Free USMLE Step 2 Questions / How to Study for the USMLE Step 2 CK

After taking Step 1, I imagine most students realize how overextended they became trying to get through multiple books during Step studying. In the end, it was the questions that mattered. It’s always the questions.  So, here’s my list of free Step 2 CK questions (updated May 2018):

  • The NBME has its free Step 2 CK practice test in Fred (v2) software, as well as some good materials to familiarize yourself with Step 2 CS. I’ve written explanations for the most recent sets: 20142015, and 2016.
  • MedBullets has a 1000+ question robust Step 2 qbank with tutor mode, percentage of peers who answer correctly, detailed explanations, etc. They also have another 199 for Step 3.
  • Lecturio has almost 1200 free questions organized by subject, though many of the freebies are not in clinical vignette format and do not have explanations. No registration required. If you’re interested in buying their video lecture/qbank product, you can get a 25% discount through this link.
  • Osmosis is a completely free big (>5000 question) qbank and video collection organized by section. No personal profiles, exam creation, metrics or other typical paid-product goodies, but there’s a lot of content.
  • ExamGuru has a free trial with 10 questions apiece from each of their 6 shelf exam products and USMLE 2 CK (for a total of 70 questions). Coupon code BW15 gets you 15%  off any package you might want to buy.
  • For every Step exam, Kaplan lets you try one 48-question section for free after signing up.
  • USMLE Consult has the usual tiny trial for free (30 questions)
  • Learntheheart.com has 50 cardiology USMLE 2 CK questions with plans to add more.
  • MedMaster (makers of the “made ridiculously simple” series) has a USMLE Step 2 question bank. Like their Step 1 qbank, it’s content review, not Step practice. But it’s short, high-yield, and to the point. It’s not a bad quick companion for the shelf exams as well, especially at the beginning of your rotations. It also includes a section for Step 2 CS full of the cartoons and mnemonics the series is known for.

Not a lot of resources, free or otherwise, are dedicated for Step 2 (especially when compared with its significantly more important sibling). If you take Step 2 CK in the summer after third year, a question bank (USMLEWorld of course) and Crush Step 2 / Step 2 Secrets (same book in different formats, both a very quick and superficial treatment and extremely quick read) are likely enough. For the gunner, the possible addition of a more “comprehensive” text: First Aid for the USMLE Step 2 CK (which is not as good as FA Step 1 but retains the same format you either loved or hated), Step-Up to USMLE Step 2 CK (previously the worst of the big three but recently updated and improved), or Master the Boards USMLE Step 2 CK (more readable but less complete, particularly good for “next best step” questions). Step-Up to Medicine (if you have it from your medicine clerkship) is still an excellent review for medicine (the bulk of the test) if it’s been a while.

Preparing for your shelf exams is 75% of the battle. The longer you wait, the more you forget, and the harder the test is. Contrary to what you might hear, Step 2 isn’t actually much easier than Step 1; it’s just that you’ve done this rodeo before. If you really want to do well, prepare for and take it right after clerkships.

If you’re attempting to cram for Step 2 in a month or less, I recommend forgoing books altogether (except as references PRN) and relying exclusively on USMLEWorld. Go through it once, flag all questions you get wrong or guess on, then do all marked questions again. Only if you can finish that is it worth reading a book cover to cover. More book-reading does not equal more knowledge when it comes to board review, and you’ve already spent a year reading review books for this exam via your shelf studying.

Looking for more info on the third year shelf exams? That would be here.
Worried about Step 2 CS? Then feel free to peruse this post.

31 Comments

  1. Have always fround your advice reasoned and comforting – so thank you. ANy tips on organizing the volume of material for step2 prep? schedules/ time allotted etc?

    I am an old woman- 66, just about hanging on by her fingernails ! I want to go into palliative/end-of-life care (hopefully the only residency where age will be an advantage…any thoughts?

    Reply
    • hi Dr.Ben,

      Thanks for using your time to help lost folks like me.Really save-worthy advise has been given out in your blogs.
      It wd be great if you cd answer this :
      for an IMG who has just passed step 1 with >240 AFTER 6-9 MONTHS PREP and wants to get >240 in ck within next 3 months.. what wd be your advise regarding books to use and startegy to do so?
      or IS IT UNREALISTIC TO AIM TO GET >240 ON CK WITHIN 3 MONTHS PREP, FOR AN IMG WHO HAD TO GIVE 6-9 MONTHS FOR STEP 1?

