Boards & Beyond: A Review of Medical School’s Best Kept Secret

In medical school, half the battle is figuring out how to study. And more specifically, what to study. In the first year, we are constantly trying to figure out how to make sense of all the information thrown at us. We are fed daily doses of lectures and PowerPoints and problem sets and assigned readings. A major skill that all medical students must hone is their ability to differentiate between important and irrelevant – low yield vs high yield. We need to study smarter, not harder.

And in second year, all students are trying to get an edge in studying for boards. You will receive weekly emails with discount codes for various board review resources which always come accompanied by some flawed research that states, “You NEED this product to get into your dream residency, 265 STEP 1 GUARANTEED if you follow our plan for the small price of your monthly rent”.

(See my list of 4 Essential Medical School Study Resources that Every Student Needs for the essentials)

We are overwhelmed with resources, so we need to decide carefully which ones we spend our ever-increasing loan money on. We all love Sketchy, First Aid is obligatory, and Dr. Sattar is a medical school deity, but one overlooked study resource is Boards and Beyond. I’ve sampled Doctors in Training, watched some Kaplan Lectures, and experimented with First Aid Step 1 Express, but none of these sources compare to the quality and price of Boards and Beyond. Yet when I suggest it to classmates, they look at me with confusion because they’ve never heard of it. This needs to change.

As a disclaimer, note that I receive zero monetary compensation for this post. After using Boards and Beyond for the past two months, I felt genuinely compelled to recommend this product. It’s just that good.

 

What is Boards and Beyond?

Boards and Beyond is a video subscription service created by cardiologist Jason Ryan. While Pathoma quickly became a must amongst medical students worldwide for its ability to concisely teach you high yield pathology for board examination purposes, it is only one piece of the puzzle.

For every other topic (physiology, biochemistry, etc), the only true comprehensive resource that existed was First Aid. But if you’re like me, reading page after page of bullet-point style information is about as dull as the new Arcade Fire album, and doesn’t actively engage you as a learner. Enter Boards and Beyond – the “Pathoma of everything else”.

Boards and Beyond is a comprehensive review of almost every topic in First Aid, but instead of bullet-point style text, Jason Ryan teaches you First Aid in a video format, just like Pathoma does for pathology. He emphasizes particularly high yield points, explains concepts with simple, yet easy to remember illustrations, includes pictures and diagrams, and of particular importance – he has a very charismatic way of speaking with a tone that emanates wisdom and comfort. Like a cool uncle who you could always turn to for life advice. Except he’s a cardiologist and really wants you to do well on boards.

His video subscription service covers everything in First Aid, and he even includes the First Aid pages which correspond with a given video. Boards & Beyond is worthy of the description as “Pathoma for everything else”. And most importantly, it is reasonably priced *cough cough DIT*.  Take a look at the pricing:

  • 1 Year – $149
  • 6 Months – $129
  • 3 Months – $109
  • 1 Month – $89

However, those already low prices are actually misleading considering anyone can get a discount code if you simply email them (I got 1 year for $129).

 

Is Boards and Beyond Helpful During the First Year of Medical School?

Many claim that you shouldn’t be too worried about boards during first year. The truth is that you need to learn your class material as well as you can so that you have a solid foundation of knowledge heading into the middle of second year or whenever you choose to start truly studying for boards. Absolutely true, BUT – the beauty of Boards & Beyond is that it covers every topic, so even if you’re in a traditional curriculum learning biochem and physiology during your first year, Dr. Ryan has you covered.

If you’re in a systems-based curriculum, even better. Here’s a screenshot of the beginning of the cardiovascular section:

Screen Shot 2017-10-18 at 12.14.59 PM.png

So, even if you have no plans to start studying for boards until that time comes, Boards and Beyond is a great tool to help you succeed in your current classes from day one of medical school. Consider it a concise summary of all the high yield points from just about every topic in medical school. Dr. Ryan also does a good job of tying various topics together, which will give you a solid mental framework to learn from.

