Mike’s Medical School Book List

Mike’s Medical School Books

There are a lot of medical school books out there and many options for books to buy. Here are my suggestions based on my experience and the experience of my friends.

  • Premed/Applying

    • Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR). Now Available online for $15!
      This book is a must-have when you are applying to medical school. It is produced by the AAMC (American Association of Medical Colleges) and is “The Most Authoritative Guide to U.S. and Canadian Medical Schools.” And it really is. I used this book mainly to research specific medical schools. It gives information about average MCAT and GPA, in-state vs out-of-state admissions, average debt, required classes and financial aid information. This is the best resource to help you see which schools are a good fit for you and where you have the best chance of being accepted. Schools are listed alphabetically and by location for all US and Canadian medical schools. It also gives a lot of useful information about a career in medicine, managing the cost of medical education, and some information about Caribbean medical schools. This information is now available in the “Guidebook,” and not in the MSAR online. If you are going to buy one medical school book, buy this one! With the new online version, it’s far easier to search by MCAT, GPA, state, etc. so that you can easily find schools that are a good fit for you. To buy this book, click here.


  • The Medical School Interview: Secrets and a System for Success by Jeremiah Fleenor.
    This is the book that I used to prepare for my medical school interviews. It is a easy-to-read, to-the-point book. Jeremiah Fleenor had experience on the admissions committee at his school, giving him a good insider perspective on what works for the interview. This medical school book gives basic strategies for preparation and for presentation. These include tips such as having your own agenda of what you want to present of yourself at the interview and mirroring the interviewer’s body language. It also includes many questions that you can prepare for, several of which I got while I was interviewing.
  • How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie.
    At the end of the day, the medical school interview is a lot about whether people like you. Although it may not be specifically a medical school book, you will be glad you bought it. This book will help you develop skills that will help you do what the title says: win friends and influence people. It focuses on basic skills such as never complaining, smiling and showing sincere appreciation. It illustrates these principles through examples of successful people. This book will not only help you in your interviews, but in your life if you start living the principles it teaches.
    • USMLE Step 1

      • This is probably the test that will give you the most stress as a medical student. You take this test between your second and third year of medical school. It has a large bearing on how competitive you will be for your residency. There are many programs that can be helpful for you to study. I took a more basic approach with these two books and studying USMLEWorld Question bank and scored in the 97th percentile. I went through each book 2-3 times, reviewing what I had read at the end of the day and then doing a review day at the end of the week. I studied more from books at the beginning and did more study questions at the end. This approach may not work for everyone, but it did work for me.
      • First Aid for the USMLE Step 1.
        You may have already heard about this medical school book. It is used by most medical students to study for Step 1. It gives brief summaries of the most important information (most frequently tested) found on Step 1. If you know this material extremely well, you will do well on the test. This is also a good medical school book to use throughout your first and second years, as some of my classmates did. That way when you study for Step 1, the text is already familiar to you and you know what material will likely be tested on Step 1.


  • Rapid Review Pathology by Edward Goljan.
    This is a great medical school book for a review of pathophysiology. It is presented in an outline format that breaks disease into several different categories. There are also key points in blue in the margins that are “high yield” points for the USMLE. Many, many questions on Step 1 are about pathophysiology and I felt that this book prepared me very well for the test.
  • Medical School

    • For your actual course work, your school will give you required texts. This is one of the medical school books list mainly for your third and fourth year. You can also start studying some of these books as you learn about certain diseases so that you can know how those diseases look in a real patient. That’s what you’ll be doing for your career, so it’s good to start practicing early!
    • Pocket Medicine
      I have just come to realize how wonderful this medical school book is and would have used it MUCH more had I realized how great it is. This book is a gold mine. If you are going to buy one book for third and fourth year, this is the one.
      During your third and fourth year, you will be sent to see patients. They will have a chief complaint and often will already have a diagnosis. This book will help you know exactly what questions to ask in the history, what to look for on physical exam, what’s on your differential diagnosis, what tests to order and the treatment. Use this and your presentations and notes will be AWESWOME! I just started using it heavily during my ICU rotation and LOVED it. As I said before, if you’re going to buy one medical school book for third and fourth year and beyond, make it this one. And, if you’re going into pediatrics, make sure you pick up the peds book by the same authors.
    • Maxwell Quick Medical Reference.
      You will use this medical school book frequently to write notes and reference facts quickly on your rotations. It also has ACLS (advanced cardiac life support) guidelines right in front so if you get an emergency you will know exactly what to do and when to do it. Priceless! I’ve used it almost every day. It has algorithms, outlines for notes for basically every rotation, lab values, equations, guides for the physical exam and other important facts. A must-have!
    • Case Files Series by Eugene Toy.

    • These have been my favorite medical school books during third year. They are for specific specialties/rotations and give common cases for that specialty. They start with a story about a patient coming in with certain complaints and physical exam findings. It then asks you what the most likely diagnosis is and what you should do next. You turn the page and it gives you the answers with explanation about the disease. It then asks you follow-up questions with answers and explanations at the end. After reading each case just one time I felt like I knew it well. That’s one of the best benefits of these books in my mind. They are also good preparation for the exams you have at the end of every rotation (yes, you still have tests third year) called Shelf exams.
    • Pretest Series.

      For me, questions are the best way to prepare for exams. The questions in the pretest medical school books are similar to those you will see on the shelf exams for each specialty and may be slightly more difficult. This is good because it will prepare you well for the exam.
    • MKSAP for Students.

      Probably the best question book for internal medicine. Detailed questions and answers to prepare you well for the medicine shelf. This is also a great book to prepare for any of your shelf exams as many of them are heavily medicine-based. Also great prep for USMLE Step 2 CK!

Hopefully these medical school books will prove useful to you as they have to me. Best of luck!

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