      Reply
      • Step 2 requires less prep for most US students because it piggybacks on a (frequently) stronger clinical experience during third-year and the material is generally more useful and less esoteric. How much of a difference that makes would depend on what your background and schooling are like. It doesn’t sound unreasonable to me, no. I would recommend the same things. I suppose some shelf exam/clerkship materials might potentially be necessary if you have never been exposed to certain fields.

  2. Depends a bit on where you’ve been with shelf exams or Step 1 and where you need to be. For most people, a dedicated month is sufficient, to be spent almost exclusively on a question bank (preferably UW). If you have/need more time, a couple of weeks can be spent at the beginning going through dedicated review text(s), but the bulk of your time should be dedicated to 1.5 passes through UW (once all the way through, a second time through all questions guessed on or answered incorrectly), taking time to really read the explanations. That takes about a month for a person of average focus/stamina, supplementing with texts occasionally as needed.

    Palliative medicine a really important field and good career. The pathway to a palliative fellowship is versatile. You’d be more likely to have a pleasant training experience by pursuing residency in psychiatry or family medicine prior to doing your palliative/hospice training rather than IM or the other sponsoring specialties.

    Reply
  3. I’m a 3rd year med student in Texas also, and just want to say THANK YOU. I just found this blog/site and it has a ton of really useful information. I’m looking to go into radiology, and trying to plan for Step 2 and all that is a bit daunting. Thanks for taking the time to write all of this out.

    Reply
  4. Greetings Dr. Ben! I’m originally from the States but studied abroad, and I wish I found your website and advice last year but better late than never! The design and information presented herein, is very well done! I will have to recommend this to my underclass abroad so that they have more readiness and not have to worry as much. Above all, your transparency throughout all of your thoughtful writing, is very much appreciated – much respect! Thank you for efforts to do this for all of us!

    Dr. Ben, what would you suggest for those individuals who have not had shelf exam experience? You made a wonderful guideline here of how most students in the States prepare for each subject and thus, makes Step 2CK somewhat easier to do since it is like a year long preparation on all the major topics.

    http://www.benwhite.com/medicine/studying-for-third-year-nbme-shelf-exams/

    I took 2 NBME forms online with extended feedback and received a sub-borderline passing score (conversion score of ~200) on both. This obviously can be either an overshoot or otherwise. Thanks also for the free 150 NBME explanation 2015 CK guide here (I got a 55% result from that) :

    http://www.benwhite.com/medicine/explanations-for-the-official-step-2-ck-practice-questions/

    I took the NBMEs during and after a 1st pass of Usmlworld in timed-tutor-random + used master the boards CK. What I noticed was that with the master the boards CK, it seemed that many taught points were for one special situation and the NBMEs and real USMLE can present different steps and then you’re left with objectives entirely different, so not a great source to base a workup and even on “what’s the diagnosis” questions in retrospect. I was using Usmleworld as a guideline to learn from only and not entirely focused on my percentages. I did those in a timed-tutor-random order and redid my incorrects, just like you suggested above to do.

    Would you suggest using another reading resource and/or doing all the question-only sources from your clerkship guideline as more realistic practice? My main worries are running into too many conflicting answers and resources. I will redo usmleworld again in some suggested manner but wondering how else I can train my mind to think like the NBMEs.

    You also made a really amazing perspective piece here on NBME style writing here : http://www.benwhite.com/medicine/how-i-read-nbme-usmle-questions/

    Sometimes I felt the information from usmleworld made me second guess and over-think many aspects in where the NBME’s were more straightforward. Even with the extended feedback, I’ve yet to find a practical methodology in how my answers were incorrect. On some of my mistakes, it was obvious, but there’s quite in contrast in where I am still unsure.

    The other question banks outside of Usmleworld appear to be somewhat outdated with their treatment/guidelines (not every question but perhaps I’ve overlooked the bigger value of those questions such as UsmleRx and/or Kaplan Qbank).

