Brosencephalon for Step 1 Review

Is Brosencephalon a good resource for USMLE Step 1 review?

If you’ve begun the process of reviewing for USMLE Step 1, then you might have encountered a resource called Brosencephalon. This is one of a few popular resources that many medical students use for reviewing for Step 1. Is Brosencephalon worth your time? Should you give this resource a try as you prepare for Step 1, or should you focus your attention elsewhere? We took a comprehensive look at this resource, so we could present you with the pros and cons of using Brosencephalon for Step 1 review.


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Brosencephalon is a flashcard deck

Brosencephalon is a pre-made deck of Anki flashcards. For those who aren’t already familiar with Anki, it’s a flashcard app that uses spaced repetition to help you learn. The design of Anki takes into account decades of research on memory, in order to present cards at the optimal intervals to help you learn information as efficiently as possible. You can create your own Anki flashcards, or upload premade flashcard decks into it. In order to use Brosencephalon, you’ll need Anki.

The Brosencephalon deck was created in 2014 by Amreet Sidhu, a medical student, as a resource to study for USMLE Step 1, based off of First Aid and Pathoma. He decided to make the deck publicly available, to help other medical students in their studying. Since then, the community of medical students has continued to improve the flashcards – correcting errors, discarding useless or duplicate flashcards, and creating new cards for concepts that weren’t originally included. At this point, Brosencephalon is a well-honed flashcard deck that reviews the high-yield topics for USMLE Step 1. The latest version is available free of charge here.

This resource is great for review, rather than as a primary source for learning

Brosencephalon can be a great addition to your study toolkit. The Anki method is well-known for helping students to retain information. These are high-yield topics that are likely to show up on your exam, and Brosencephalon may help you to remember them.

At the same time, we wouldn’t recommend using this as your main study resource for Step 1. The flashcards are most useful for helping you to retain information that has already been learned, rather than for learning concepts for the first time. Keep in mind that a flashcard presents a small, isolated piece of information; this is helpful for remembering facts, but will not help you to connect different concepts in order to build your overall framework of understanding and clinical reasoning skills. Also, unlike other resources (such as UWorld), this is not a QBank, meaning that the questions are not USMLE style. Brosencephalon is an excellent addition to other resources for Step 1 review, but is not suitable for being your primary resource.

Brosencephalon organization

The Brosencephalon cards are not divided into subdecks when you download them. This is done to minimize the risk of errors occurring in the download process. Unfortunately, this means that you have a deck of over 13000 cards that aren’t subdivided into sections, which can make the deck a bit unwieldy at first. Fortunately, the cards are well-tagged in a hierarchical structure (based on how topics are organized in First Aid), which  makes it easy to divide them up and use them as needed for specific subjects. You could even use these cards during your first and second year classes, to help you cement your knowledge for the long term and feel prepared for the USMLE when the time comes.

Anki requires daily use

If you haven’t used Anki before, then it’s important to know what you’re getting into. Anki is designed to present cards in a specific, scientifically-proven way that helps you to learn and retain information. It’s important that you use Anki every day, and complete that day’s cards. This will include however many new cards you select per day, plus any older cards that are up for review at that time.

Because it needs to be used daily, Anki can actually be a great way to build a study habit for USMLE Step 1. If you keep up with your Anki schedule, you’ll be ensuring that you dedicate some time every day to Step 1 review. At the same time, it’s important to be realistic about how much time you’ll have to dedicate to Anki per day. The Brosencephalon deck contains 13,000 cards, and you’ll choose how many new cards you would like Anki to present per day. If you get very ambitious and choose 500 new cards per day, you’ll find yourself looking at many more than that number daily, when you add in the older cards that the app will also present. If you don’t end up having time to do them all on schedule, then you’ll lose some of the legendary Anki efficiency. This is why you should make sure that you choose a realistic number of new cards to look at per day.

Brosencephalon can be a useful review tool for studying for USMLE Step 1

If you’re considering using Brosencephalon, we recommend giving it a try as a secondary review resource. Make sure that you’re prioritizing using other resources, including at least one QBank as your primary resource. However, adding Brosencephalon may make a difference for some students, especially those who feel that they would benefit from being more efficient at remembering facts.

Every student is different. As with every resource, Brosencephalon will be right for some students and not as useful for others. Creating a personalized study plan based on your strengths and weaknesses is essential for success on the USMLE Step 1. A tutor may be helpful in creating the best plan for you, to help you do well on this exam and move forward in your medical career with confidence. Medlearnity’s tutors are highly experienced and have helped many students achieve success with Step 1 and beyond. If you’d like to try out a one-hour tutoring session for free, please contact us here.

About the author 

Akshay Goel MD

Dr. Goel is a body-trained radiologist and an expert in medical education and imaging informatics. He completed his Radiology Residency at Columbia University Medical Center and his fellowship at Weill Cornell Medicine. Dr. Goel has guided several students and doctors into successful careers over the past decade. He continues to help Medlearnity tutors optimize their educational methodology to drive the highest tutoring and admissions impact possible.

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