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on April 29, 2012
I am in the midst of my STEP studying and this book is giving me aneurysms.

I'm just going to start with the PROS list, which is shorter.
1. Condensed and poignant
2. Decent for review (rapid)
3. Images are in color
4. Good source for mnemonics

1. Many of the sections look like they were just copy-pasted from contributors without any significant editing or formatting
2. Some of the information presented is the COMPLETE OPPOSITE of what is actually correct. (Quinidine is an inducer vs. Quinidine is an inhibitor)
3. There is an unprecedented list of errata
4. The same list is currently non-exhaustive and GROWING
5. I often find myself wasting more time memorizing mnemonics that obscure what I am actually trying to memorize.
6. I am putting more information into the book than I am gathering from it. It is quickly becoming my new personal notebook.
7. Many of the images for physiology lack captions or adequate explanations.

Like I already mentioned in the PROS section, I would use this book for its rapid review. I would HIGHLY recommend downloading the errata PDF and match its errors to sections that you are studying. Or else you might end up learning something that is completely WRONG.

I guess another PRO to this book is that it is the main source of rage that is needed to fuel my studies.
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on August 19, 2012
There are a few truths in med school. One of those is to pick up a copy of First Aid and use that as your bible for the Board exams. Unfortunately, using this edition would be like reading stories about Jesus being killed by Brutus instead of being sentenced by Pontius Pilate. As of this post, there are 20 pages worth of errata - errata that even corrects itself!

I appreciate that this book is in color - I really do. However, it's scary to see how many errors exist in this book. While it is too late to change things now, I would hope the FirstAid Team takes note of these errors and makes the correction themselves for the 2013 edition. It's taken hours of my time to correct these errors and now I'm no longer sure I'm able to trust the Gold Standard for Board review. Seeing other reviewers write the same things makes me think I'm not alone.
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on January 27, 2012
I'm a second-year medical student taking step 1 in March 2012. I bought the 2010 FA book when I started, and marked it up as we went through the subjects in school, just as I was advised. So two months ago, I had a totally personalized (and heavily highlighted) book that I thought would be great for rapid reviewing.

Back when FA 2011 came out, I didn't really care since the changes were incremental, and it seemed like they actually took more information out to make it higher yield. There were error corrections, but that list was publicly available so I didn't care. When I gave a talk to incoming first-years in August (before 2012 came out), I told them to do what I did (buy it now, annotate it, then keep the same version for the boards), since updates to FA weren't a huge deal. It was more important to have your notes in there.

Then I saw FA 2012. I bought it immediately, and I haven't opened my highlighted 2010 version since.

The fact that this version is in color is HUGE. In particular: biochem pathways are much easier to understand (rate limiting steps stick out more, important aspects are better emphasized) and color histo/heme/micro slides are inline with the text (rather than at the end). Also, the entire text just looks nicer with the subtly colored headers and emphases. I know that sounds small, but when you're staring at the thing for 8 hours a day you start to appreciate it.

So to students taking the exam soon, I'd recommend taking a look at this book. Also, I'd recommend going to Staples or somewhere similar and getting the pages spiral bound (this is my preference) or punched into a 3-ring binder.

Now the caveats:
It isn't integrated with USMLERx (the study service by the FA people) yet. The videos in Express are still for 2011, and the flashcards are for 2011/2010. So the page numbers don't match up. As a side note, I thought that this would be a fantastic service but it's been kind of a disaster. They've had tech problems that totally shut me out (not the stress I need right now), it's buggy, and it's just not very well polished all around.

Doctors in Training also matches up with 2011 right now, but that will be updated soon from what I hear.

Some people complain about the quality of the paper, but I've actually found it OK. Highlighter can leak through since it's pretty thin, but it's actually better than previous years.

Also, parts of the book still seem unfinished, with some poor-quality B&W pics still spattered about and some errors present that should have been fixed. And right now, you don't have an errata list.

But to all med students studying for the board: GET FIRST AID. It is the most important resource you will have.
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on January 19, 2012
Anyone preparing for the USMLE Step 1 exam knows that "First Aid For the USMLE Step 1" is a must have. While it is not intended as a stand alone review book it aids your review by narrowing your focus to the most frequently tested areas of the exam.

The folks at the First Aid Team have outdone themselves with this edition. The color images that used to be tucked towards the end of the the book in previous editions have now been well integrated into the main text where they really belong. But that's not all. There are many colored diagrams, graphs and illustrations that makes learning a lot more fun. This is a really colorful book now. Tremendous amount of work must have gone into this edition for sure.

Now as far as the actual content is concerned there is not much of update from 2011 edition. The margin notes and blanks are gone in this edition but there are still plenty of white spaces left toward the end of each chapter for notes. The paper is still high quality glossy bond that can withstand highlighting without smears.

Final note: if you are already far in your studies and have previous edition there is no need to rush and upgrade especially if you have already added lots of notes to it. But if you're just starting out 2012 "First Aid for the USMLE Step 1" is the one you need.
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on April 14, 2012
1) Extremely valuable Step 1 study tool due to the dense compilation of high-yield material. It will probably not leave your side for long during step 1 studying.

2) The colored diagrams and photos are an improvement from older editions.

3) There are tons of helpful mnemonics for remembering facts.

CONS: (***Please take note first aid team!!!!!!! Yep, I'm also talking to you, Le, Bhushan, and Hofman!!***)
1) The index is ABSOLUTELY TERRIBLE. Because of this, a lot of time can be wasted trying to find things in the book. The incompleteness of First Aid's index is a common complaint made by my classmates as well. (To med students reading this: If they don't do something about this, the amazon feature to search within the book is helpful.)

