6 Best USMLE Step 3 Prep Books (2022)

The Best Books to Prepare for the USMLE Step 3 Exam

The United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE)’s Step 3 ensures that the test-taker has sufficient knowledge of biomedical and clinical science to practice medicine without supervision.

The two-day examination encompasses areas relating to the foundational sciences, biostatistics, epidemiology, medical literature, health maintenance and screening, therapeutics, diagnostic studies, and the application of social sciences to the medical field.

This demanding list requires a well thought-out study program, a task which is usually put on the student alone. Books are the first step in formulating a successful strategy to acing the USMLE Step 3.

Best USMLE Step 3 Prep Books – The Official List

When shopping for test preparation materials, one often panics at the overwhelming amount of available information. Many books are sold to assist the aspiring medical practitioner in acquiring appropriate preparation techniques and strategies, but not all material offered is a good fit for the student.

A list has been compiled below to evaluate well-known and recently published books for your convenience. The goal is to closely analyze various features and benefits education publishers claim to offer so that you as the student will save money and time.

1. USMLE Step 3 Lecture Notes 2021-2022

USMLE Step 3 Lecture Notes 2021-2022 seeks to comprehensively compile the necessary information for the exam and provide extra information for an excellent review.

Publisher: Kaplan Medical Test Prep

Pages: 932

Year: 2021

Our Final Grade: A-

Kaplan provides five to ten highly detailed cases for each chapter. Each case contains sub-sections including but not limited to history and physical examination, initial management, therapeutic plan, diagnosis findings, treatment, discussion, and case review.

This technique emphasizes the case study portion of the test more so than any other area. For the sake of clarity, pictures are given with real-world patients and their symptoms. The material is conveniently divided into sections and subsections, but there is a lack of color, making it hard for important details to stand out.

The book is divided into six parts: Internal Medicine; High Yield Images: Dermatology, Radiology, and Ophthalmology; Neurology; Psychiatry; Ethics; and Medical Abbreviations. There are Clinical Correlate and Basic Science Correlate sections. Paragraphs tend to be lengthy, bunching information together in a way that does not highlight the crucial points.

The book uses an in-depth approach to its explanations so that the highly aware reader will be sure of appropriate solutions for the different scenarios or complex situations facing a patient.


  • Case-based learning centers around high-yield information
  • Well structured and organized
  • Comprehensive material


  • Adds unnecessary information
  • Skims over the multiple-choice section of the exam

2. Master the Boards USMLE Step 3, 7th Edition

Master the Boards USMLE Step 3, Seventh Edition (2022) shows its strength through up-to-date clinical material and methodically teaches the reader to recognize the most likely answer.

Publisher: Kaplan Medical Test Prep

Pages: 608

Year: 2022

Our Final Grade: B+

This book is concerned with training the student’s mind to analyze and recognize the answer quickly. The ideal reader has already mastered the necessary information of each chapter and focuses on memorizing the high-yield information. There are headings and subheadings, providing an efficient organizational structure of the material.

The text is rather small, but the question-and-answer section following each topic serves to keep the reader’s mind active. There is a clear emphasis on memorizing the topics, as seen with the bullet points and color-coded headings, making the task of retaining information until test day more comfortable to handle, but the material goes rather quickly.


  • Simple, concise language in complete sentences helps the reader easily remember information
  • Lots of diagrams and flowcharts
  • A practical approach to preparing for the computer-based case simulations


  • Certain basic concepts are missing
  • Serves more as a refresher than an introductory tool

3. First Aid for the USMLE Step 3, Fifth Edition

First Aid for the USMLE, Step 3, Fifth Edition aims to provide a general understanding of the Step 3 test material through the lens of professionals in the field.

Publisher: McGraw-Hill Education/Medical

Pages: 512

Year: 2018

Our Final Grade: B+

This book is written by medical professionals and faculty who have an accurate, real-world understanding of the test’s material. This strategy ensures that the study material is recent, but not all test information is present in the book.Tips and shortcutsare offered, providing a summary instead of a thorough study guide.

There are nineteen chapters: Guide to the USMLE Step 3, Ambulatory Medicine, Cardiology, Emergency Medicine, Endocrinology, Ethics and Statistics, Gastroenterology, Hematology, Oncology, Infectious Disease, Musculoskeletal, Nephrology, Neurology, Obstetrics, Gynecology, Pediatrics, Psychiatry, Pulmonary, and High-Yield CSS Cases.

Diagrams and pictures are given, such as those of internal bodily structures as well as external symptoms. Portions of the text are divided into compare-and-contrast layouts. Sub-sections present the problem, rules on diagnosis and treatment subsequently follow, and bullet points organize additional information.


  • Includes mnemonics and colorful visual aids
  • Includes 100 “mini-cases” which mimic the case section of the exam
  • Emphasizesintegrated pathophysiology and diagnosis and management“next steps”


  • Chapters are general banners consisting of various topics lumped under them
  • Does not cover the entirety of the exam

4. Crush Step 3 CCS: The Ultimate USMLE Step 3 CCS Review, 1st Edition

Crush Step 3 CCS: The Ultimate USMLE Step 3 CCS Review solely deals with the computer-based case simulations of the USMLE Step 3.

Publisher: Saunders

Pages: 312

Year: 2013

Our Final Grade: B

Although this book does not cover content outside of computer-based case simulations, it still addresses an important portion of the exam. There are two parts: Introduction and CCS Cases by Chief Complaint.

