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Medical School Zanki: Should You Use It?

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Every med school student desires a high USMLE Step 1 score. That’s why it’s only understandable if you’re conscious of what Step 1 resource you should be doing to achieve the Step 1 score you have always wanted. You may have been brought to this article because you’re hesitant and considering whether you should use one of the most popular Anki decks for Step 1, Medical School Zanki.

In this post, we are going to talk about Medical School Zanki – what’s it all about, how to properly use it, and we’re going to decide if it’s worth it to use to achieve your Step 1 score goals.

What is Medical School Zanki?

what is zanki

Medical School Zanki is a deck of study flashcards that’s mainly a free resource to help you study for your USMLE Step 1. These study flashcards are based on different study resources such as the 2016 version of First Aid, and the 2017 versions of Pathoma and Costanzo.

The Medical School Zanki decks cover a variety of topics concerning Physiology, Pathology, and Pharmacology.

You may have never heard of Zanki and may only know about Anki which is a flashcard app created by Damien Elmes that can be used as study aids for different purposes such as learning a language, mastering long poems, studying for medical and law exams, etc.

It deviates from the traditional methods of studying and makes use of a spaced repetition algorithm designed to help you effectively retain more information.

The Anki app is available on all platforms – for iOS, Android, Windows, and macOS X. You can download it across multiple devices for free, except for iOS which goes by the price of $25 by the time of writing. It’s easy to keep your deck of flashcards stored in all your devices with its synchronization feature.

Medical School Zanki decks are created by u/ZankiStep1 as study aids for your USMLE Step 1 in the form of flashcards that would be downloaded and imported in the Anki app.

There are also other decks of flashcards for Step 1 which are uploaded by students that could be used in the Anki app as well. The most popular ones include – the Bros, Pepper, and Lightyear. We’ll go over into detail concerning these different decks later on.

Why Should You Use Medical School Zanki?

See, we all try to understand and master the concepts we learn in our lectures or review resources like First Aid so that we can ace our Step 1. Comprehension of the topics above everything else is great, but you also need to remember and retain this information inside your head.

That’s where Medical School Zanki comes in.

Through the flashcards that employ a spaced repetition algorithm, you can effectively retain more concepts while also cutting down your study time in half.

It’s also noticeable that students who study through repetition algorithms via Anki have scored higher on their board exams than students who study through traditional methods.

A paper on the effectiveness of spaced repetition performed large-scale natural experiments using a similar app to Anki that also uses a spaced repetition algorithm – Duolingo.

The data shows that students who follow a reviewing schedule determined by their algorithm tend to memorize effectively compared to students who have alternative schedules.

Medical School Zanki Content

The Zanki Physiology and Pathology decks are composed of 16,966 flashcards and cover certain disciplines that the USMLE Step 1 will cover.

  • Biochemistry: metabolism; molecular, cellular, genetics; and vitamins
  • Cardiovascular: pathology; physiology + embryo, anatomy
  • Dermatology
  • Endocrine: pathology; physiology
  • GI: pathology; physiology + embryo, anatomy
  • Hematology & Oncology: Pathoma hematology; RBC; WBC; RBC misc.
  • Immunology + General Pathology: immunology; Pathoma Chapter 1 (cell injury, death); Pathoma Chapter 2 (inflammation)
  • Musculoskeletal: pathology
  • Neurology: Kaplan neuroscience; pathology; neuroanatomy (basic); ophthalmology
  • Psychiatry/Psychology
  • Public Health Sciences: epidemiology & biostatistics; The Well Patient
  • Renal: pathology; physiology + embryo, anatomy
  • Reproductive: pathology; physiology + embryo, anatomy; The Embryology That Shouldn’t Exist
  • Respiratory: pathology; physiology

The Medical School Zanki deck on Pharmacology consists of 2763 flashcards and covers the following subjects:

  • AA General Pharmacology
  • Autonomic Drugs
  • Cardiovascular Pharmacology
  • Endocrine Pharmacology
  • GI Pharmacology
  • Hematology Pharmacology
  • Immunology Pharmacology
  • Neuro Pharmacology
  • Renal Pharmacology
  • Reproductive Pharmacology
  • Respiratory Pharmacology

FYI: Want to learn more about how to crush Step 1? Check out our free step-by-step masterclass to help you get a 250+ on Step 1!

