is 2 parts, part 2 is the cases that Dr. Carlos Pestana use in his lectures, those are great. However, part 1 which you’re required to study on your own is so cluttered, not organized at all and lacking a lot of stuff. So, for surgery, you can use a combination of Kaplan surgery book (part 2 only) & Board and Wards surgery section.


PHASE TWO (4 months)

I began this phase by doing Kaplan Diagnostic Test (150 questions) and I got 51% correct answers. That was on the 6th of September, 2015; i.e. 7 months before the exam. Then I started doing Kaplan Question Bank and it took me forever because I was over-annotating my books with every question bank trivial piece of information. So, it took me more than 4 months (to the 10th of January 2016) to just finish 1200 questions out of 3000! I took NBME 3 in late November and I got less than 150! (My test date was the 29th of December so, I extended the eligibility period and delayed the test to the 29th of March) and then I continued to do Kaplan Question Bank and did NBME 6 on the 10th of January 2016 and got 150! So, at this point, I said to myself: enough is enough; and started USMLE World QB.

I was doing Kaplan QB because I wanted to begin UW with a high initial score but it turned out that Kaplan QB is just not good for CK. Explanations weren’t as good as UW, questions were full of tricks… although some pros are that the question stem was long so that you can train in time management and there wasn’t a lot of outdated information like some people say. Yes, the QB may be outdated regarding recent exam question style changes but the information itself is solid and you can count on it.

Bottom line

If you want to do Kaplan QB do it after doing UW first time and don’t bury yourself into details, do 2 blocks a day and read the key concepts in the explanations.

PHASE THREE (2 months and 18 days)

I did UW first time subject-wise timed-tutor. One day I do 1 block, another I do 2 blocks and another may be nothing at all or half a block or something. I took 50 days to finish the QB and some of the Clinical Mastery Series forms. My cumulative was 60% (My Kaplan cumulative was 55%) but I felt like I’m learning a lot and the explanations make sense. Everything is well-done in UW. I was annotating my books and printing a lot of print-screened UW tables and diagrams BUT I learned my lesson and didn’t pay much attention to what I thought was trivial details, I even managed to do about 250 questions without annotating at all 😀 That was very hard for me because I’m kind of a “perfectionist”. Then I did NBME 3 again! The first time I did this form I didn’t study the questions and answers from the offline copy that was available because the score was too low and I thought I might do it again in the future (and that what turned out to happen). Anyways, I got 192! I was devastated but I managed to start my second round of UW random timed about 3 blocks a day. My cumulative was 78%. I did NBME 6 again halfway through UW second time and I got 235 (I didn’t revise the questions and answers after the first time I did this test either) then I completed the second time of UW and did NBME 4 with a score of 237, and after that NBME 7 (1 week away) and I got 237 then UWSA (4 days away) and got 242 and finally the 141 free questions from (1 day away) and got 82%. That last week was full of doubt because I didn’t know what to do, UW third time? CMS? Dr. Ali Notes? Reading my books? So, I ended up doing a little bit of everything!

Bottom line

Do UW 2 times and learn everything in it.


Anxiety was the major theme during the first 2 blocks and a minor one in the next 2. I wasn’t sure about any question and I think this is normal. Try to take a little break after each block. I posted my impression 2 hours after getting home from the test center.


4 Wednesdays after the exam at 10:45 a.m. Philadelphia time: PASS, 243



Step 1 will definitely help but not in terms of information i.e. there are no questions that require you to know stuff only found in step 1 books and question banks. Step 1 can help you understand better and save time, however, UW and other CK sources have all that you want for the exam.

For example, UW doesn’t have direct neuroanatomy questions or explanations and you won’t find that on the exam either BUT if you already know the neuroanatomy from step 1 that will help you understand topics like “stroke” better.

One last thing: the basic science information that you’ll actually be required to know for the exam (mostly pathogenesis) is covered by CK sources especially UW.