2) There are a lot of important points left out (for example, the microbiology section is missing many common bacteria and important notes regarding bacteria and other microbes).

3) If you want to take your own notes in the book to improve its completeness (adding relevant info, mnemonics, etc.) there is hardly any space to write them. This forces you to take notes in a notebook or on your computer which is problematic. Having the space to write all of your notes in the same place would make review more efficient.

4) The paper is a little flimsy but mostly just notorious for smearing when written on. Even special pens created to be non-smearing will smudge on this paper. Higher quality paper would be a great improvement.

5) There are an unacceptable amount of errors in the book. While a list of errata can be found online, it's frustrating that a better job wasn't done to catch the errors in the first place.

OVERALL: Despite the many shortcomings, this book is a must have for Step 1 review.
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on March 27, 2012
Update: I've now been using First Aid 2012 for 6 weeks and, BOY do I need to reevaluate my prior review.

I'm giving this book 2 stars* because:
1) SLOPPY - so many errors. How could they publish a REVIEW BOOK and subsequently have 10+ pages of errata. Ridiculous.
2) Where'd the margins go? How are we supposed to take notes and annotate if there's no space? Seriously, add more room in the book. I'm sure no one minds if the book is longer.
3) Use BETTER PAPER! Every 2nd year is going to buy this book. Why does the First Aid team need to be so stingy with paper quality. Make it so we can comfortably write/highlight and so pages don't easily fall out when it's 3-hole punched.

*Note - keep in mind that this is still the best Step 1 review book available, and my review are mainly suggestions First Aid should consider.

After using my 2011 for most of my 2nd year, it's clear First Aid took out a lot of info the deemed not high yield. Not sure if this is good or not. Just an fyi.

original review:
Not sure what all the hating on this book is about. I've been using FA 2012 for a few weeks and it's awesome.

The color histology and pathology images are great. So much better than having to flip to the back of the book (which, in all seriousness, I never did). They did not redo the diagrams/figures in color....looks like the just their Microsoft paint "fill-in" tool. But whatever, this book is great.

I have not had any experiences smudges w/highlighters. And the paper must be thicker or denser, b/c writing w/a pen does not imprint the page like in the 2011 version.

Only complaint, margins could be bigger since 1) it would allow for better note taking, and 2) the beginnings of some heading got chopped off when I unbound/3 hole punched it.
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on October 15, 2012
There are so many errors in this book and they are major errors that would really mess up your studying if you didnt know any better. They even made mnemonics from the errors! How is that even possible? This book has lost focus of what is important. Even the errata (corrections) have errors in them or just totally unclear. They were lazy in making this book, and they were even lazy in making the corrections! There is no customer support, so there is ZERO chance of getting anything cleared up. I have tried NUMEROUS emails, without any success. Use an old FA if you have to, but do NOT buy this one. Unless you want to spend endless hours being confused and correcting the books.
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on June 23, 2012
First Aid has long been the bible for studying for shelf exams and Step 1, and the 2011 edition really helped for NBME shelf exams, so I have to say I was honestly disappointed with the number of errors in this book. Yes, every year's edition has a file containing the errata. However, this one just seems ridiculous - there are stretches where every page has at least one error, and some of them are very basic concepts (I'm talking screwing up Hand of Benediction/claw hand level of error here). The overall feel is that in the rush to revamp the book, nobody actually proofread the darn thing thoroughly - and that's scary, considering that FA is meant to be the go-to resource for Step. With a 17-page document filled with errors - with 15-20 errors per page - I gotta say, this book feels like the laziest, most rushed effort yet.

The good: a section with the basics, followed by a section with systems-based review. Good colour images, same detail you've come to expect from FA. Memorable mnemonics, high yield information.

The bad: shocking amount of errors requiring careful and diligent correction from the available errata file; systems can feel counter-intuitive if your school doesn't use that format extensively.

Bottom line: Who are you kidding, you're going to buy FA at some point. However, if you can wait for the 2013 edition, I would recommend doing that.
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on June 9, 2012

1.) It is nice to have a color edition with the appropriate pictures in line with the text instead of always having to flip to a different section of the book to reference a histological slide.

2.) Lots of white space and places to take notes.

3.) Most of the sections provide a good, brief synopsis of the important diseases you need to know.


1.) Numerous mistake -- the errata posted at the FA website is extremely long and continues to grow. Some of them are fairly benign such as misspelled word but others are pretty significant such as mislabeling various coronary arteries. It seems like this edition was rushed off to the press without even so much as a second glance.

2.) The index is rather useless. Many diseases are only indexed based on a broad general category as opposed to the disease itself being indexed.

3.) Most of the biochem section is so vague as to be rather useless for a lot of USMLE World questions. I have found myself having to add whole pages to get an accurate picture of what is going on.

In conclusion, for those of you thinking about purchasing this, I would hold off for the 2013 edition. Hopefully, most of the errors and updated index should at least make this more usable.
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on April 11, 2013
Stay away from this edition. Though the price may seem appealing, the errata list is over 30 pages long. 20 of those pages are "major" errata; add the "minor" errata and there are over 30 pages of mistakes. Spend the extra $10 or $15 and purchase the 2013 edition that has less than 10 pages of mistakes.

I honestly don't understand how a text that has been in print for over 15 editions can STILL have errors in it, especially when it comes to basic medical knowledge (unlike treatments, medications, which may very well change with the times).

I contacted the writers about an exchange to the newer edition. Smartly, they passed me on to McGraw Hill. When I called McGraw Hill, the rep told me to leave a message with his supervisor. I did, and I don't expect a phone call back.

I encourage other students to voice their opinions and let McGraw Hill and the writers know that it is unacceptable to publish a study aid such as this with such major errors.
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