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Smash USMLE Review
A detailed breakdown and evaluation of the Smash USMLE review course
Founded by Dr. Adeleke Adesina after self-prepping for all 3 steps of the USMLE and thinking he could offer his insights to aspiring physicians, Smash USMLE offers a non-traditional approach to USMLE prep. This new review course revolves around Dr. Adesina’s video lessons, where he breaks down concepts with practical, experience-based insights and excellent communication skills. But while this sounds great in theory, will this library of video lessons and corresponding question bank keyed to the First Aid textbook be enough to get you over the USMLE hump? We take a deep dive into the Smash USMLE prep course and assess all of its features in this thorough review.
Smash USMLE offers students two different types of prep options – a subscription-based model (with varying durations) and a live online, 4-week course targeted at the USMLE Step 1. The subscription model is Smash USMLE’s most popular option by far, and you can choose from plans with durations of 3 months, 6 months, or 120 months. That last one is not a typo – it really is 120 months, not 12 months.
When you purchase one of these subscription-based options, you get access to all of Smash USMLE’s content for the given period. There are no varying features or differing content between packages – the only difference lies in price and period of access. The 3 Month Elite Plan costs approximately $600, the 6 Month Premier Plan $800, and the 120 Month Lifetime Plan $1,000. Compared to other prep courses, this is fairly competitive in terms of pricing. It is not the cheapest I have seen, but not the most expensive either, landing somewhere in the middle of the pack. If you are looking for the best value in terms of pricing, that would be Lecturio – they are generally considered the value leader in the USMLE prep space.
If you’re like me, you’re probably thinking right now that the 3- and 6-month packages make sense, but 120 months? That’s 10 years of access. I would surely hope you don’t need access for nearly that long. But I assume the point that Smash USMLE is making is that you are purchasing unlimited access, and as such, it is aptly named the “Lifetime Plan.” Determining which plan is best for you will totally depend on your individual circumstances and needs. Whether you plan to use Smash USMLE for just Step 1 or Steps 1 and 2, and how long you plan to take between those exams will all factor in.
Beyond the subscription models, Smash USMLE does offer a one-off, 4-week course – the Masterclass. This live online course meets almost daily for roughly a month, in 2- to 3-hour sessions. Dr. Adeleke Adesina, the founder of Smash USMLE, leads these classes and covers much of the same content you get in the on-demand course, but with a focus on high yield topics. This 4-week, live online prep option costs approximately $1,000.
Course options and pricing current as of date of publication.
Lesson and Coursework Quality
In reviewing the Smash USMLE course, the first thing that jumps out is the seemingly endless library of video lessons. This course (the popular subscription-based package, that is), clearly puts its emphasis on video-based lectures for teaching relevant USMLE content. Whereas some other courses focus on a text-based approach, Smash USMLE leans on video lectures.
In total, when you subscribe to their online catalogue of USMLE content, you get access to 450+ hours of video lessons (across both Step 1 and Step 2). This is a TON of video instruction, and frankly, probably more than you’ll ever get to. But it’s always better to have too much than too little I suppose.
Now you may be wondering how they could possibly derive and structure this much instruction. Well the answer is simple – they use the First Aid textbook. Rather just creating some arbitrary series of videos with a hodgepodge structure, Smash USMLE utilizes the tried and true First Aid book as their basis. Honestly, most every student studying for the USMLE is going to use the First Aid book in some fashion anyway, so you may as well lean into it and use it as a crutch. I really like this approach to their video lesson structure.
Specifically, the Smash USMLE video lessons track with the First Aid book, and each video lecture is built around a subsection of this legendary prep book. The First Aid book presents all of the necessary facts, principles and concepts that you need to learn for the USMLE. But the book does so in a very dry, matter of fact manner. In other words, you just get facts. Yes, there are helpful illustrations and practice problems, but not everyone does well with self-driven book study alone.
That is where the Smash USMLE lectures come in. They take the same information and present it with a slightly different spin. Not only does this help visual learners retain the information more easily, it also offers a different angle of thinking about the content, which can also deepen understanding.
To be exact, the Smash USMLE videos don’t just regurgitate the facts from First Aid. Instead, your instructor, almost always Dr. Adesina, offers his clinical and experience-based insights to help put the facts in context and make them relevant. This practical advice and insight serve as a sort of memory aid, putting things in perspective. In addition, Dr. Adesina explains in detail how the USMLE test makers like to test these facts.
I love this approach to tackling USMLE content and learning the necessary material. It is one thing to learn these concepts; it a whole other thing to learn how they are tested. In many cases, learning how the material is tested on the USMLE is almost more important. And given that USMLE exam questions center around clinical vignettes with real life patient scenarios, the experience-based insights and stories are really helpful for getting in the right mindset. This approach to video in my mind was one of the highlights of this course.
