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Reviewing NBME Incorrects: 5 Expert Tips to Boost Your Step 2 CK Score

Mastering Step 2 CK isn't just about memorizing a lot of discrete facts—it's about understanding how to apply that knowledge quickly and correctly under exam conditions. That's where learning from your NBME incorrects comes in (by NBME, we mean the Comprehensive Clinical Science Self Assessment practice tests, or CCSSAs). It's a process that goes beyond reading explanations. It's about targeted review, personalized learning, and addressing the specific reasons you got a question wrong. Here, we review how to make reviews practical and personal.

USMLE Pro student preparing for Step 2 CK

1. Craft Personalized Anki Flashcards

The key to using Anki flashcards effectively is to make them highly targeted. For each incorrect answer, create a flashcard that addresses the specific fact or concept that tripped you up. If you missed a question because you forgot a test result's significance, your flashcard should focus on that test and its clinical implications. This way, your flashcards directly address your learning needs, ensuring that you are shoring up the specific gaps in your knowledge that led to a mistake.

2. Decode Your Reasoning Missteps on Incorrects

To improve your clinical reasoning, you need to dissect not just what you got wrong but why. If premature closure led to your mistake, note this on your flashcard. Then, describe the additional steps you should have taken to reach the correct diagnosis. If it was a knowledge gap issue, the card should be very specific to the fact (or facts) you need to memorize to get a similar question right in the future. This practice helps to train your mind to slow down and consider all possibilities before reaching a conclusion, directly targeting the improvement of your diagnostic reasoning.

3. Engage in Active Learning

Reading the NBME's explanations isn't enough. Active engagement means questioning the material, discussing it with peers, and teaching the concept to someone else. Remember, the NBME's explanations won't tell you why you answered the question incorrectly or how you should approach similar questions in the future. Reviewing incorrects from a single section of an NBME should take you at least an hour and a half, if not more when done correctly. This careful review promotes deeper understanding and helps you integrate the knowledge.

4. Schedule Regular Reviews

Consistency is key. Set aside regular times each week to go through your deck of personalized flashcards. This isn't a quick glance before bed; it's an active session where you test yourself, speak the answers out loud, and ensure you're internalizing both the content and the reasoning strategies.

5. Use Feedback Loops When Reviewing NBMEs

Turn your study sessions into a feedback loop. After reviewing a flashcard, find additional questions on the topic to test your understanding. If you get it wrong again, revise the card to better target your misunderstanding. If you get it right, consider what worked in your reasoning process and apply that technique to other areas. This is easier said than done, but with practice it starts to feel automatic.


By making and regularly reviewing targeted flashcards, decoding your reasoning missteps, actively engaging with the material, scheduling regular reviews, and using a feedback loop, you'll set yourself up for a marked improvement in your Step 2 CK score. Remember, it's not just the quantity of study but the quality of your review that will make all the difference come test day.

Ready to take your studying to the next level? Reach out for a free consultation with USMLE Pro. We can help you develop a personalized study plan that addresses your unique challenges and learning style, guiding you towards your Step 2 CK success.

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