Are Kaplan Lecture Notes good for USMLE Step 1?

Some people say they are a waste of time, and some say that they are a god tier resource. I believe that there are limited circumstances where they should be used, but because I value your time, I'll give you my thoughts right away. So, are Kaplan notes worth your time?

Short answer - probably not, I think you should use Boards and Beyond instead.

Long(er) answer - it depends, if you'll let me explain...

🧠 My experience

I originally picked up the Kaplan books 2 years out from Step 1 (the first time) along with first aid. I had no idea whether they would be useful, but as an IMG I wanted a comprehensive resource, and I thought that I would be able to finish it in a year.

This was a mistake.

Between medical school, and other high yield resources like pathoma and sketchy, I found it impossible to also keep up with Kaplan. There was so much content It felt like I was going to two medical schools at once.

I feel like there is so much content on the USMLE that 'comprehensive' resources like Kaplan just take too long. I was covering a lot of the same content, and it was less concise than what I was watching in boards and beyond, another resource I was dabbling.

Eventually I switched completely to boards and beyond over Kaplan, and I am so glad I did.

πŸ«€ Use Boards and Beyond instead!

If you're struggling with base knowledge there are better resources to use than Kaplan, like boards and beyond, which still covers all the basics of the USMLE in enough detail for IMGs, but is still high yield enough, and is fast paced enough cover the content in a reasonable time.

Some people say - well I have ages till my exam, I'll definitely get through it by then, but to that I say even if you're 1 year plus out from your exam, your time is still extremely valuable!

Let's say you were 1.5 years out, and you spent 1 year of that doing Kaplan. If instead you used say boards and beyond combined with Anking, and finished that in 6 -9 months, that gives you 3-6 months more time that you can dedicate to any resource of your choosing. Imagine if you could spend 3-6 more months just doing practise questions.

If you talk to previous test takers about their biggest regret, 90% of the time they say they wish they had done more practise questions. That's why I really believe that you could be using your time better than passively studying Kaplan notes and video lectures.

🀞 The (very) limited reasons to pick Kaplan

Personally if I could do it again, I would have saved my money, but if you are dead set on using Kaplan, there is only really one use case I would consider:

  • You feel you have a weak base medical knowledge, and you hate boards and beyond
  • You have a significant amount of time to study every day (ie: no serious time commitments in medical school)
  • You have at least a year before step 1, I would say 1.5 years if you study at a normal pace
  • You're not interested in any other high yield resources like sketchy, or pathoma

If you agree with most or all of these you might want to give it a go, otherwise, I would put the 200$ towards a Q-bank - Good Luck!

PS: I fully appreciate that there are some very successful students out there that have managed to score highly using this resource. Make sure you research broadly to figure out whether they are right for you, but I hope that my points make sense.

If you got this far, thanks for reading such a long post. I hope it was helpful to at least someone out there! If you guys have any specific questions the fastest way to reach me is YouTube comments! 🎬 Subscribe for future newsletters on my IMG journey. Cheers!

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