Now in terms of the videos themselves, the format and production quality frankly stink. Your instructor (again, almost always Dr. Adesina) appears onscreen before a standard whiteboard. Usually there is some basic framework already drawn up on the board, such as an anatomical sketch or biological process. As he speaks, he will frequently turn to the whiteboard to use the diagram to exemplify points, and make additional notes and drawings to flesh out concepts.
Your instructor is constantly moving back and forth between the camera and the board, which does get a little annoying, as it slows down the pace of the video lectures. And sometimes the whiteboard can even be hard to read.
To be honest, this is a very dated approach to video lessons. I have reviewed a ton of different company’s video lectures, and this is about as basic and outdated as they come. I would really like to Smash USMLE upgrade their tech here and incorporate a digital whiteboard or onscreen graphics. Anything really – this just feels like an early 2000’s production.
For some people, this may not matter at all. For most others, it may matter a lot. It totally depends on if video production value affects your learning. But format aside, the content of these videos is pretty good. As mentioned, I love the anecdotal references, the context given to these principles, and the insights into how the material is tested. In addition, I love Dr. Adesina’s energy.
A lot of USMLE prep lectures can be boring and dry. But Dr. Adesina brings a ton of energy to these videos. He is clearly very passionate about what he does and helping med students nail the USMLE, and it shows. He is expressive and you can really connect with him. This definitely increases the engagement level of these video lessons and helps with understanding of the material. All in all, I was a fan of the video content and onscreen talent, but not so much with the video format.
After your video lessons, there are practice questions for you to work. In fact, there are over 4,000 of them. The questions are written by Smash USMLE’s team, and designed to be as close as possible to actual exam questions. And I will just say, they do an OK job. In my opinion, these questions are somewhat close to the content, structure and style of the questions you will see on exam day, but definitely not a perfect match.
Further, these questions are presented in a software format that is somewhat close to the official USMLE testing software, but again, not a match. Following each question, you get an explanation of the problem. These text-based solutions go into detail explaining the underlying concept, the rationale behind the right answer and why the incorrect answer choices were wrong. These answer explanations are pretty good, and I like their thoroughness, but not the best I’ve seen
All of these questions are presented through a question bank, which you can use to customize quizzes and problem sets. You filter by subject, number of questions, and more features. This is a particularly useful tool if you’re struggling in one area and want to create a couple of targeted quizzes to hammer those question types.
After you are finished with your practice questions, you can analyze your performance through Smash USMLE’s performance metrics. These analytics were not the most powerful I have seen, but were better than most others. Essentially, you can see what percentage of total questions you have completed, your overall accuracy, and a detailed breakdown of accuracy by subtopic. It is the breakdown of performance by subtopic that I used the most to steer my studies.
On that point, one other minor complaint I had with the Smash USMLE course is the lack of clear study plan. There is a basic study schedule that they provide, but there is no overarching and comprehensive study plan that guides you through step-by-step, like the type of plan you get with Kaplan. I often directed my own prep, and chose to watch videos and work practice questions as I saw fit. I think a stronger, step-by-step study plan would help here.
Overall, I was a fan of the Smash USMLE prep materials, but rate this package somewhere in the middle of the pack. The video lectures, while severely lacking in the production department, are still informative and I loved Dr. Adesina’s energy. Additionally, the 4,000+ practice questions are pretty well-written and I liked the accompanying text explanations. But all in all, I’d prefer PASS Program or Kaplan over Smash if you’re looking for a comprehensive review course.
No Practice Exams?
Unfortunately, Smash USMLE does not offer any standalone full-length practice exams. This is a real shame, as many other prep providers offer such a perk. I think taking a couple of full-length practice tests under exam-like conditions is one of the best methods of prepping for the real exam, so hopefully Smash USMLE will add a few practice exams in the near future. It would be a major benefit to their students.
The Smash USMLE Masterclass
The Smash USMLE Masterclass offers students the opportunity to learn in a live classroom setting. Like the video lessons, these classes are taught by Dr. Adesina. In total, you will receive about 90 or so hours of live instruction during near-daily lessons over a 4-week span. These classes meet virtually via webcast, and students can ask questions in real time.
I didn’t personally take the Masterclass (I used the on-demand subscription prep materials); however, I would assume the on-demand video lessons and Dr. Adesina’s classes are very similar, with the added benefit of being able to interact in the live class. As mentioned, Dr. Adesina is a great communicator and very insightful USMLE teacher, so I am sure there is value in these classes.
That said, these classes cover just 90 hours of content, while the video lessons cover 450+ hours. As such, the videos clearly go deeper and cover more content. And if you are looking for the most comprehensive and lengthiest live class course in the industry, check out Pass Program. They offer live class prep packages that last 5, 8 and 12 weeks in length, with daily class sessions.