 

Is Boards and Beyond Helpful for Second Year and Step 1 Prep?

Obviously.

Also, take my advice here with a grain of salt considering I’m a second year and haven’t taken Step 1 yet, but I have read and heard many first-hand accounts of people who claimed that Boards & Beyond helped immensely with board prep. And how could it not? It teaches you First Aid, hence the “Boards” part. The “Beyond” title is apt because Dr. Ryan isn’t simply reading you facts and minutiae, he’s teaching you, and often giving his own clever explanations and clinical pearls to ensure the information sticks.

Check out some of his free videos on Youtube to see what I’m talking about. For example, my school did neuro early in M1. After watching his “Rule of 4’s” video for brainstem lesions, I realized that I’d have saved myself a lot of time and stress by buying B&B first year. Here’s what I’m talking about:

 

CAVEAT: From all of the intel I’ve gathered from students who have already taken boards, the best way to use Boards & Beyond is to watch the videos before your dedicated study period. It’s too long to go through during dedicated, and you should probably have most of this stuff down by that point anyways. Because Boards and Beyond is great for foundational knowledge, start using Boards & Beyond as early as possible.

To keep track of your progress and how much you’ve covered, print out this this checklist made by Reddit user Kamonzo: Boards and Beyond checklist.

(Keep in mind, some of the advice I give you on this blog for Step 1 prep is not my own – it’s the advice from many older, wiser medical students before me. I’m just relaying this info.)

 

 

Using Boards and Beyond Along With Your Classes

Many people get sucked into the mindset that there is a stark dichotomy between studying for boards and studying for classes. You don’t have to give a metaphorical middle finger to your class lectures to get going with board prep.

My advice for first and second years looking to make the most of this resource: For a given system or topic, watch the Boards and Beyond videos for the topic before the lecture to “prime” your brain for the info. Most videos are 10-20 minutes so this should be no problem (especially if you’re addicted to the 1.5x – 2x speed like me).

Then, after you’ve attended class watched a lecture online, go watch the corresponding video for the topic to really solidify and integrate the information. You’ll dominate the course. I promise you. On the morning before my last exam, I went through a handful of “muddy point” Boards & Beyond videos for the system I was in, and I kid you not – I got 3 or 4 questions on my exam correct simply because I watched those videos that morning. As another bonus, if you’re one of those people who likes to have physical notes, you can download PDF books of all his lectures for free as a member and print them, or you can buy the books for like, $3 a piece.

 

The Future of Boards and Beyond

I’ve only been using Boards and Beyond for two months now, but according to others, Dr. Ryan is constantly updating and improving his product. New videos, new sections, whatever – Boards & Beyond is constantly growing and becoming more & more of a consummate board prep course. Just in the past month, Dr. Ryan added quizzes to the end of every video in the Cardiovascular and Renal sections. These are short, quick board style vignette questions to ensure that you retained the information in the video.

Check it out:

Screen Shot 2017-10-19 at 1.42.57 PM.png

Good stuff. Real good stuff man. Imagine having a quick 10 question quiz at the end of every Pathoma video? While they may be simple first order questions, it’s just another improvement on an already fantastic product.

 

Thank You, Dr. Jason Ryan

When I mention Boards and Beyond to class mates I’m met with puzzled looks. Damn shame. However, I genuinely believe Boards and Beyond will become a staple in medical school canon in the same way Pathoma and SketchyMedical are.

Whether you’re starting your first day of school or a second year worried about boards, Boards and Beyond is definitely worth the small price tag. Also, do not illegally download this product. It was made with love. Support the man. If I could buy Dr. Ryan a beer, I definitely would, although I’d expect him to reject my gesture and pick up the tab instead because he’s a cardiologist and I’m a broke med student.

Check out the Boards and Beyond website, watch a couple sample videos, and purchase a subscription here: BoardsBeyond.com

 

For more medical school advice, click HERE to visit my medical school page.

For all posting updates as well as daily advice on medical school, follow my Twitter: @jordansoze

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