How To Use Medical School Zanki

First off, go download the Anki app on your preferred device. I have downloaded the app on my Windows 10, but you can install it on all your devices which enables you to study your Zanki decks whenever and wherever you are. The instructions on this section are specifically for Windows 10, but could also be applied to MacOS with slight variations.

Once installed, go ahead and launch it. You will find a simple interface as shown below.

medical school zanki interface

To open the Zanki decks, make sure you have downloaded the files for Physiology + Pathology, and Pharmacology first before anything else.

Once downloaded, you can import the files to the Anki app. Go to the top left corner and click on File and Import.

medical school zanki import decks

Have both Medical Zanki decks imported and you’ll get something looking like this on the Zanki app. Those inside the red rectangles are the overall decks you have downloaded and expanding it gives you an overview of all the topics the decks cover.

medical school zanki decks

Click on the deck of flashcards you want to study, and click on Study Now.

medical school zanki select a deck to study

Here is a sample question in the Biochemistry deck of Medical School Zanki. You can view the answering by clicking on Show Answer, or by pressing your spacebar.

medical school zanki show answer

What’s great here is that depending on the card you are studying, you’re not just getting answers but also supplementation that comes in illustrations to help you understand how the answer was derived.

zanki flashcards with supplementation

You can continue and finish the whole deck by pressing your spacebar once you’re done with the card. Note that since the app employs a spaced repetition algorithm, you’re going to encounter the same cards several times.

Anki notifies you that there are more new cards available, but the daily limit has been reached. However, it’s possible for you to increase your limit by clicking on Custom Study. A new window will pop up where you can customize your card limit.

custom study

You can always amp up the number of cards you study per session, but Anki warns you that the more new cards you introduce, the higher your short-term review workload will become.

FYI: Studying for Step 1 with review materials like Medical School Zanki is great, you also need the right guide to accompany you through the process.

Annotating Your Medical School Zanki Cards

Now that you have the hang of how Anki works, let’s discuss how you can customize your Zanki cards to your advantage by annotating them.

Let’s say you’re reading through your materials and you have encountered a concept that you want to further study later on through your Zanki cards. You can do this by going to your Browse tab.

What you want to do first is to go to the decks where that terminology may be related and search for it there. Browse through the cards and see which flashcard you want to annotate.

You can add images and texts in the Extra section. Once you’re done with that, exit the window.

browse your zanki decks

You can learn more about how to use Anki effectively through my 8-part video course which you can get by clicking here. There are other guides that may become useful for you in medical school so make sure to check it out!

Is Medical School Zanki Good For Step 1?

is zanki good for step 1

Medical School Zanki is one of the many Anki decks that are newly introduced to medical students. The Zanki deck is actually inspired by the tried and tested Anki deck of the Bros. It’s because of this that students argue that the Bros deck is better than Medical School Zanki.

However, you would still find a handful of students who are satisfied with their Step 1 scores and owe it to Medical School Zanki. Let’s see testimonials from students who used Zanki for their Step 1.

“Zanki is the reason I scored as well as I did (270). The cumulative learning and spaced repetition throughout M2 just can’t be beaten.”

-u/medicineandlife

“Definitely made a major difference in my score (mid 260’s here).

I just managed to scrape finishing the entire deck. About 1/3 of the cards seen prior to dedicated, finished the entirety maybe a few days before the actual day of Step. I completed all the review cards as I went. I tried to do the harder decks and/or areas that I was weakest at around the beginning of dedicated (Biochemistry, etc.)….

The biggest piece of advice for people shooting for the stars and trying to finish the deck – as you see new cards, delete cards that you think are overly easy and/or you are positive you have down by heart. Huge difference in the ability to view all review cards – this is 100% the only reason I was able to keep up with review cards as I went and finish in time for the exam.”

-u/Thanksbasedzanki

“[This thing] works. I cannot see it failing anyone that has the discipline to finish it. If you can accrue >500 hours ( i had 700) on review time you are almost certainly guaranteed > 240. Just don’t forget uWorld (which I did twice) to add the conceptual framework to your knowledge base. I did zanki every morning for 5-6 hours and then uworld the rest of the time. Reviews will stack up but I would never get behind on it.”

-u/aTiredDerelict

“In the 25th-50th quartile. Started Zanki in late spring the year before Step, kept up with reviews until dedicated (only had time for about 1-2 hrs /night of Zanki during dedicated). 246 on step.

Zanki (and Pathoma/Sketchy) was my primary learning material during M2 year. If I were to change anything it’d be to work more qbank questions before dedicated started.”