User Experience and Interface
For some students seeking out the best USMLE prep course for their needs, they could not care less about how functional or pretty the platform is, as long as the content behind the door is solid. For others, they want a sleek design. Whatever camp you fall into, or maybe somewhere in between, know that I never had any issues with this online platform. I was always able to easily access my materials and never had issues with load speeds or materials not opening. Everything always worked fine.
Extra Resources From Smash
Smash USMLE offers a few supplemental resources to complement the core components of their USMLE prep course. Most notably among these resources are the flashcards, study guide, and email support. Starting with the flashcards, Smash USMLE provides students with over a thousand high-yield flashcards. I found these to be a very valuable study tool. I love flashcards, and may be biased in that regard, but these are an excellent resource. They cover the most heavily tested topics and deliver a thorough explanation of each concept covered.
The study guide is also a nice resource, but I didn’t use it all that much. The study guide covers techniques for nailing for the USMLE, mostly around studying and test taking strategies. I liked this book, but spent much more time in the First Aid book.
Lastly, the email support from Smash USMLE is helpful as well. If you ever get stuck on a question or have an issue with a lecture, you can shoot them an email and get a response. I found this to be useful the couple of times that I used this function. The turnaround response times were a little slow, but they always delivered.
Private Tutoring with Smash USMLE
When you sign up with Smash USMLE, you will get an initial consult with one of their physician experts, as well as ongoing coaching from their advisors. These are both useful support tools, but they are not exactly true 1:1 dedicated tutoring. The advice I got through the coaching was helpful for general exam strategies and more basic information, but didn’t go into substantive detail.
If you want in-the-weeds, nitty gritty questions answered, you’ll need to pay up for some private tutoring. And Smash USMLE does offer this service. For $125/hour you can meet with one of their staff tutors, or for $250/hour you can sync up with Dr. Adesina himself. I didn’t use these services but would imagine that they would be solid if you needed some extra help.
Content Access Period
The duration of your access to Smash USMLE’s online content will totally depend on which package you sign up for. If you purchased the 3-month package, you’ll get 3 months of access. If you purchased the 6-month package, you get 6 months of access. And so on and so forth. The only difference here is the Masterclass. Your content access period around this package is tied generally to the length of the course. So after your 4-week Masterclass course is over, your access will expire shortly thereafter.
The Mobile App
Smash USMLE does provide a mobile app, enabling students to study on the go. The app is available for both iOS and Android systems, and can be downloaded for free. Once you sign in, you get access to all of your course materials – video lessons, practice questions, text explanations, flashcards and more. It’s actually pretty impressive how much they packed into the app. And you can access all of this stuff offline.
That said, I did find the app to be a little clunky. It is not the smoothest app to operate, and load times were a hair slow. You probably know the type of app I am talking about – things just aren’t super responsive, and there’s always a lag or a double click needed when trying to access something. But as promised, I was able to access everything in the course and video streaming quality once running was perfect.
Does Smash USMLE Have a Pass Guarantee?
One of the best aspects of the Smash USMLE program is their pass guarantee. Smash USMLE is extremely student-focused and wants everyone to be 100% satisfied with their product. That is why they offer a 100% money back guarantee if you fail to pass your boards exam. With an advertised USMLE pass rate of 97%, Smash USMLE is pretty confident in their ability to get you across the finish line. And is likely why they have no issue promising a pass. This is a really nice benefit to students seeking some insurance. Check out their full refund policy for the technical details.
Verdict: Smash USMLE Review Course
When considered as whole, Smash USMLE offers a well-rounded bundle of USMLE prep materials for the price. Their deep lineup of video lectures is led by energetic founder Dr. Adeleke Adesina and built around the legendary First Aid textbook. These lessons take the concepts from First Aid and dive deeper into how the exam makers test the material, and provide real life insights to increase comprehension and retention of this complicated subject matter. However, the production value and format of these video lessons is severely lacking and could use a significant upgrade.
Smash USMLE also provides a healthy dose of practice work with a question bank of 4,000+ problems. These practice questions resemble real exam questions which you will see on test day, and each has an accompanying text-based explanation with thorough analysis. Notably, I would like to see Smash USMLE upgrade their dated user interface and build a more comprehensive step-by-step study plan for students into their program. But overall, this is an alright course and we rate it out somewhere in the middle of the pack. For students that like to learn via video lecture and hammer tons of practice problems, Smash USMLE is a decent choice.
How much does the Smash USMLE review course cost?
Smash USMLE’s prep options range in price from roughly $600 up to $1,000 depending on how long you need to access their materials and the preferred format of your class.
Does Smash USMLE have live classes?
Smash USMLE’s 4-week Masterclass provides students the opportunity to learn in a live, virtual class setting and interact with their instructor and peers. It offers 90+ hours of live instruction.
Is Smash USMLE worth it?
If you learn well through video lessons and working practice problems, Smash USMLE may be worth it. Their library of video lessons and 4,000+ practice problems are a pretty good value for the price.