A review of how I use USMLE Rx and it's place in my study schedule!
To begin, I am not sponsored by USMLE Rx I purchased my subscription on a Black Friday sale for 40% off. I choose to get an 18 month access so I would have it through M1 and M2 up until Step 1! I use it every day and believe it is worth the investment.
When should you buy USMLE Rx?
My school begins with a unit called "Foundations of Medicine" which is a commonality among several medical schools. Typically, this intro unit is an over-view of undergraduate information including physiology, genetics, and biochemistry. This unit varies a lot between schools and I did not use any external resources during that time because my exams were based on what my school was teaching us rather than step-preparatory.
Therefore, I think the best time to buy USMLE Rx is around your first "real" unit. You can also wait for a good discount like Black Friday (and I emailed so them they allowed me to purchase in November with the discount but activate it in January)! My first unit was hematology and oncology and I began using USMLE Rx questions in conjunction with my classwork.
While you can of course wait to purchase USMLE Rx in second year, I think that Rx is the best external question bank to begin in M1 because you can select question difficulty and the questions are very aligned with first aid which is material you do begin learning in M1.
What are the components of USMLE Rx?
So, the obvious component that we've discussed is the Step 1 Qmax where there are 2,300 board style questions which are outlined in the platform like the USMLE Step 1 platform but more directly follow first aid than other resources since, of course, it is an accompanying platform to first aid. I personally love the qbank because first aid is very high yield even if it isn't "everything." I think the qbank is awesome because you can select easy/medium questions as an M1 and then in M2 you can add on doing hard questions also. I also love that I can select by discipline and subject so I can do questions alongside my classes. Another thing to add is that, stereotypically, Rx questions are easier than Step 1 questions. Not as an individual but as a whole. I personally haven't taken Step 1 so I will not talk on that but I will say I do notice a slight difference in the clinical vignettes between Rx and Uworld although I don't do significantly better on Rx question sets than I do on Uworld and I find Rx crucial to my prep for classes and Step!
Rx also has something called "Flash Facts" which is basically flashcards of First Aid. A lot of people do flash facts like they do Anki because you can set it up on a learning retention curve in a similar way. These really focus on the high yield facts and for flashcards they're pretty much your standard question/answer "do you know this information" style.
Rx360 includes Express Videos which are videos that explain the facts for first aid. This is nice if you are an audio learner and want more beyond the First Aid book.
Finally, Rx comes with digital access to First Aid and you can set it to 2018, 2019, or 2020 which is awesome if you have different versions and want to find the page number for various content or want to double check if there is an update in the most recent version! I use the digital version often in order to find the disorders more quickly than flipping through the pages of my paper book. Also, when I make new Anki cards I try to always include whatever First Aid says about the drug or disorder so I will screenshot my digital version to add to my cards.
How do I personally use USMLE Rx?
I have used USMLE Rx every single day throughout the past two units (bugs & drugs and now Metabolism & Reproduction.) Once I realized (finally) that the ONLY way I can really study is through practice questions, I decided to just make Rx part of my daily schedule. Every day, I do 15 Rx questions pertinent to my unit. My school has us do two weeks of related information (i.e. M&R = 2 weeks of endocrine, 2 weeks of reproductive, 2 weeks of GI, and 2 weeks of biochemistry) so during this time period I stagger my questions. During the second week of endocrine, I began doing endocrine physiology, anatomy, and some pathology; during the first week of repro I did endocrine pharmacology, pathology, embryology, and histology. During the second week of repro I began doing repro physiology, anatomy, and some pathology; during the first week of GI I did repro pharmacology, pathology, embryology, and histology. ETC. The purpose of doing this for me is to start doing questions once I've learned enough information to actually get questions correct and then continue my learning throughout the unit so I am ready for the final.
I pull questions based first on "Organ System" and then select the disciplines that I am ready for/have learned. I also only select cards that I haven't seen because otherwise Rx will jumble the questions and you may see questions you just did yesterday! Although I do not plan to go through Rx two times before Step 1... I do "mark" questions that 1) I don't feel I was ready for or 2) are super important so I do plan to go back and do my marked questions again!
I personally choose to do my question sets untimed and on tutor mode. I do not struggle with timing on my exams for the most part so I'm not trying yet to focus on being "Faster" I just want to make sure I'm learning the information and preparing! I do tutor mode because usually by the end of a question set I am already bored haha and don't have the stamina to read carefully through the answers, PLUS, I may have already forgotten my reasoning for choosing an answer. So, I do tutor mode so I know immediately if I got the answer right and can spend time reading through the solutions to ensure I am really LEARNING.
So, you may know that I am an avid First Aid user already. I use my paper book religiously and use it while I am listening to lectures or watching boards & beyond or anything of the sort! Now, I also use my online First Aid a ton in the 2018 mode so that I can quickly find the page number I need to annotate. I also switch to the 2020 version if I feel like something may have been updated or I just want to see if changes were made to a section (this is uncommon, most stays the same!) I also screenshot my online First Aid to add to my Anki if I am adding a few of my own cards because my brain does well when doing cards to relate questions to what I've learned in my First Aid. Finally, I LOVE how easy it is to search for things in First Aid like 1000x times easier than a PDF or a book especially if you're just looking for a quick reference.
I actually do not use Flash Facts consistently right now in my studies because I do use Anki and it is just a lot to do things every day. I do look up Flash Facts for questions that I miss on Rx and will just go through a few cards to make sure I understand the principle! I think if Anki is not your thing but you are interested in using some flashcards that this would be a great feature to use! I just haven't found it to be imperative for me.
Ah yes, videos. So, I used these videos a lot more in M1 (mainly in heme/onc) than I have so far in M2. The reason for this is because I started using boards & beyond and end up watching those videos as they give a breadth of information. The express videos are very simple and easy to understand and I like that they are broken down very well by subject so you only have to watch 3-10 minutes on exactly what you need help with. I watched a lot of the molecular method and biochemistry videos during M1 and always thought they were great. The main issue for me now is just that they cover the information in First Aid and feel more like they're trying to teach you the First Aid facts than give you Step 1 clues and advice which is what my current bigger focus is on! If you don't use a lot of other external resources though and are looking for a way to learn information quickly these are very easily searchable and simple to absorb; I just am not currently using these videos for my studies!
My overall rating for USMLE Rx:
5/5 a "Very High Importance" resource for medical students who intend to use resources outside of courses and a great mix of a question bank plus breadth of information in videos and flashcards. I would not use it independently as my only board-prep resource but it has been helpful for both classes and step-prep thus far!