Those are the 2 main ways of thinking involved in learning scientific facts as well as the creative acts of artists and scientists according to Barbara Oakley, Ph.D. This woman is the main instructor of the course “Learning how to learn” I took a while ago on Coursera. She’s also the author of the book “A Mind For Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science (even if you flunked Algebra)”. The course was great and very well-done. The thing is that the idea of focused and diffuse modes of thinking is worth entertaining and I think it’s important for the USMLE and any other exam you’re preparing for. Focused mode means what we all know, put your head down into something, reading, writing, solving questions, looking things up… etc i.e. you’re concentrating and trying to learn or reinforce your learning of something. We all good at that. Diffuse mode, on the other hand, means that type of thinking that you enter while in a relaxed mode. Avicenna (Ibn Sina) said once that he often falls asleep while struggling on some intellectual issues and he subsequently dreams about these issues to the point that the answer appears before his eyes in the dream. He then wakes up and writes those new ideas down. This happened to almost all of us one way or another. The idea is that your brain (while in a relaxed mode) wonder and try to make connections between information and concepts you learned before in the focused mode, so you got to give your brain this opportunity especially when we’re talking about a huge exam like USMLE which demands a great deal of integration and connection-making ability between subjects on different levels. So, what can you do about this? Sleep well, take long walks, exercise, relax on your chair for a little bit every day and think lightly about what you learned this day or the day before. This will have a huge impact on your performance. Don’t just study, watch TV, scroll down your Facebook homepage, watch YouTube, talk to people… etc You have to do some relaxed “diffuse” activities. Cooking is one of those by the way 🙂

+220 vs +240 vs +260

There’s no difference in studying sources, IQ or timelines! The only difference is the intensity of studying, focusing, taking everything seriously and not panicking too much.


=> Introduction – 1 month – Kaplan video lectures


=> Building the base – 1 month – Pediatrics, Ob/Gyn, Psychiatry, Epidemiology, Statistics, Ethics – Kaplan Lecture Notes Internal Medicine – Master The Boards Surgery – Kaplan Surgery Cases Section + Boards and Wards Surgery Section


=> Getting into the game – 2 months – UW subjectwise timed tutor mode – 1 block per day (take notes and annotate your books, make sure to understand everything in UW)


=> Recap – 2 weeks – Revise your book again (you already annotated them and took notes from UW)


=> Before the end – 3 weeks – Do UW (second time) in timed mode 3 blocks a day (do the 3 blocks then read the explanations)


=> Finishing – 1 week – Revise your books and notes


Do your first assessment (NBME 4) after “Recap” i.e. after #4. Do NBME 6 when you’re halfway through your second UW round. Do NBME 7 after finishing second UW round. Do UWSA in the last week and FRED 141 free questions in the last day.


For me, this was the most important part of my preparation and the most important tool throughout my life. Praying (making Duaa) i.e. asking God, has almost always worked for me. Asking God isn’t just words you utter. It’s an intense process. You want something and you believe God is the only one who can truly help you get it, so you ask him for help. Ask for guidance, ask for knowledge, ask for understanding, ask for courage, for strength and finally ask for the score.

“In the Name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful.

Praise be to God, Lord of the world,

the Compassionate, the Merciful,

Master of the Day of Judgment.

Thee we worship and from Thee, we seek help.

Guide us upon the straight path,

the path of those whom Thou hast blessed, not of those who incur wrath, nor of those who are astray.”

– The Opening (al-Fatihah)


Abdulmunaim Eid

If this experience helped you, check out the following:

USMLE Step 2 CK – 275 – Ashok Chaudhary

USMLE Step 2 CK – 261 in 10 weeks – Sara Khan

USMLE Step 2CK Experience – 270

December 25, 2017

Paula Wendoline Soprano – Step 2 CK Exam Experience


I passed step 2 CK!! Not a great score, but I was only aiming to pass. First of all, i want to say THANK YOU to this awesome community, I think it is amazing that people from different countries, that do not know each other and have very different cultures/sex/religion, can help each other like this. If only politics were a little bit more like us… the world would be a better place!

Second of all, my experience: I am not a good example because I wasn’t consistent for personal reasons, but if I learned something from the exam is this:

1) The toughest part for me is STAMINA. After a few hours, i found it really hard to keep focused reading, I was really tired. Perhaps I should have taken a caffeine pill after 4 hours or so (i only took 1 coffee in the morning, and food, of course, that’s all).

2) Rest when you feel like it. You don’t have to go outside after every block, but at least take a minute or two between one and the next one (this you probably know already, from step 1).