    For other relevant background, I took Step 1 about 2 years ago (so it’s been a while on basics) and have also passed Step 2CS. CK is the last exam for me, and I can set aside 60 days of pure dedicated studying. If I pass, I have the chance to do more clinical training during residency application season but they require all step 1,2cs,2ck to be completed.

    Thanks again for your website guides, thoughts and feedback Dr. Ben!

    – Cesar Lampar, soon to be MD and resident one day :)

    Reply
  5. 1) Other than Crush Step 2, which I personally found high yield enough and fast enough to be a worthwhile starter review, I’d probably only focus on books to fill particular deficiencies within a 2 month window. Look at your UW performance and see if there’s a particular area that you’re weak (e.g. ob, peds, etc). Your worry about multple resources and spreading yourself thin is valid. I’d probably rather go through UW three times than chase a bunch of books during dedicated review, but it would partly depend on your personal learning style. Whether to use timed or untimed tutor mode is another personal preference; I’d volunteer that, at least early on, untimed is superior for treating UW as a question-based textbook. If you find that jumping around has left you disjointed due to your lack of shelf exams/background, you can always do your next run organized by system, leaving random mode for your review of marked questions.

    2) UW questions are more difficult than the average NBME/USMLE question, which is partly because UW questions are sometimes more subtle and also because more are second and third-order questions. There are a percentage of UW questions that have an unreasonable level of difficulty or hinge on a small detail which is not generalizable. These questions are corner cases that can be memorized but otherwise generally are of lower yield for molding your overall approach. There certainly may be some deeper patterns in your performance, but I can say that at least part of your feelings is universal.

    3) Ultimately most questions are not trying to trick you. While the length of some questions and the inclusion of a large number of details may cause you to second guess yourself, never forget that the USMLE is a “single best answer” format. It’s never your job to ever know why another seemingly reasonable answer choice is wrong; it’s only your job to pick which one is the best.

    Reply
  6. Dear Dr. White,
    I absolutely love the format and content of your blog/website. Really appreciate you taking the time out and sharing your knowledge.
    PS: I got a >250 on my step 1 and I’m sure pieces of information from your blog helped getting a few bonus points. THANK YOU!

    Reply
  7. Hi Ben, Iam yara try to pass stepstep2 ck , I read from first aid and finish Qbank but when I did NBME it’s really low about 255 and trident again with nearer score, I am lady with tow kids and finish medical school from 2006, and I can’t get enough time , can you help for any idea, also I finish medical school outside USA

    Reply
    • It depends on why/how you’re not doing well. Are you not able to finish on time? Are you able to finish but don’t know the facts when you review your answers? Do you know the facts but are getting the questions wrong due to test taking skills, critical reading and comprehension, or second guessing? Knowing what parts are holding you back tells you what you need to work on next.

      Reply
  8. Dottore Ben Bianco,

    Thanks for all of the wonderful information !!!!!!!!

    I am an FMG…Glasgow….Passed 1 by the skin of my teeth and 2CS…self study …now I need to pass 2CK…ASAP!!!!!!!!

    Seems to me book study is bullshit and not the way to go… so seeing as you have a good insight to the USMLE Game..whats the best bet?

    One bank or two ?
    Usmlerx? or Solely U world 2 or three times ?

    Time wise ,I can get 55 days off

    So my question is whats the best bet to pass it….Dont care about the score..just need to pass..before i begin w. MSF again

    This is like chewing glass!!!!!!!!!

    Who the hell likes studying for this shit!!!!!!!

    Not me

    Any advice would be much appreciated

    Thanks again

    Reply
    • You can easily pass exclusively with UW. If you want a simplified plan with minimal BS and not shelling out for other products, you can just go with UW. It definitely contains the information you need to perform (at the highest level). With 55 days, you could comfortably do the qbank as a described above and keep winnowing down on your mistakes/guesses until you’re ready for the real thing.

      Reply
  9. One more question Ben….what do you think of Modafinil..for that finla push

    As laways thanks for your input

    Reply
  10. Dearest Ben,

    Much Thanks for the prompt response…and all the positive vibes!!!!!!!
    UW CK it is!!!!!!!!!! and triple Espressos!!!!!!!

