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App Review: Recently Released USMLE Question Bank: Lange's Q&A USMLE Step 2 CK

11/3/2009 by Iltifat Husain, iMedicalApps.com

If you type "USMLE Step 2" into the App Store, you don't get many results. One of the applications that shows up is the recently released Lange Q&A: USMLE Step 2 CK app, produced by Modality, and costing $33.99. We've reviewed other USMLE study apps for the iPhone in the past, such as the USMLE disease deck, and not been huge fans.

This time I was hoping for better results. I'm just a few weeks removed from taking step 2 CK (hooray!), and figured it would be the perfect time to review this app. I'll admit, I've been a fan of Lange products since using their Pharmacology flashcards for Step 1 studying. I found the flashcards to be well written, concise, and high yield. I was hoping this question bank on the iPhone would give me similar results.

For Step 2 studying on my computer, I found the USMLE World question bank to be the most helpful. I've tried the Kaplan and USMLE World question banks together for step 1, but realized USMLE World did a better job covering high yield information. Also, USMLE World's user interface mimics what you see on the actual test day, unlike the other question banks. I always dreamed USMLE World would make an iPhone app and I could always have my question bank within the reach of my fingers. Unfortunately, this dream didn't come true. But never fear, coming in to the rescue is the Lange Q&A Step 2 CK question bank for you iPhone, costing $33.99(discounted until October 31st)

When you open up this app you are prompted to register with Modality. You don't have to register, and this sign eventually goes away. If you closed the app by accident while taking a quiz, when you startup the app, you're prompted to resume from where you left off. There are 4 main navigation tools on the homepage. New Quiz, Saved Quizzes, Question Browser, Cumulative Stats.

There are a total of 1,104 questions in this apps question bank. You can create a quiz from the 8 practice tests provided (46 questions each) or you can customize a quiz. In the custom quiz section you can choose to include or exclude the different specialties, Internal Medicine, OB/GYN, Pediatrics, Preventive Medicine, Psychiatry, Surgery. You can also change the number of questions your quiz will have, with a maximum of 50. You have the option to change the name of the quiz and once the quiz starts, a timer appears in the right upper corner.

Answering questions is pretty straight forward, you just select your answer choice, and there are easily marked navigation buttons. If you run out of time in quiz mode the app doesn't make you stop, instead, the timer turns red telling you how much extra time you are using. If you leave a quiz in the middle or pause it, you can always come back and pick right up from where you left off, preserving the question number and time remaining.

The other main navigation option is "Question Browser". This mode is analogous to the "study mode" option that is offered by computer based question banks. You can either view all questions, choose to view questions based on category, or view all the questions you've bookmarked. Within these views, you can organize the resulting questions by number, percentage correct/incorrect, or you can shuffle them. When reviewing the questions in this mode or quiz mode, clicking the rationale button allows you to see the explanations. You can also select the stats button to see how well you've been doing overall on that particular question, and the last time you attempted the question.

Question Quality:
Now to the most important part, the quality of the 1,104 questions. Overall, I'd have to say the questions do a pretty good job of being high yield in terms of the medical knowledge covered. Looking at the questions, I easily found topics that were definitely on my Step 2 test. When it comes to accurately portraying the style of writing you'll find on step 2, I think this app did a decent job, not a great job. I still think USMLE World and Kaplan do a better job overall when it comes to emulating a USMLE question, but then again, they don't have their Qbanks on the iPhone. That said, the material covered in the questions and the explanations is definitely high yield and you'll get a lot of good learning out of these questions.

What I liked:

  • High Yield topics covered with solid questions and explanations.
  • Overall great user interface.
  • If you accidentally closed the app during a quiz, app will give you the option to start where you left off.
  • Nice use of pictures within the questions. Pictures will expand once clicked on.
  • Timer in quiz mode.
  • Cumulative performance broken down by sections.
  • Ability to bookmark.

What I didn't like:

  • In some questions, text is too small (when answering questions that are in a 2 or 3 part series). In these types of questions, the explanation is the same and answers all parts of the question, instead of being unique to each question.
  • No option to view lab values
  • No landscape mode, and cannot zoom in or out.
  • Although most of the questions are categorized, the questions for practice tests 1-8 are not categorized based on specialty.

Improvements that could be made:

  • Ability to sync more questions
  • An option to increase the text size, or zoom in and out.
  • Option to cross out answer choices.
  • Option to highlight parts of a question or parts of the explanation.
  • Ability to add custom notes to the questions.

Conclusion:

So overall, my opinion of medical educational products by Lange hasn't changed too much, I'm still a fan. I found the question bank to be high yield, but the questions were not written as well as USMLE World or Kaplan. My biggest complaint has to be the small text size experienced in some of the questions, it would be great to have the option to customize the size of the font.

It should be noted that this app isn't a substitute for a larger traditional computer based Q bank, such as Kaplan, USMLE World, or Exam Masters. You should definitely still use those question banks as your primary source of study. They have more questions and are written very well. That said, this is still a good USMLE step 2 study app.

The best way to use this app is to supplement the Q-bank you already have. Whether you're riding the bus, subway, or waiting in line, you can always be studying for Step 2. The user interface is designed well enough to where you can do bursts of studying, and pick up right where you left off with ease. At the end of the day, I wish I would have had this app while I was studying for step 2. Plus, at $33.99(discounted until October 31st), it's a good buy when you take into account the number of questions you get verse one of the traditional computer Q banks, except the Lange Q bank app will always be at your fingertips and in the palm of your hands. This type of portability for step 2 questions is much needed and sorely lacking.