Fast-Forward to First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 2015

By Patrick Sylvester

fa 2015Over the past year or so, I’ve had the pleasure of working with the First Aid Team on both the blog and in the development of the notorious Step 1 book that we all know and love. Since taking on the role of student editor this year for the next revision, I felt that now is a good time to share a little bit of a preview of the 2015 edition of First Aid for the USMLE Step 1.

Er. Mah. Gerd. First Aid 2015? It’s still 2014. And…. maybe I just started Med 1, why do I care?

Well, perhaps you don’t. And certainly I would never intend to cause any undue stress/angst. Rather, for those of you out there planning to take the USMLE Step 1 in 2015, I bring this message to you in attempt to help answer the age old question… “Do I need to buy the new edition of First Aid?”

Well, without reeking of too much bias, let’s take a moment to review what the past couple editions have looked like, and what you might be able to expect from this upcoming edition.As you may or may not know, the past three editions have each brought a fair bit of change.

  • FA2012 brought color text and images.
  • FA2013 addressed concerns about lingering errata from previous editions as well as made some structural rearrangements.
  • FA2014 introduced a number of new facts and topics, and began a long-term process of overhauling/replacing our images and graphics.

As you know (or at least may be starting to appreciate), the breadth of the USMLE Step 1 from a content perspective is quite vast. As such, the natural tendency of a review book that covers this material is to expand. For the 2015 Edition of First Aid for the USMLE Step 1, we wanted to set our primary target on really refining the content that we already had.

In addition to staying on top of new content that has become increasingly high yield for the exam, we also needed to go through the existing language of our book with a fine-tooth comb. Thanks to a lot of great submissions through this blog, we had a great start in identifying parts of our book that might have been viewed as confusing and/or inconsistent.

We were then able to turn to a very neat online editing platform, where our team could attempt to synthesize a number of suggestions into discrete, actionable changes to our text. At this point, we invited a large number of students (~6,000) who were familiar with our Qmax platform or other USMLE-Rx products into the workflow. This was a great opportunity use the power of the crowd to do some very meticulous fact checking of new content, and using a system of votes, we were able to quantify how high-yield our changes might be.

We then got a very impressive set of faculty reviewers to review chapters relevant to their expertise and provide a final call on debates that arose on contentious/conflicting information.

All of this took place before our first draft ever hit the publisher’s desk.

In this midst of all this, we also had our (awesome) team subdivided into groups charged with handling some secondary tasks. In addition to continuing our overhaul of images in our book, this year we had a dedicated “mnemonics team,” whose job was to sort through our existing mnemonics all those that have been submitted over the past three years. We tried to do this as methodically as possible, employing a set of rules/models that we had hoped would provide consistency throughout our book.

In all, it’s my opinion that the 2015 edition of First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 will be a very smooth and polished product that will be of great interest to all those who plan to take the USMLE Step 1 in the near future. Stay tuned for more information.

Until then, happy studying!


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