Top 3 Resources You Need To Succeed on the Internal Medicine Shelf Exam


We’ll get to the shelf exam shortly but first…

This blog post is part of a series for medical students that offers advice on which study aids and question banks to use while preparing for each shelf exam.

Generally, for each shelf exam, you will want to have a textbook or reference book that you can use to study the material as well as several ways to actively test recall, such as question banks or practice exams. 

Clinical medicine starts with the need to make a clinical decision and applying knowledge to make the decision. It’s the opposite of the way they teach you in med school!
  1. The interactive format is better at getting information to stick
  2. You don’t really know the material till you have to reproduce it when asked
  3. It’s the closest format to the shelf exam
  4. As questions expose weak areas, go back and fill them in with textbook material.

For every rotation

I would highly recommend the following resources:

  1. UWorld: 
    1. What it is: Classic often-used question bank that covers topics from all shelf exams 
    2. Pros: Comprehensive, likely covers all topics needed for each shelf exam. Easily divided into subjects so that students can select pertinent questions for each rotation.
    3. Cons: More expensive than other resources. At the time of this blog post, a 360 day subscription is $519. 
    4. Find it here: 
  2. NBMEs: 
    1. What it is: Practice tests designed similarly to the shelf exam
    2. Pros: Similar to actual shelf exam. Can be taken in timed mode to simulate actual exam. Score corresponding to the actual exam is provided. 
    3. Cons: Full answer explanations are not provided.
    4. Find it here: 

Internal Medicine Specific Resources

The internal medicine shelf exam is unique compared to other shelf exams due to its wide breadth of testable topics. For this exam, I would recommend starting on UWorld first as there are >1100 questions to complete.

  • For any topics you are unfamiliar with or do not recall from UWorld questions, I would recommend following that up with targeted reading from Step Up To Medicine or viewing the corresponding OnlineMedEd video for a deeper understanding.
  • Once you have completed all of the available UWorld questions, depending on how much time you have available, you can redo all your incorrects in Uworld before moving on to the NBME exams. 
Because there is so much material in the internal medicine shelf, a rapid review before the end of your rotation by Divine Intervention can be quite useful. Remember, consistent studying spread throughout the duration of your rotation will lead to better long term retention than cramming the night before the exam!
  1. Step Up To Medicine
    1. What it is: High yield and comprehensive textbook that reviews key internal medicine diseases organized by organ system in an outline format. Great for a detailed review of an unfamiliar disease or organ system. 
    2. Pros: Organized well, similar to UWorld tables: General Characteristics, Clinical Features, Diagnosis, Treatment, Complications. 
    3. Cons: May cover more details than is typically found on the shelf exam 
    4. Find it here: 
  1. OnlineMedEd
    1. What it is: Free online video series that dissects major high-yield Internal Medicine topics by organ system and topic. Videos are typically under 20 minutes long. Other paid services like the OnlineMedEd companion notes, whiteboard snapshots, and Qbank are available. 
    2. Pros: Excellent for use on the wards and board exams. Great short review of a specific topic.
    3. Cons: Qbank is not as high yield as the video content. 
    4. Find it here: 
  1. Divine Intervention Comprehensive Medicine Shelf Review
    1. What it is: Vodcast (video podcast) of lectures for a rapid review of Internal Medicine topics in a keyword-style format. Episodes 29-32. 
    2. Pros: Topics discussed are extremely high yield for NBME exams
    3. Cons: The vodcast series is ~11 hours in its entirety. Would recommend listening at 1.5x speed.
    4. Find it here: 

For the internal medicine clerkship, as with all other clerkships, it is helpful to use textbooks to establish a basic foundation if you notice weakness in a certain topic or organ system. Then you can continue using questions (such as from question banks or textbooks) to test recall and identify weaknesses.

For example, if you begin UWorld and realize you are missing several cardiology questions, you can use Step Up to Medicine or OnlineMedEd to review that topic. Targeted review of difficult topics is more “high yield” than reading through an entire textbook.

Question banks such as UWorld or practice exams such as the NBME shelf exams should be integrated throughout your studying so that you can focus on reproducible learning rather than trying to passively memorize an entire textbook. Therefore, practice questions will give you the best idea of your performance and you should regularly take practice exams to assess progress and weak points.