3) IT’S DOABLE. And this is the most important thing that I would like to add: It is better to make sure that main (high yield) concepts are really stuck in your brain, well memorized than to get yourself lost in every single detail. TRUST ME ON THIS!!! It is better to go to UW 2 times even when you didn’t take a look at EVERYTHING, than just 1 round but not remembering most of it.


4) Offline UW is very very useful. I made notes with charts from it (i study better my own handwriting than just not-personalized charts but that is just me), and in the end, it was those notes that I was looking. It is very useful to have your own charts/protocols handy, for the week before the exam, to check on that.

5) Sketchy. Sketchy is life. Sketchy is love. I studied sketchy micro and pharm for step 1 and I still remembered things from it for step 2. Like adverse effects from drugs, or high-yield clinical facts from micro.

6) Were there a lot of questions that you had no idea about? sure. But just a few!!! many of them I wasn’t sure and I was doubting between 2 answers, but I trusted my guts. Again, this exam is doable.

7) How many simulated tests did I do? NONE. So do not follow me on this, and don’t ask me how predictable these exams are cause I didn’t do a single one YET I PASSED. This means it’s doable, better do it if you can, but don’t go crazy if you don’t. If it’s too late already and you don’t have time to do them, sleeping the night before is way more important.


If this experience was helpful, check out the following:

USMLE Step 2 CK – 275 – Ashok Chaudhary

USMLE Step 2 CK – 261 in 10 weeks – Sara Khan

USMLE Step 2CK Experience – 270

December 24, 2017

USMLE Step 2 CK – 255 Experience of an IMG

USMLE Step 2CK - 255

USMLE Step 2CK – 255

I got my results last Wednesday and it was 255. I am not very active on the group and even my score is not amazing I just wanted to share it because some asked me to and I hope it helps.
I studied for 3 ½ months, started the day after I took step 1. I think this really helped me cause there are some things that are pretty much the same in ck, like psyquiatry, biostatistics, immunology, and some pathophisio questions.
Materials i used were MTB 2 and 3, Uworld 2015 offline (2 times), CMS (the old and new forms) and NBMEs offline. I dont know how much I got on each cause in offline forms, there are many questions missing, and some blocks dont even have all the questions.
I took UWSA online 4 days before my exam and got 252. I felt the first two blocks were very hard and then the two other blocks not much.
I just want to say dont be scared when people say exam was reallyyy hard. I read that in many forums and was scared. It is not easy but doable so any of you can do this and get a better score. Just study as much as you can and focus on the high yield. Uworld is very important in concepts so try to understand every explanation very well. Questions on real exam may be different from it and longer (most of them but If you have been practicing questions you will be prepared to face those), just dont lose hope like me. I came out of the prometric center thinking that I wouldnt pass and felt really anxious and nervous for almost a month before i get my score, thinking when I would take it again. So probably there are some that feel the same but at the end, even though 255 is not one of the best scores, I feel happy because I thought I wouldnt make it and I did, so anyone can. Just work hard and you will see the results.
Good luck to everyone and if you have any questions I would be happy to help in whatever I can.

If this experience helped you check out the following experiences:

USMLE Step 2 CK – 261 in 10 weeks – Sara Khan

USMLE Step 2CK Experience – 270


December 24, 2017

USMLE Step 2 CK – Experience – 255

USMLE Step 2 CK - 255

USMLE Step 2 CK – 255

step 2 ck : 255
I am a US-IMG from Yemen, didnt study well during medical school. Graduated last year. Took step 1 two years ago, i got 237 in step one.
I studied for step 2 ck for 7 months, average of 10 hrs a day, with a day off.
Materials: kaplan book reading twice
MTB2 all sections twice
MTB3: all except medicine once
Kaplan q bank once score: 59%
Uworld qbank twice: first time :75% ( timed, subject wise)
Second time:86%( timed , random)
13 weeks before exam, nbme 3: 214
10 weeks before exam nbme 4: 237
5 weeks before exam nbme 6: 254
2 weeks before exam, uwsa: 258
Exam is very similar to uworld questions in length except for very few questions that are really long. Last block on exam i had 20 questions only, regular questions, not long.
I had one abstract really confusing, no drug ads.
* what i did after i got a low score in nbme 3: It was really depressing, i started doing uworld again for second time, and did all clinical mastery series online, reviewed MTB2 for second time. Thats all
* I didnt write notes from uworld, i thought it takes a lot of time. i just highlighted the things that are new and reviewed them a few days before the exam.

