A guide to M3: The clerkships and SHELF exams

I made this post to help guide study efforts (for NBME Shelf exams) during M3 year. I found that there was a mix of information as to which sources were the best sources to use during core rotations, and given that you have limited time to dedicate to studying, it is imperative to use it well. That being said, everyone, including myself, has their own sets of resources they used that they will claim is the best. It should be stated that the best prep for any rotation is working up patients and looking up their best treatment and management regimen on UpToDate while on the wards. Here’s my additional study plan:

  • Internal medicine
    • UWorld is the staple for prep – about 1400 q’s. This will take a considerable amount of time but is worth it in the end if you can finish it during your rotation.
    • MKSAP for students (aka IM essentials) – another key learning tool. The explanations are better than UW in my opinion. It takes a lot of effort and doesn’t simulate your exam, but it’s great for building a foundation of clinical IM knowledge.
    • Pre-test IM – a few wonky questions and many are too short or easy, but this book gives you some random factoids that might help in tricky stems (e.g. CHF is more likely to cause R-sided pleural effusion). I did about 10-20 q’s every morning to get through the book.
    • MKSAP audio – probably a bit overkill, but I like listening to audio lectures rather than reading, so I went through the sections on cardiology and GI. I love this series, and listened to the bulk of it throughout M3. Great for the gym and commuting. Not great when you’re driving with people though, haha.
  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
    • APGO uWISE – plenty of short quizzes on high yield topics. The problem is that you’re going to miss a lot of questions if you don’t already have a solid foundation of knowledge. This is the best source hands down.
    • Case Files Ob/Gyn – I used this to sort of learn the basics of Ob/Gyn and get a foundation. It’s a good text without too much filler or fluff. Even some of the more esoteric topics in the book came up on the shelf. To note, I never used Blueprints.
    • UWorld – a staple, but not enough. I think it is better to save these q’s for 2-3 weeks before your shelf to use as a gauge.
    • Dr.Chapa’sObGynPearls: Texas A&M College of Medicine – this is the best audio source for this rotation. Go to you podcast app and subscribe. Usually about 7-12 minutes a piece on high yield topics (e.g. endometriosis), covering every salient point (e.g. MCC, presenting symptom). If you learn the material for each topic, you’ll be able to present with some competence and actually have a discussion about stuff.
  • Surgery
    • Pestana – a great ‘cover your bases’ review of many topics. The staple for this rotation. Has some questions in the back.
    • Case Files Surgery – I used this extensively, but be warned that some things might be outdated if you don’t have the latest version (I was burned on thyroid nodules). Overall this was my second staple.
    • UWorld – not many q’s, but you should supplement by re-doing some of IM. Many IM topics are bound to show up. Spleen and GI questions come up a lot.
    • Pestana audio – this was my favorite resource. He reminded me of one of my pathology professors from Basic Science years.
  • Psychiatry
    • UWorld – this covers most bases. There will be a few esoteric topics on the shelf exam that you won’t find anywhere.
    • First Aid Psychiatry – A good thing to review if you have nothing else to do and want to read something.
    • Lange Q and A – I wish I had known about this beforehand – i did some of these and they were good quality questions
  • Pediatrics
    • Honestly, I had little time or patience at this point in my M4 year for this exam – I was more focused on interviews. There are likely better places for advice on this topic
    • UWorld – solid “cover your bases” approach with a decent amount of questions
    • Pretest – more filler questions if you have time
    • UT HSC video review – this was the majority of my studying
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