Aligning core preclinical curricula with Step 1 curriculum

Posted by Mike Conner on Nov 14, 2017 1:11:03 PM

Academic Medicine, the journal of the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) published an article titled "Study Behaviors and USMLE Step 1 Performance: Implications of a Student Self-Directed Parallel Curriculum", which you can read online on the Academic Medicine website or download a copy here.

The survey was conducted in 2014 & 2015, right before Firecracker relaunched our student experience to better integrate our 3000+ USMLE Step 1 board questions into our long-term retention system. When we redesigned our platform, a common theme we repeatedly heard from both students and faculty was the frustration with what many people referred to as the "shadow curriculum", which this article also highlighted:

Aligning core preclinical curricula with students’ parallel Step 1 curriculum may yield benefits to students and educators, but should be balanced against overemphasizing Step 1 performance as a meaningful marker of overall trainee quality.

In 2016, we launched the ability for both students and faculty to align their courses to Firecracker's extensive preclinical and clinical medical knowledge. We partner with schools to enable them to introduce board-style questions throughout their courses, everything from weekly formative quizzes to summative exams and board progress tests. This gives schools the power to easily connect their course learning objectives to USMLE content, enabling faculty and administrators to strike the perfect balance between their curricular goal and licensure needs. 

Just in 2017, we've onboarded 14 new medical school partners, supported over 100 courses, and delivered almost 500 formative and summative assessments. Overall, students have covered 11,800,000 topics, reviewed 61,500,000 flashcards, answered 2,000,000 test-style questions, and taken 297,000 notes. Since we launched our support for Open Educational Resources in September, 6,800 students have watched over 4,000 different videos.

If you want to learn more about how Firecracker can help your program better integrate USMLE Step 1 material into your courses, feel free to send me an email at


Welcome to Firecracker

Firecracker is an adaptive learning platform that uses amazing content coupled with spaced repetition to help medical students crush their exams. We offer programs for both individual students, and entire medical schools. If you'd like to learn more contact us at

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