If this experience was helpful, check out the following:

USMLE Step 2CK Experience – 270


Satish Advani – USMLE Step 2 CK 271

December 24, 2017

USMLE Step 2 CK – 255 Experience

USMLE Step 2 CK - 255 - 2

USMLE Step 2 CK – 255 – 2


My experience!

Well, i took step 1 a few years ago and if possible, i d advice to take step 2 ck after 6-9 months or less… Many genetic dx, biostats, etc are present in both exams…

I started prep in august, working 3x/week + gym + partying! I kept living and doing my stuff, started with MTB 2 and UW from the beggining. Almost didint use any other source, but did UW taking notes and paying a lot of attention. Didnt take any NBME, only UWSA 7 days before = 261. Finished UW with 71%

Test day : VERY long and hard questions, vague questions, testing concepts, not just memorizing studd, you have to know the concept and they will twist and ask you something. I felt really bad leaving the prometric center, marked 10+ questions per block, didnt have time to calculate some biostats questions! Tooooo long!

After 4 weeks I was chilling with my girlfriend and received the email! Tcharam! 255!! I was hoping 260, but thats ok!

Guys, RELAX, be confident, if you dont have much time, do the best with what you have! Dont forget your family but know when to say NO to something. I kept exercising, eating good, going out with friends and studying hard when at home! Some ppl may say you should be locked in your room for 6 months, well every person is different, if you want 270+ maybe thats necessary, but relax, life is so good, and you can achieve success on the exam without being a robot, ok? Good luck, god (independent which one you believe) bless you all!!!

If this experience was helpful, check out the following:


Satish Advani – USMLE Step 2 CK 271

Ahmad Ziad Mahadeen – Jordanian IMG – USMLE Step 2CK Experience


December 24, 2017

Mishref El Dwainy – USMLE Step 2 CK – 256 Experience – IMG Middle East

CK 256 Experience

CK 256 Experience

USMLE Step 2 CK - 256

USMLE Step 2 CK – 256


Alhamdulellah I got my step 2 CK score today it is 256

I posted my score here to motivate all my friends in this amazing group

Also for low step 1 scorer and old graduates because I have low step one score only 213 and I am old graduate 2004 and full duty PICU specialist 48 hours per week.

Summary for my journey:

I got my step 1 score on late December ,I was very depressed and I was about to cancel my USMLE , I received good support from my friends and decided to continue .

Duration :from March to August 31

Average hours/day : 0-10 h/day

Sources: MTB 2 for IM and emergency and 3 for the rest

I used kaplan notes for difficult subjects

Flash cards of Dr Conrad Fischer

UWORLD 2013 offline subject wise (I don’t recommend offline ,better start online because there is big difference )

Last 2 months : UWORLD online and Mastery Series offline


One week before exam: NBME 6 : 240 … NBME 4 : 252 … NBME 7: 233

3 days before exam: UWSA : 252

Real exam :256 alhamdullelah

I am sorry if I coulnt reply frequently because my CS in 2 weeks


If this experience was helpful, check out the following:

Satish Advani – USMLE Step 2 CK 271

Ahmad Ziad Mahadeen – Jordanian IMG – USMLE Step 2CK Experience

Stephano Cipo Italy USMLE Step 2 CK Experience

December 24, 2017

USMLE Step 2 CK – 257 – Mlemle

USMLE Step 2 CK - 257 - Mlemle

USMLE Step 2 CK – 257 – Mlemle


Finally i got my step2 ck score n it’s 257…M very much greatful to this group…this group boosted up my energy levels…n made me gain a lot of knowledge…Thank you so much every1…well here are my self assessment score.

U world 1st time mixed mode 80%…I did it after revising kaplan notes twice. I didn’t do mtbs..

Nbme 6 a month before 240

Nbme 7 ..20 days before 235…I literally cried..n lost hope…did very silly whenever u r planning to do pls be relaxed ..I had panic attacks during this nbme

Nbme 4 ..a week before..252…I felt it was very easy…was able to finish blocks more than 10mins before..

