Best Books for USMLE Step 2 Clinical Skills (CS)

This list is part of a series of articles about the best books for medical students. Click on the Med School Books Main Page to see other lists including the best books for each year in medical school, the best books for each clinical rotation, and the best books for USMLE Steps 1, 2, and 3.

As many of you know, the pass rate for USMLE Step 2 CS is very high, usually 97% or 98% for first-time test takers from the USA. Many will take that to mean that they don't need to study, but I think it means something slightly different. Here is a 2% that you really don't want to be part of! Studying for Step 2 CS is really not difficult, you already know the material, you just have to learn about the test. I don't think you need to spend much time studying, but reading one or two review books will prepare you in three ways 

  1. what the test will be like,
  2. what you will be tested on (it's NOT just the medical content!)
  3. a review of the most commonly tested cases. 

I will list the two most widely used books and highlight some subtle differences. You really only need one of these. Good Luck.

  • Updated June 2015

1. First Aid for Step 2 CS:

This book will prepare you for what to expect in the testing center. I felt much more comfortable just know what was going to happen, step by step, after reading this book.I think this is the strength of this book, it lays out the nature of the exam very well. There is also a good review of some of the highest yield cases you might encounter during the clinical skills test. This book prepares students very well for the Integrated Clinical Encounter (ICE) portion of the exam. For most people, reading through this book one time would be sufficient prior to taking the USMLE Step 2 CS.


2. Kaplan USMLE Step 2 CS Core Cases:

Like the First Aid book, Kaplan's USMLE Step 2 CS book is a great resource and one quick read through it would be sufficient for most students. The one thing that Kaplan's book has is a better explanation of how to act during the exam so you can maximize Communication and Interpretation Skills (CIS) portion of the exam. Browse the format of each book, you probably just need to choose one.


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