Top 3 Resources You Need To Succeed on the Neurology Rotation’s 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: 

Neurology Specific Resources

The textbooks or reference books you can use include Blueprints Neurology, Pretest Neurology and Case Files Neurology. I would recommend buying one or more of these books at the start of the rotation so that you can catch up on reading during any down time. These books serve as a textbook, provide vignettes and offer test-style questions. 

Once you feel like you have enough of a basic knowledge base, you can move on to testing your knowledge with question banks like UWorld and NBME exams. 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. Blueprints Neurology 
    1. What it is: High yield and concise textbook that reviews key concepts with a summary box at the end of each chapter. Great for quick, targeted review of a specific topic
    2. Pros: Concise; summarizes main points at the end of each chapter
    3. Cons: Does not go into as much detail as other textbooks
    4. Find it here: 
  1. Pretest Neurology
    1. What it is: 500 shelf style questions with explanations for correct and incorrect answers 
    2. Pros: Good breadth of material; excellent way to test your knowledge and learn from mistakes 
    3. Cons: May cover more details than is typically found on the shelf exam 
    4. Find it here: 
  1. Case Files Neurology
    1. What it is: 60 clinical cases that walk you through diagnosis and management and includes clinical pearls and discussion of key terms 
    2. Pros: Another question bank to test your knowledge in context of clinical vignettes
    3. Cons: Not as “high yield” as other tried and true question banks like UWorld 
    4. Find it here: 

For the neurology clerkship, as with all other clerkships, it is helpful to use textbooks to establish a basic foundation and then use questions (such as from question banks or textbooks) to test recall and identify weaknesses. For example, if you take a couple of practice exams through NBME or UWorld and realize that you consistently miss questions on movement disorders, then you can use Blueprints Neurology to read more about 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.