Usmle self assessment (accurate predictor of my score)…2 days before..256…

Clinical mastery series all subjects…80% TO 90% in all the forms…I highly recommended this…I got quite a lot of questions from this in my main exam…very very helpful…please do it…

Please keep the easy self assessment to the last …it vl boost up your confidence levels…

Well main exam had very lengthy question…when I did self assessment I always used to have at least 5 to 7 mins left but in main exam I had 6 to 7 questions remaining at last 5 mins in each n every block…so please be ready for lengthy question..I got 1 drug add…frankly saying I didn’t have time to go through it so I just randomly marked the answer( just had 30 secs left n der were 3 questions in this add)…Feel free to ask any questions…I might respond late coz m busy preparing for CS exam…1s again thank you so much every1 who posted interesting question and answers.

If this experience was helpful, check out the following:

Ahmad Ziad Mahadeen – Jordanian IMG – USMLE Step 2CK Experience

Stephano Cipo Italy USMLE Step 2 CK Experience

Gina Aln – 264 – USMLE Step 2 CK Experience

December 24, 2017

Ayman Saeyeldin (Egypt) – 257 Experience – USMLE Step 2CK


USMLE Step 2CK - 257

USMLE Step 2CK – 257


Dr. Ayman Saey-eldin (also known as Dr. Ayman Abdelraziq) is currently in New Haven, Connecticut and is originally from the Middle East. Like many doctors in Egypt, post – revolution are migrating to the USA to seek greener pasteurs Dr. Ayman has done the same. This is his USMLE Step 2CK experience on scoring 257.. a very good score for the step for an IMG.

In this experience, he dives deep into the multiple phases of his preparation. How he approached each subject for the USMLE Step 2 CK exam. How he used Qbanks in conjunction with books and how he prepared for his exam using Uptodate which is very beneficial to anyone preparing for USMLE as it gives all the information at one place. He also explains how he used NBME and CMS to further solidify his knowledge and understand which subjects he is weak in and which subjects he can score very well in. This experience gives a complete low down of his strategies, the methodology needed to score high on USMLE Step 2 CK and the pitfalls in the process. How to utilize Kaplan for USMLE Step 2 CK is explained here. Also hwo to use UWorld for Step 2 CK is also explained. What NBME to use when..what score to expect with which NBME and which NBME to rely on to be predictive for the USMLE Step 2 CK is explained in this article. This article shows how he used the NBMEs & CMSs to get better score on USMLE Step 2CK. This and more is covered in the article which details on how to score a 250+ on the USMLE.

Dr. Ayman is currently working in the US as a doctor after the end of his USMLE exam series. Use this experience as a guide to preparing for the USMLE Step2 CK exam. 🙂

Hello everyone, my name is Ayman Saey-eldin, I took my CK exam while I was a GP, and right now I’m a cardiology resident in Egypt.
I realize there are better experiences with more impressive scores in the files section, but I wanted to write my experience because I’ve made some mistakes that I think you should avoid and it would save you much time that I wasted during my preparation.

I will try to keep it short and detailed, what we’re gonna talk about is the following:

  • Intro about the CK exam and the STEP 1 dilemma
  • Sources
  • Studying phase I) the first read
  • Studying phase II) the questions
  • Studying phase III) Revision
  • Shelf exams / self-assessments
  • Tips and Tricks about the last 10 days
  • Final word

Some abbreviations that I’m going to use:

  • UW = Usmle World question bank
  • NBME = National board of Medical Examiners self-assessment exams
  • CMS = Clinical Mastery series Shelf exams
  • MTB = Master The Boards review book
  • FRED = the software that the exam is using, with 150 sample questions, available for free on the USMLE website

Now I think we’re all set, let’s start with:


  • Intro about the CK and STEP 1


    STEP 2 CK exam is about the clinical knowledge. The main bulk of the exam is internal medicine with subsections including (Cardiology / GIT / hematology / oncology / respiratory / Renal / infection / Rheumatology and Neurology).
You also have the Pediatrics / Surgery & Trauma / ObGyn / ENT / ophthalmology / Psychiatry and behavioral sciences.