The introduction goes over the format and timing of the CCS section, setting up the book to be a detailed and analytical account of what the student will encounter. Each sub-section of the CCS Cases by Chief Complaint deals with one particular health issue, avoiding any confusion or blending of different information.

Despite its single-minded approach, customers have raved that this prep material combined with other mentions on this list results in a passing Step 3 score.


  • Distinct focus on specific exam material
  • Highly organized
  • Each individual case is restricted to one page


  • Ignores all material outside of CCS cases

5. USMLE Step 3 Secrets, 1st Edition

USMLE Step 3 Secrets, 1st Edition provides a clinically-focused overview through a question-and-answer format and case scenarios in a pocket-sized book.

Publisher: Saunders

Pages: 400

Year: 2014

Our Final Grade: B

This pocket-sized book serves as a convenient USMLE Step 3 Bible of sorts. Sixteen chapters include general principles, various disorders and diseases, pregnancy and delivery, and clinical case scenarios. Each case study is introduced, with questions and answers underneath, as well as an Advance clock section, which gives an in-depth discussion.

The material is organized quite well. For example, in the Male Reproductive System section, a question in a bold, blue sub-heading font can ask, “How is male breast cancer diagnosed and treated?” The answer itself sits below in a much smaller font, sometimes divided into bullet points or separate categories. Pictures illustrating various symptoms are also included.


  • Q&A format provides a concise and clear summary of high-yield material
  • Pocket-size enables you to carry the book everywhere
  • Centered around high-yield information


  • Is not an in-depth compilation of facts
  • Needs to be updated

6. Next Step in Management USMLE Step 3: 2nd Edition

Next Step in Management USMLE Step 3: 2nd Edition sells itself as a well-organized manual focusing on step-by-step management for diseases and conditions. This book establishes its reputation upon high-yield case preparation.

Publisher: Amninder S. Dhesi

Pages: 610

Year: 2014

Our Final Grade: B-

There are 28 sections in this book ranging in areas from CCS cases approach to pediatrics to vitamins to ethics. The CCS cases approach part provides the reader with a methodology for solving the problem in each case study. This book is for the diligent reader who seeks to extend beyond studying material and investigate foolproof methods of testing.

It is written more as a quick study guide than a collection of informative articles, perhaps throwing the reader under the bus when it comes to knowing complicated material in and out. The charts are excellent for distinguishing terms and remembering their accompanying details. Even so, the book itself falls short of the preparation necessary for this exam.


  • Well-organized in bullet formatting, separate sections, and charts
  • Easy to remember with sentences that are to the point
  • The bolded text highlights the central theme of each answer


  • No pictures or colorful diagrams which illustrate information in a memorable way
  • Not thorough enough to address all exam material


Are there official USMLE-approved study materials?

No. The USMLE program does not sponsor any test preparation courses or materials. Still, it does advise that students prepare themselves by following the guide given on the website on material that will be on the test.

Are there any prerequisites to taking Step 3?

Yes. Both Step 1 and Step 2 of the USMLE must be passed before Step 3 can be attempted.

Can I retake Step 3?

Yes, but no more than three times within 12 months. Any more times than that must be taken at least 12 months after your very first attempt and at least six months after your most recent attempt.

What is the minimum passing score for Step 3?

The minimum passing score for Step 3 is 198.

Is there a fee for taking Step 3?

The fee as of 2021 is $895. It is non-refundable and non-transferable between eligibility periods or applications. It can only be paid with American Express, Visa, or MasterCard.

What exactly is on the test for each day?

The first day of testing focuses on essential scientific principles, such as biomedical statistics, epidemiology/population health, interpreting medical literature, social skills, medical ethics, patient safety, and systems-based practice.

The second day of testing tests your knowledge of diagnosis and management, including history and physical examination, diagnosis, and the use of diagnostic studies.

How is the test structured?

There are 232 multiple-choice questions on the first day. The questions are broken down into six blocks of 38-39 questions, with 60 minutes to complete each block. This takes up seven hours in total, including an optional five-minute tutorial and 45 minutes of break time.

The second day contains 180 multiple-choice questions, divided into six blocks of 30 questions, each block taking up to 45 minutes. There is a subsequent seven-minute CCS tutorial and then 13 case simulations, each of which take 10-20 minutes to complete. At least 45 minutes are used as break time.

Acing the USMLE Step 3

Step 3 of the United States Medical Licensing Examination is a daunting roadblock to becoming an independent medical practitioner. Meticulous research and practice, coupled with prolonged periods of time, are paramount in achieving a good score on this exam.

There are many companies out there that claim to hold the key to unlocking a great medical career, but care and observance must be taken before spending money on such promises. The best strategy is to go for a book that provides more information than needed and, at the same time, does not detract from the most critical sections of the exam.

Kaplan’s USMLE Step 3 Lecture Notes 2021-2022 takes home the prize because it proceeds to do more than just present a question-and-answer format with basic explanations. This book allows the student to reason and judge more information, realistically prepping him or her for the exam.

The other books reviewed in this article are valuable in their own right. Still, these need to be collected with other supplementary material to give the student an appropriate exam preparation plan. The problem with buying these books is that you are paying for what is less than needed, which is why USMLE Step 3 Lecture Notes 2021-2022 is the smartest investment among them.

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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.