Best Resources for the USMLE

We asked Dr. Davietta Butty, MedSchoolCoach advisor and pediatrician, what resources she found very helpful to study from during medical school and while studying for the USMLE.

When I was studying for the MCAT I definitely used the Kaplan system. I went to the classes for a semester or for however long it was and I used the practice tests. I thought that was really important in terms of getting prepared for the format of the test and the type of rigor that the test was going to have. Then as far as the

USMLE is concerned, there are many different resources you can use. I think I remembered studying from First Aid and Goliath lectures. But what was important for me was the group anxiety about Step One in particular where somewhere in January when everyone in my medical school class was getting very excited and anxious and all they talked about was Step One. If that’s something that motivates you then that’s great but if it’s something that’s contagious and increases your anxiety then I think making sure that you are able to remove yourself from that environment to study and stay clear headed is also important because you don’t want to get psyched out by other people’s anxieties or worries.

How to Ask for a Letter of Recommendation for Medical School

We wanted to find out from a former admissions committee member about letters of recommendation. This is certainly an area of trepidation for may premed students! Who to ask, when to ask, how to ask are all questions that come up all the time!

We wanted you to keep a few things in mind when you are looking for letters of recommendation for medical school.

It s important to ask early, and by that I mean at least two months ahead of time. Make sure to word the question to ensure that it’s a good letter and not just any letter. Very frequently students will ask a professor for a recommendation and then later on realize you’re not sure whether it is going to be a strong one or not. One way to get around that is to ask a professor to write a strong letter upfront so you can see whether they’re willing to vouch for you to that extent. I think it’s important to have your materials ready to go such as your resume and also to have a good sense of why you are interested in medicine, and things that you want to be in the letter. If you’re not prepared, it will be hard for you to come up with. Depending on the relationship with the professor, there is an appropriate way in which to ask somebody to address something that is maybe of concern on your application, for example, a semester of bad grades for which there was a particular reason such as a loss in the family. You could ask them to mention that in the letter; it is appropriate depending on how well you know the letter writer.

Overall, for medical school you will need at least the following:

  • 2 science professor letters of recommendation (LOR)
  • 1 non-science professor letter of recommendation

In addition to these three letters, I recommend have an additional 2-3 letters that include the following:

  • LOR from a community leader or somewhere you volunteered
  • LOR from a physician you have shadowed or worked with
  • LOR from a research principal investigator

For athletes, a letter of rec from a coach for your medical school application can go a long way as well! For those of you who are looking for osteopathic schools, you should certainly have an osteopathic physician (DO) write you a letter of recommendation for medical school!