    IM is large and makes up about 50% of the material. 15% is pediatrics, 10% for surgery, 10% for ObGyn, 10% for psychiatry & behavioral and 5% for the rest. So plan your schedule wisely.
That doesn’t mean the IM is more important, it’s NOT. With most of your time being spent on medicine concepts most of your problems and weak points would fall in other branches, so that’s something you should be aware of. I for one had problems with psychiatry and ethics, and with the misc subjects that I couldn’t find a good source for them, we’ll talk about that later.

    STEP 1 is useful yes. My first mistake is that I took a long studying gap between step 1 and the CK test. I often went back to check some of the basis before I went back. I could have saved that time if I started the next test within a couple of months.
Should you start with STEP 1 or the CK; definitely step 1 if you can. It’s hard and long but it makes up 30% of the concepts and it would help you a lot with your preparation.  Many places require both steps right now so there’s no motive to only take the CK only. And your previous clinical info is helpful, but not like step 1.
So YES, if you can start with STEP 1: YOU SHOULD.


  • Sources:


    So we have the Kaplan books and Kaplan videos. These are the large books.
MTB books are the review books, there’s the MTB for STEP 2 CK, and the MTB for STEP 3 which is better than the previous in branches other than IM.
Some people mentioned DIT videos, Step up books, medstudy videos. I haven’t done them so I wouldn’t judge.

    There’s First Aid for Step 2 CK, but unfortunately it’s not like the great Step 1 book. Mostly basic info with no real orientation. Don’t do it.

    The most important source is UW. There was some good person who collected the algorithms and tables of UW and put them out there system wise. For me I think this is the most important source of information together with the questions of course.

    Kaplan Qbank, I have tried some of the cardiology blocks. Didn’t like it, same concepts with pretentious vignettes trying to be smart. Also most people say it’s a waste of time, so I didn’t put much thought into doing it.

    CMS questions are shelf exams, 4 blocks for each of IM / Neurology / Peds / ObGyn / psychiatry / surgery. Collectively they are 24 exams. They have no answers but they contain some old and new info. Some people consider them a source of info.


  • Studying phase I) the first read


    This depends on your time frame. What I did was reading Kaplan in each subject then reading MTB. This was a waste of time. I ended up wasting time on Kaplan which had some good info but not really helpful with answering questions.

    What I suggest is: read each chapter from MTB, then read the UW algorithms and tables very well, and then move to the next subject. If you have a problem with a concept then you can go to Kaplan, but reading Kaplan with everything was my Second mistake.

    The videos: they say they are okay, I only watched the ObGyn part, which I could do without. But nevertheless, watch it if you have the time.

    MTB 2 is for IM, everything else is from MTB 3. Except for pediatrics which I did from both MTB 2 and MTB 3. This shouldn’t take you more that 2 months to finish. The faster you move on to questions phase the better.

For statistics: UW questions. I had an idea from STEP1, but they say DIT videos are okay too. There are some extra UW questions with good explanations that you can do. They are 74 questions and they are NOT easy but they’d help you if you found yourself struggling with biostats.

  1. Studying phase II) the questions:

    UW is the most important source. Try to subscribe for at least 2 months. Before each subject read the tables for the second time and then answer the questions and take your notes.

    It’s important to read the explanations very well, even those questions that you did right. Read the correct and wrong answers explanations and take notes. Invest time in those questions because you won’t have time to answer  them again.

    Try to solve UW online, and don’t take more than two months if you can. Some people tried the offline version first, this is a wrong thing to do because: a) questions are always updated. B) you’re gonna mess with your overall score.

    Practice answering questions in a timed manner to get used to the time/block. In the end you can answer the questions you did wrong again. And also you can answer the questions you marked again.

    Solving the whole Qbank again is a mistake, because you’ll remember the questions and answers and you’d be wasting time. Better off: revise the tables and your notes.

    This is a hard phase and the questions are long and exhausting, but the quality of your studying is what’s going to get you the scores.

     Other Qbanks are not recommended. Most of the info you’ll need are buried inside UW. Revise your notes and revise the tables better than answering other Qbanks.

