6 Best USMLE Step 2 CK Prep Books (2022)

The Best Books to Prepare for USMLE Step 2 CK

The USMLE Step 2 CK exam is a portion of the United States Medical Licensing Exam. It is the second part of Step 2 in the three-part USMLE process. By using a series of multiple-choice questions, this test measures the clinical knowledge of the medical application.

This examination has a specific breakdown of content weighting. You can view it here on the USMLE official website. In recent years, USMLE Step 2 CK received criticism concerning the lack of ethics based questions. Beginning in the summer of 2020, Step 2 CK started to include more items over communication, patient safety, and legal/ethical issues.

All aspiring doctors have to complete this exam. Most students take it during their senior year of medical school. Step 2 CK is one of the many exams every medical student must pass in order to graduate.

We know medical school is one of the most stressful times of your life. Between the sleepless nights and hectic days, you barely have time to eat, let alone research the best study materials for the endless tests you have to take. That’s why we have compiled a comprehensive list and breakdown of some strategic USMLE Step 2 CK study materials.

Let’s take a closer look, so you can start maximizing your study time and stop wasting hours searching for a resource.

Top USMLE Step 2 CK Prep Books: The Official List

Here are some of our favorite test resources. Each one is designed to prepare you for the long day you have ahead of you. We want to put you on an effective study path. Read through each description to find the best resource to match your needs.

1. Master The Boards USMLE Step 2 CK 7th Edition

Publisher: Kaplan Medical Test Prep

Year: 2022

Number of Pages: 608

Our Final Grade: A-

This accessible study resource is a favorite among medical students.

The author, Conrad Fischer, is the highly accredited, board-certified Director of Residency at Brookdale University Hospital and Medical Center in New York City. He also teaches numerous preparatory courses for all parts of the USMLE. He has been helping students pass for years.

This book is the next best thing to personally attending one of his classes. The information consists of 16 topic-specific chapters. Each chapter includes step-by-step approaches to patient care and easy to follow graphics to present information in a clear and concise order.


  • Includes tips for recognizing incorrect answers to increase your test-taking speed.
  • Has full-color diagnostic images to show examples
  • Content is updated frequently in new editions


  • A lot of irrelevant clinical information that is more likely to appear on the board exam instead of the Step 2 CK
  • Some find the organization style a little chaotic

2. First Aid For The USMLE Step 2 CK

Publisher: McGraw Hill Education

Year: 2018

Number of Pages: 656

Our Final Grade: A

Top-achieving medical students wrote this knowledgeable guide.

Learn from your peers through their faculty reviewed chapters. These students have all been where you are right now. They know what you need to learn to achieve those high scores.

The comprehensive summaries of more than 1,000 common test topics are thorough enough to cover everything you need to know. While at the same time, this prep book doesn’t skip out on the essential exam information.

Unlike some other guides, First Aid is free of excess information. You will not waste your time reading paragraph after paragraph of useless topics. When you just want to pass a nine-hour exam, we know you don’t want to cram your brain with unnecessary information.


  • Rapid Review section to use for prompt cramming the days before your exam
  • Very detailed information, so you don’t have to purchase any more study material
  • Utilizes real-world cases to reinforce topics


  • Information presented in a long paragraph format. Some learners prefer bulleted lists when cramming for tests
  • The guide doesn’t emphasize high yield topics explicitly

3. Step-Up to USMLE Step 2 CK

Publisher: LWW (Wolters Kluwer)

Year: 2019

Number of Pages: 384

Our Final Grade: B+

This concise study resource includes mnemonics and quick-hit facts for fast memorization.

This is one of the shortest study guides available for Step 2 CK. The information is primarily in brief, bulleted lists. When you need a break from reading paragraphs of text, this is a great additional resource to add to your study materials.

Step-Up provides relevant details, especially when it comes to information covering subtopics. Since these topics show up in small amounts on the Step 2 CK exam, you shouldn’t waste your time learning low-yield information. This guide does a great job providing you with the key facts, so you study more efficiently.


  • Outline format
  • One of the shortest Step 2 CK guides
  • Includes sample questions with detailed explanations


  • Intended to be an additional resource to accompany your other study resources
  • Will not prepare you for the Step 2 CK if this is all you study

4. Step-Up To Medicine

Publisher: LWW (Wolters Kluwer)

Year: 2019

Number of Pages: 592

Our Final Grade: B

This prep book is one of the most comprehensive content resources for internal medicine, family medicine, and surgery.

Most medical students find this prep book to be one of the best in regards to organizational style. Every common disease found in each organ system is covered extensively. The text takes you through the epidemiology, presentation, diagnostic findings, and the final treatment options.

It includes many clinical pearls to help you prepare based on cases that happened. These real-world examples help increase informational retention rates and expose you to situations you are likely to encounter.

This book in the Step-Up series is full of helpful information. Just make sure to supplement your test prep with more resources.


