Top Ten Books for the USMLE Step 2 CK Exam

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.

There is a lot of weight placed on the USMLE Step 1 exam as it has a significant effect on how competitive you are as a residency candidate. I submit to you that the UMSLE Step 2 CK is far more important in the long run because it will test you on things that are actually relevant to your future practice and your patients. You take Step 1 for yourself, you take Step 2 for your patients. This is stuff that we all just need to know. So, don't worry about score and just worry about the material, your patients will be greatful.  Below is a list of the books I found most helpful for USMLE Step 2 CK. 

  • Updated May 2015

1. First Aid for Step 2 CK:

There are a few brands that have never let me down in USMLE test preparation: First Aid, Kaplan, and USMLE World. I swear by First Aid for Step 1, and I found First Aid for Step 2 to be nearly as concise and comprehensive. A great resource


2. USMLE Step 2 Secrets:

This is a fantastic summary book that does not take long to read. Rather than a list of all the facts, like First Aid give you, Secrets gives the reader a great review of high yield information. This would be a great book to read the week or two before the exam to help you pick up a number of extra nuggets.


3. Crush Step 2:

Crush Step 2 is written by the same author as USMLE Step 2 Secrets (#2). The content of the two books is mostly the same. Crush Step 2 is written in prose and paragraphs rather than in clinical scenarios and question format. Decide which format you prefer, because you certainly wouldn't need both books.


4. Master the Boards, USMLE Step 2 CK:

This book induces a borderline personality disorder. Some students love it, some students hate it. The book does not attempt to be a complete review, it tries to hit hard only the high yield points. Students who are looking for a more complete review of the information should probably not purchase this book.


5. Step-Up to Medicine:

This is a tried and true book for many aspects of the second half of medical school. A great book for many rotations and shelf exams, it is also a fantastic preparation USMLE Step 2 CK. Much of this board exam will rely on basic internal medicine knowledge. The book is also great for Step 3, so you can kill two birds with one stone. 


6. Kaplan USMLE Step 2 Qbook:

If you frequent this website, you know that I believe STRONGLY that the best way to prepare for a board exam made up of hundreds of questions is to do thousands of questions. I really like both Kaplan's online QBank as well as USMLE World's online QBank. However, you are not always at a computer and you will find that question books are a nice rest from the screen. Kaplan's Step 2 Qbooks one of the best on the market.

7. First Aid Cases, USMLE Step 2:

Like Kaplan's Step 2 Qbook (#6), the First Aid company has also produced some great print question banks. The 'Cases" book is a case-based approach with great review questions. In addition, they also publish First Aid Q&A for the USMLE Step 2 CK which rivals Kaplan's Step 2 Qbook as the best print question book on the market.

8. Kaplan USMLE Step 2 Lecture Notes:

Recently, Kaplan has allowed students to purchase their complete Lecture Notes for board exams, including these Step 2 notes, without actually taking their in-person classes. This was not always the case. I have used these texts and I was very impressed. Altogether these review books are very long and very expensive. However, they come from a company that knows very well how to get students good exam scores.


9. Step-Up to USMLE Step 2:

It may seem counter-intuitive, but I prefer Step-Up to Medicine (#5) as a Step 2 study resource to the book that Step-Up wrote specifically for Step 2. I used the second edition of Step-Up to USMLE Step 2 and it was good, but from what I am hearing the third edition has a poor layout and not well updated. 


10. Travel Book du jour:

You need to study for Step 2, it will help you be a better intern and resident. However, you are probably a fourth year student getting ready to fly around the country. You may not ever travel this much in this short of a time. Here is some unsolicited advice, take an hour to enjoy the city you are in…so see some of the stuff in this book.



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  1. Maria Ospina

    I would add to this list "Dermatology for the USMLE". Latest pictures coming out from Mayo Clinic with most up to date information that covers Internal Medicine effectively. Great reviews on Amazon!

    1. Andrew

      Thanks for the tip Maria, I hadn’t heard of this book but it does look great. 

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