  1. Studying phase II) Revision

    After answering UW and re-answering the wrong questions, it’s time to assess yourself. Assessments are important because they guide you in this important phase. Reading the same stuff over and over again is not helpful. Instead, if you’re weak on something, this is what you should focus on.

    Read the tables for the third time together with your notes then take a self-assessment. The score you’ll get should give you an idea about the quality of your studying. Which SA you should take? We’ll talk about that later

    After taking the SA you should revise your weak spots, read from Kaplan or some other source, use UpToDate if you can in topics you want to look up on, solidify your already studied concepts, revise again and take another SA.

    Keep doing these steps until you feel you’re ready to take the test. Don’t feel down if you got a bad score, instead; figure out why you fell and work on it. This is better than living in delusions.

    This phase is stressful but we all went through with it. Focus on the UW tables and algorithms, they contain the most important concepts you’ll need. And work on yourself.  


  • Shelf exams / self-assessments


    NBME has a couple of exams, the most predictive is NBME4. NBME 6 is good but is a bit easy. NBME7 some found it hard, including me. Downside is that the questions are shorter than the real exam.
UWSA is more like the exam, but a bit easier. They say it’s the most predictive.

My scores were:

UWSA: 259 8 weeks before the exam
NBME 4 : 254 4 weeks before the exam (19 wrong answers)
NBME 7: 231: 2 weeks before the exam (39 wrong answers)
NBME 6:  1 week before the exam (offline) 16 wrong answers + FRED in the same day (9 wrong answers)

    I hated NBME 7. It broke my spirit and shattered my confidence. But I revised it and realized that my problem was anxiety and not reading the stem well. So I worked on that.

    CMS are okay. They have no answers so you have to google stuff. There are some groups with very useful discussions, and on the EAMTAR group we’re working on providing explanations for them and some are already done.
I used UpToDate in most of the questions which helped me a lot. Solidified my information and gave me new concepts. CMS questions are not mandatory and they are probably retired questions from old exams. Take them as an assessment of as a source of refreshing your info, also as a means to learn how to think about the questions.

    If you’re short on time answer the psychiatry blocks. Maybe ObGyn too.

    Now regarding the answers, as I said people are trying to form some reliable answer key. I have some notes for each block that some people might find it useful. Also some UpToDate screenshots from CMS topics. I will upload them if anyone is interested.


  • Tips and Tricks about the last 10 days:


    RELAX. You’ve done your best, now is not the time to panic. Revise the tables and algorithms, don’t do MTB.

    At least once, answer 8 blocks in the same day to prepare yourself for the big test. I did NBME6 + FRED in the same day which was exhausting but important to do.
Sport will take your mind off things; I used to run every other day. Also try to ditch negative thoughts, I got 231 on NBME 7 which shattered my confidence, but I got over it Alhamdulillah.

    By now you should have a strategy for answering long questions. For me I read the last line and the answers first, so that I could orient my mind to find the answers.
    For hard questions: mark and leave till the last. Spending time on hard questions will take the time from others that you already know. So better off leave them to the end.

    Practice taking breaks. For me I took 2 blocks > break > 2 blocks > break > 2 blocks > break > last 2 blocks.
What’s important is to stay comfortable. I wanted to take large breaks and drink coffee so I did the two blocks thing.
Also I don’t do well with sneakers so I went to prometric with sweat pants and slippers ☺ so try staying comfortable.


  • Final word


Stay positive, do your best, help others and trust yourself. It’s not an easy test but it’s doable. Aim high and work for it. If you’re religious; Pray and make Du’aa.

I read Khaled Abd-Elmaksoud’s experience which helped me a lot, here’s a link:

For the CMS notes I’ve uploaded them into Drop box, together with some UTD threads. maybe someone could find them useful

These are some notes from UW that I found forgettable, maybe someone would skim through them after studying

These are the stuff I always forget ☺

This is a collection about cancer cervix because I always found it confusing

Also please check the links at the end of Khaled’s experience

That’s it, thanks a lot for reading, ask me if you need anything.


If this experience was helpful, check out the following:

Stephano Cipo Italy USMLE Step 2 CK Experience

Gina Aln – 264 – USMLE Step 2 CK Experience

Shaheryar Ali Jafri – USMLE Step 2 CK – 264


December 16, 2017
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