Updated: Sep 28, 2021
First Aid is widely considered the most valuable resource for USMLE prep along with uWORLD, but like any other tool, it depends how you use it. Here are a few tips to guide you in using this valuable resource.
When to start using it?
It can be helpful to use FA from Day 1 of medical school but don’t stress if you’re a little late to the game. As a junior medical student, follow along with your courses so that you are comfortable with every detail in FA and as a senior, make sure to revise as much as possible. If you’ve gone your entire medical career without using the First Aid, realise you’ll have a lot to digest, but if you put in the hours it will come
Should I buy the newest version?
Buy the newest edition of FA when it is released in Dec/Jan if it’s the first time you’re buying it, as there are year-to-year variations. That said, if you already have access to a slightly older FA, it’s fine. Over 95% of information is congruent.
Ok, I have it. How should I use it?
Now this is the question, here are a few things to consider:
Consider having your book 3-ring punched and placed in a binder so you can add valuable self-made study guides or high-yield sheets from other resources. This will make it easy to remove sections at a time for quick study (at the gym, while following along during class) without carrying a large book.
Correct errors, as there are sure to be some (google “First Aid corrections”). Be a detective and look to ‘prove First Aid wrong’. This will ensure you really process & internalise the knowledge.
A good goal is to have read this book fully once or twice prior to the boards study period, so that you will know it well and just review as needed while doing questions. Note that by ‘reading it’, we mean ‘reading it well’ (not quickly)
The best annotations are those that will help you distinguish between right and wrong USMLE answers. Some students find it helpful to review FA and QBank explanations simultaneously, writing questions and brief explanations in the margins of FA. This achieves two goals: 1) reviewing corresponding content in FA relevant to the QBank questions 2) documenting the question/explanation in FA for review during future passes through FA.
Happy First Aid studying!