7 Best USMLE Step 2 CS Prep Books (2022)

The Best Books to Prepare for USMLE Step 2 CS

Step 2 CS is one of the more difficult of the USMLE steps, although some medical students underestimate the difficulty and take for granted how much time they need to study.

The part of this exam costs $1,300 to take the Clinical Skills portion for students at U.S. universities and if you fail, you have to pay that all over again to retake the exam. Basically, you really want to make sure you pass it the first time.

Fortunately, there are plenty of resources out there to set you up for success when taking it. Because so many options are available, it can be tricky to decide where to invest your time and money to prepare for the exam. How do you know where to look and who to listen to?

In this article, we’ll review some of the best options for USMLE Step 2 CS Prep Books that will thoroughly prepare you.

USMLE Step 2 CS Book Reviews

A look at some of the most useful resources for Clinical Studies

1. USMLE Step 2 CS Practice Cases 2021

This book contains over 30 cases on patient scenarios you’re likely to see on the test, multiple strategies for explaining diagnoses, and helpful tips on time management to help you ace Clinical Skills.

Publisher: Kaplan Medical Test Prep; Proprietary, Fourth Edition

Year: 2021

Number of Pages: 564

Our Final Grade: A+

You’ve probably heard of Kaplan before. They have been a staple in test prep for years. Kaplan Medical has some of the most comprehensive and up to date material on the USMLE. There is a ton of content packed into their guides, so you’ll want to make sure you have plenty of time to study it all before taking the exam.

This book provides step-by-step advice for learning necessary patient care skills to make completing your cases simple. It provides test-like cases that ensure you feel competent in reporting your findings, performing physical exams, and obtaining data from the patient.

The scenarios in the book are pulled from frequently tested patient examples. It provides a clear picture of what you can expect from the test. The book is comprehensive while also being concise and to the point.


  • Comprehensive
  • Gives you a good idea of what the test will be like
  • Especially helpful for foreign students
  • Important time-management strategies
  • The added benefit of Kaplan’s medical experts


  • Long

2. First Aid for the USMLE Step 2 CS, Sixth Edition

This prep book contains more than 44 full-length practice cases, 39 mini-cases, and study and exam strategies to provide an extensive study guide.

Publisher: McGraw-Hill Education / Medical

Year: 2017

Number of Pages: 640

Our Final Grade: A

McGraw-Hill has been a trusted educational resource since way back in 1888. In this sixth edition, they have updated the text to the current National Board of Medical Examiners test format. You can find more USMLE resources from the publisher here.

The book takes into consideration testimony from recent examinees to help give prospective test takers some insight into what to expect. There are detailed illustrations of physical exam maneuvers along with concise explanations.

It’s a thorough exam prep guide for the clinical skills portion of Step 2. Practice cases are presented as they are in the exam. They will test your knowledge of reporting patient complaints and most likely diagnosis.

The book contains extra mini and maxi cases to give you the chance to work through many different scenarios. If you’re looking for as many cases as possible, this is a great choice.


  • Well-organized and thorough
  • Extra guidelines for ethical issues
  • Incorporates feedback from test-takers
  • Very specific questions


  • Need to budget extra study time to get through all the material

3. Beat the USMLE STEP 2 CS: Advanced and Proven Study Guide to Ace the USMLE Step 2 CS, 2nd Edition

This book is a well-written study guide with professional tips and advice for taking Step 2 CS.

Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

Year: 2014

Number of Pages: 56

Our Final Grade: B+

This study guide gets our vote for the best concise study guide. It is a very quick read with only 56 pages. Readers found the text to be helpful because it explained cases in a different manner than some of the bigger prep books.

The book highlights some points that tend to get overlooked in other publications. Reviewers of the book say they appreciate the different style of explanations.

If you are looking to supplement your other texts and look at things from a different angle, this book can help you.


  • In-Depth
  • Easy to Read
  • Highlights key info


  • Not as comprehensive as many other CS prep books
  • You’ll need supplemental resources to study everything for the exam

4. Mastering the USMLE Step 2 CS, Third Edition

Interactive workbook with 60+ practice cases.

Publisher: McGraw-Hill Education / Medical

Year: 2004

Number of Pages: 420

Our Final Grade: A

Another offering from McGraw-Hill, this workbook has case examples from internal medicine, pediatrics, psychiatry, and surgery. It does a good job explaining why each physical examination is recommended based on the patient’s chief complaint.

It’s unique because it gives you the chance to work through the cases on your own first. This allows you to think of the questions you would want to ask the patient first. After you’ve written down what you think is the best approach, you compare your answers to the books.

Reviewers found this book to also be helpful for those that are finishing their Objective Structured Clinical Exam.

This book is probably best for those who learn better with a hands-on approach.


