Studying For USMLE Step 2 And Medical School Clinical Rotations

I recently received an inquiry from an MD/PhD friend of mine who is returning to clinical rotations after completing his thesis.

Hi Rishi, I was hoping to get some advice from you. I’m going back to the clinic next month. Been out of it for almost 5 years. I’m a bit apprehensive about M3. I want to do well on M3 and Step 2. Would you mind sharing what resources you used during the third year and to prepare for Step 2? I hear people recommend various review books and QBanks. It seems rather overwhelming all at once. I would greatly appreciate any input. Thank you.

I quickly perused through the archives and found a post of my experience/preparation for USMLE Step 2 Clinical Knowledge but nothing outlining how I studied for clinical rotations during medical school. Obviously things have changed and vary from program-to-program, but here’s my rundown… several years late to the punch! 😉


internal-med-booksClinical rotations are very different than the “basic science” portion of medical school. You’ll be working with teams to care for patients. You’ll be building your knowledge base, applying critical thinking, and working on your bedside manner. For many, you’ll also be carefully combing through each rotation to figure out if that’s what you want to specialize in.

Rotations vary significantly in terms of the hours, responsibilities, and learning opportunities. You’ll learn how to perform a proper workup, write notes, and present patients on internal medicine. You’ll deliver babies on obstetrics. You’ll develop procedural skills in surgery. The opportunities are often there as long as you’re committed to your own education and proactive about seeking them out during each rotation.

I strongly recommend reviewing the relevant UWorld USMLE Step 2 CK questions for each rotation! Additionally, the MS4s at your particular institution have the freshest exposure to the rotations and shelf exams. Use their advice!

Now here are some book recommendations:

Internal Medicine

  • Step Up To Medicine
  • MKSAP for Students
  • Case Files: Internal Medicine (pretty easy cases, not the most useful)
  • Pocket Medicine (definitely a book worth keeping as a reference forever, regardless of your speciality)


  • First Aid for the Psychiatry Clerkship


  • Case Files: Obstetrics and Gynecology (probably the best in the series)
  • Blueprints Obstetrics and Gynecology


  • BRS Pediatrics – all you really need


  • NMS Surgery Casebook
  • Pestana’s Surgery Notes
  • Surgical Recall (useful for rounds and trivia, not helpful for the shelf exam)

Our rotations in neurology and family medicine had departmental exams, so there was no “shelf”, per se. Honestly, I don’t remember what I used as references for those rotations.

Happy studying! 😀

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