    Thanks again Ben for the advice and best of wishes to you and your family!!!!!
    -Babba Mal

    Reply
  11. Hey Dr. White! 45 days left for Step 2 and I’ve exhausted uworld 2.5x (doing everything timed & random) + going over all of my wrong and checked questions, until I had zero wrong questions remaining to use.

    At this point, I’m hovering at a 223 average from my practice UWSA (230) NBME 6 (225) and NBME 7 (215). There isn’t one notable area of weakness in where I could refocus on and it’s fairly consistent throughout the assessment score reports.

    I’m trying to shoot for another 15-20 points on the real deal but at this point, I’m finding that doing uworld once more doesn’t seem helpful for me to extract and learn any new information. I’ve seen all the uworld answer choices many times now and not really critically thinking to approach the question and learn something new is what I mean.

    The review books like MTB, Secrets, and First Aid Step 2, just did not work for me and I dropped those early. Uworld was pretty much my “textbook”.

    What would you do in this situation with 45 days remaining and what are your opinions on step 2 qmax (first aid team’s usmle rx questions) as an option?

    You articles here are great!

    Reply
    • I think if you’ve exhausted UW then you move on to another qbank. One caveat is that the explanations are super important and full of important details that may not have been necessary to know the correct answer. This happens to a lot of people when they repeat questions, they remember which answer is right and thus don’t really “do” the question again or gain the info embedded in it. When you do a second qbank, that will still happen (you’ll see questions that feel or seem basically the same). That’s not a bad thing, it means you’ll easily get those questions right on test day. But you still want to make sure you know the whole story.

      It’s uncommon to hear so much about the other Step 2 qbanks. I’ve heard good things about Qmax in general in recent years. My experience with it was for Step 1 back in 2010 and thought it was terrible, so my perspective is way out of date. People on SDN may have better thoughts, but I bet it’s pretty solid these days. Another option is BoardVitals (especially as a lot of schools purchase institutional licenses for BV and thus it could be free). There’s Kaplan I suppose. Last would be ExamGuru, which recently put out shelf exam qbanks (which you can purchase en bloc as a Step 2 review). The only one of the three I’ve seen in any detail is EG, as I did a review a few months back. Any of them should be fine, though BV doesn’t use the same FRED software that Qmax, EG, and the real thing do.

      Reply
    • Haven’t done it nor really heard how it compares, sorry. I did feel that UW was excellent/sufficient for dedicated Step 2 review and didn’t feel the need to supplement with an additional source.

      Reply
  12. Hey Dr. Ben, what do you think about using the UWorld Step 3* questions (not CCS) as a side by side to Uworld Step 2? Will it help boost our Step 2 scores since the topics are the same and we have about 6 weeks to spare?

    Final questions…

    Through all of your recent reviews of what’s out there, have you found a better supplementary text other than crush ck? When are we going to see a new book like, “Dr. Ben teaches you Step 2 & 3 in 60 days, 1st Edition” :P

    Thanks a bunch!

    Reply
    • UW 3 isn’t as good as UW for Steps 1 and 2. I would deep memorize UW 2 CK before starting another bank. At that point, I’d probably choose an alternative Step 2 CK bank rather than UW3. The proportion of diagnosis to treatment will be better, and Step 3 actually has a bit more narrow of a scope and won’t touch on everything as well. I think depth of a single resource trumps breadth of resources.

      I think Crush is good precisely because it’s short and gets to the point, which is generally helpful before starting a qbank that will take up all your studying time. If you have lots of time, FA and MTB both have their proponents. FA is longer, denser, and not as good as for Step 1 but certainly fine if you liked it last time. MTB has more of a “next best step” focus which can be helpful for questions (though questions obviously serve this purpose as well), more readable at the expense of being a little less complete. Either one is fine; I’d argue neither is necessary in most cases.

      I seriously contemplated doing just that several years ago (and didn’t get around to it), so I think at this point that’s probably off the table :)

      Reply
  13. Just wanted to suggest this website for anyone looking for Step 2 materials. https://onlinemeded.org/

    It offers free video lectures on all topics covered for the boards/shelf exams. There’s also a subscription plan to access notes, audio, a question bank, AND a flashcard app. Definitely a hidden gem!

    Reply

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