  • Great for learners who are more hands-on
  • Allows you to work through each case on your own before explaining their approach
  • Over 60 cases


  • Not as up-to-date as other options

5. The Ultimate Guide and Review for the USMLE Step 2 Clinical Skills Exam, 1st Edition

A detailed overview of Step 2 CS with 30 practice cases and sample checklists to sharpen your communication skills.

Publisher: Saunders

Year: 2006

Number of Pages: 402

Our Final Grade: A

This prep guide is written by the best-selling author of Textbook of Physical Diagnosis: History and Examination, Mark H Swartz.

It contains 30 clinical cases to practice with that are described in great detail and are real-world applicable. The book stresses the dos and don’ts of taking CS for students, making sure they are totally prepared.

After reading this book, you can be confident your communication skills will be efficient.


  • Written by a highly acclaimed medical author
  • Includes references to Textbook of Physical Diagnosis
  • Prepares you with cases similar to what you’ll see in the exam
  • Includes sample checklists for chief complaints


  • Fewer sample cases than other resources

6. Brochert’s Crush Step 2: The Ultimate USMLE Step 2 Review, 4th Edition

An overall Step 2 review with high-yield information divided into specific topics and systems.

Publisher: Saunders

Year: 2012

Number of Pages: 352

Our Final Grade: B

This book is more of a supplemental resource than a comprehensive guide to help with Step 2. It’s well-written, easy to grasp, and contains numerous study guides throughout.

It should be noted that this book focuses on all of Step 2, not just Clinical Skills. It can be used as extra information to help you with your studies and maximize your score.

The book is probably best for students who have already learned the pathology of many different diseases.

It makes for a quick read, despite its 352 pages. It is concise and well organized, making it easy to get the most out of this resource.


  • High-yield coverage
  • Tips on getting the most out of the computer-based simulations
  • A great complement to other review books


  • Not specific to Clinical Skills
  • Not as comprehensive as other guides

7. USMLE Step 2 CS Complex Cases, Fourth Edition

A guide that focuses specifically on difficult cases with 23 patient cases to learn from.

Publisher: Kaplan Medical Test Prep

Year: 2016

Number of Pages: 228

Our Final Grade: A

This relatively quick guide goes through some of the more complex patient cases you may encounter on the exam. Some students find looking at difficult cases with this narrow focus to be helpful. The book provides functional scenarios with quick to the point explanations.

This book includes sample patient notes, a breakdown of the clinical thinking process, as well as helpful advice. It also goes into data gathering, interpretation, and writing the patient note.


  • Inexpensive
  • Gives you extra insight into challenging cases
  • Concise


  • The format can make practicing with a partner difficult


Here you will find answers to some of the more frequently asked questions about USMLE Step 2 Clinical Skills prep books. Make sure to think about your specific needs when looking for a resource to study for this important exam. This will help you ask the right questions to find which book is going to make the most significant difference to you and your study time.

What are some important things you should consider while you’re looking for a USMLE Step 2 CS prep book?

Think about how current the edition is to make sure you’re getting the most up-to-date information. Consider what style of learner you are. Are you more hands-on and need a workbook to practice cases from? Or, would you prefer to have as many cases as possible to read through?

Price is another thing to think about. Some of the more comprehensive study guides can get a little expensive. A pricey book may be worth every penny, if it turns out to be the key to acing the exam. If you’re on a tight budget, look at getting the most bang for your buck.

How long does it take to prepare for Step 2 CS?

It has been said that practice is the most critical factor for doing well on the USMLE Step 2 CS. The amount of time spent preparing to take this exam is going to depend on how familiar you are with clinical concepts.

If you’re already a whiz at them, you may not need more than a month to study. If clinical concepts aren’t your strong suit yet, you might need to budget closer to 2 months.

Definitely allow enough time so that you feel completely comfortable taking the exam. Some students find Step 1 and Step 2 Clinical Knowledge to be manageable, only to be surprised by the difficulty of Clinical Skills.

You want to make sure you get a prep book well in advance of taking the USMLE Step 2 CS.

What is the pass rate for Step 2 CS?

The pass rate for examinees from U.S. and Canadian schools is 95%. For repeat test-takers, the pass rate is 87%. For non-US/Canadian students, it is 75% for first-timers, while repeat examinees are passing at 61%. You can find more information on pass rates and other info about Step 2 CS here.

Final Thoughts on the Best Books for USMLE Step 2 Exam Prep

It can seem pretty daunting to find the right prep book for CS. There are so many options out there and tons of different advice. Step 2 is a big deal, and it’s not something you want to take lightly.

Make sure that you are allowing yourself enough time to study sufficiently for the CS. If you budget the right amount of study time, you’ll be in good shape when the day comes to take the exam.

If you take into consideration things like learning style, budget, and previous knowledge, you can easily pick something that will be a huge help in preparing you for the exam.

Finding the right prep book will prepare you for what to expect, give you effective time management strategies, and make you feel confident doing the cases. If you’re not looking to scour the internet for hours, give some of these books a try. We’re confident they will make a big difference.

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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.