  • Clear organization
  • In-depth easy to follow information
  • Includes more than 400 practice questions


  • Only covers half of the Step 2 CK topics (omits ObGyn, Psychiatry, Pediatrics, and a few surgical disciplines)
  • You must study other resources to pass your exam

5. USMLE Step 2 CK Lecture Notes 2022: Five-Book Set

Publisher: Kaplan Medical Test Prep

Year: 2021

Number of Pages: 1616 (page numbers include all five books)

Our Final Grade: A+

The five-piece set is regularly updated, so you get the latest exam information.

Kaplan is a notorious publisher in the educational exam niche. They have been producing prep books for almost 20 years, and are a tried and true company when it comes to yielding test results.

This set comes with five different prep books. Each one matches a section of the exam and breaks down the material into small subtopics within each medical discipline.

Information is presented in an outline format with summary text boxes for vital information. These summary boxes are useful tools to review in the last few days before your final exam.


  • Includes 450 detailed color images to demonstrate and showcase information
  • Separate books make studying seem less daunting
  • One of the most comprehensive resources


  • Expensive
  • Some find the organizational order to be inefficient

6. USMLE Step 2 Secrets

Publisher: Elsevier

Year: 2021

Number of Pages: 352

Our Final Grade: A-

This unique Q&A format guide contains essential Step 2 CK information.

The author, Theodore X. O’Connell, is an esteemed MD with plenty of experience. His prep book is a manageable length. You won’t waste your precious time flipping through pages filled with non-essential content. He gets to the point because he understands that every word counts.

It is the perfect resource for on-the-go studying. The format is ideal for reading small amounts at a time. Keep it in your bag during the day, so when you find yourself with some unexpected downtime, you can maximize it.

Another great feature is the memory aids. They help you recall information quickly during your test day.


  • Purchase includes eBook version so you can quickly search the text for needed information
  • Color images for increased clarification
  • Includes “100 Secrets” to help with test writer tricks


  • Many learners find discrepancies in the presented facts (hopefully as each edition is updated the information will be more current)
  • Initially seems dense


Who is eligible to take the USMLE Step 2 CK?

You may only take the Step 2 CK if you meet one of the following requirements:

  • A medical student enrolled in, or a graduate from, a US or Canadian medical program working towards an MD degree which is accredited by the LCME
  • A medical student enrolled in, or a graduate from, a US or Canadian medical program working towards a DO degree which is accredited by the AOA
  • A medical student enrolled in, or a graduate from, a medical school program located in a country other than the USA or Canada which is on the World Directory of Medical Schools and meets the requirements of the ECFMG

When do I take the USMLE Step 2 CK?

Most medical students take this exam during their 4th year of medical school. First, you must apply to take the exam. On your application, you will pick a three-month window of availability.

Once your application is accepted, you will receive an email telling you to select a testing day that falls within your previously chosen window. There are no tests during the first two weeks of January and all major holidays.

How is the USMLE Step 2 CK scored?

First, a raw score is determined based on the number of correct responses. Then, this raw score is converted into a three-digit score. Each section score is averaged together to determine your overall score. The maximum you can receive is 300. The minimum needed to pass is 209. A score of 240 is the approximate average. An excellent score is 260 and above.

When should I start to study for the USMLE Step 2 CK?

Most students study for 4-6 weeks, post-clerkship, during a time when they have a low amount of rotations or an easier elective. This window usually occurs during June and July, but it can vary depending on the student.

Do I need to study more than one resource to pass this exam?

The more resources you study, the more information you will encounter. Multiple resources can be great, but it may also be redundant. If you are going to study as many resources as possible, make sure to switch up the medium.

For example, consider buying a couple of good prep books like the ones mentioned above, download e-resources, and make notecards. The variety will help prevent fatigue.

What is the test format?

The Step 2 CK is a one-day examination that lasts for about nine hours. You will take the exam in eight blocks; each block is 60 minutes long with a maximum of 40 questions. You have a minimum break time of 45 minutes and a 15-minute tutorial you can skip.

Can I retake the USMLE Step 2 CK?

You can retake the Step 2 CK three times in one year. The maximum amount of retake attempts is six. After that, you are ineligible to take the test.

Get Your Dream Score!

Make yourself stand out from your fellow medical students! High marks on the Step 2 CK can only increase your USMLE score and help you match with your dream residency program.

By this point, you have done your clerkship, you have a vast amount of medical knowledge, and you have in-patient experience. Don’t let the semantics of a standardized test poorly reflect your abilities. Do yourself a favor and take the time to study for the Step 2 CK.

The above prep books are great resources to give you the necessary tools to obtain an above-average score. Make sure to study at least one book, if not two. Take advantage of free online resources as well. You have access to the tools you need to succeed. Be prepared and ace the exam!

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Matt Lane

Matt graduated with a BSEd in Kinesiology from University of Georgia and is now pursuing a medical degree. He enjoys sharing his experience with other ambitious young people.