-u/dooleysucks

FYI: Flashcards that employ spaced repetition algorithms like Anki are the way to go for your Step 1. However, studying for Step 1 is all in vain if you don’t have a step-by-step walkthrough to guide you.

Is Medical School Zanki Enough?

is zanki enough

Medical School Zanki is great because you can go through these flashcards whenever you can and wherever you are. It’s also a lowkey way to test your memory and comprehension since you’re given the option to internally answer a flashcard before you hit the spacebar to see the answer and some supplementation (if available) to understand how it was derived.

However, the Medical School Zanki decks are not meant to be used as your primary studying resource for Step 1. I say primary because it’s built and designed as a remembering tool, and not as a comprehension app.

What you want to prioritize when reviewing for Step 1 is understanding and mastering the concepts that are covered by the USMLE Step 1. You learn and ingest information from class, lecture notes, First Aid, and your textbooks.

You then master these concepts by going through dozens of question banks. Zanki comes in as a tool you can rely on to help you remember and retain information through its spaced repetition algorithm.

Knowing this, it’s a mistake to just solely rely on Medical School Zanki and religiously study all the decks like it’s the only Step 1 study resource in the world.

“People have done this and seemed to pass classes while ending up doing well on Step. I had a friend nearly fail a final doing this method, but I haven’t heard of anything actually failing. Try it out with a class or two and see. if you get BB material down well and carefully look at class stuff the week before the final you should be fine.”

-u/friedhippocampus

“I’m doing them now and the cloze deletion cards…your brain subconsciously memorize the stem. You’ll remember what to fill in the blank with and not really understand it. You can actually test this out…if you pull up a cloze deletion card and automatically know what the answer is even without reading the whole stem…then that’s a problem. There is really no thinking involved. I’ve read quite a few feedback on here and Reddit regarding this from people who had taken step.

I’m just bringing this up as an FYI for anyone that is over-relying on Anki…make sure the cards are good. There is a lot of cloze deletion in many of the decks that I’ve seen.”

-Lnsean

“Doing nothing but Zanki in isolation all year and then walking into the test is probably not going to go well….”

-Gurby

FYI: Studying for Step 1 with Medical School Zanki is great but you also need the right guide to walk you through the process.

Zanki vs Lightyear vs Anking

anki icon

Medical School Zanki is not perfect and has shortcomings as a deck of flashcards in studying for Step 1. That’s why other decks exist.

I have mentioned before that there are decks other than Zanki for your USMLE Step 1. You can actually combine other decks into your review timeline to fill in the gaps that exist in Zanki.

Let’s compare Zanki with other decks and see how each deck is going to compensate for its gaps.

Lightyear vs Anki

Lightyear is based primarily on the Boards & Beyond review material which has 22,500 comprehensive cards. Considering how Boards & Beyond is a very comprehensive study resource material that covers most of the topics to be tested on Step 1, it’s decks are more complete compared to Zanki.

One would just find Lightyear at a bit of disadvantage because it is newer thus, less tried and tested compared to Medical School Zanki.

Zanki Pharm vs Pepper Pharm

Pepper Pharmacology is more complete and could compensate for the absence of the Cancer Pharmacology section in Zanki Pharmacology. You would just find the organization style of Zanki better compared to Pepper.

But just like with Lightyear, Zanki Pharmacology has been around for a longer amount of time as compared to Pepper Pharmacology. Hence, Zanki Pharm stands to be more tried and tested than Pepper.

Anking vs Zanki

Here’s one thing to know about Zanki’s tagging system – it’s kind of horrible. It’s hard to navigate through the decks of flashcards if you’re going to annotate your cards and tag them to organize it to your preference. If you’re fine with the primitive tagging system of Zanki, then stick with it.

Anking is just the same as Zanki except that it comes with a better tagging system and a few additional decks.

FYI: If you’re enjoying this content and want more Step 1 advice that can take your Step 1 score to another level then click here to join our FREE masterclass!

FAQs About Medical School Zanki

How Many Cards Are In Medical School Zanki?

Zanki Physiology + Pathology has a total amount of 16,966 flashcards that cover disciplines and topics to be tested in USMLE Step 1. Zanki Pharmacology, on one hand, consists of no more than 2,763 flashcards.

How Long Does It Take To Do Medical School Zanki?

I feel like the answer to this is most definitely subjective and depends on how many cards you can go through a day. Some students start with 50 cards, amping it up to 100, 150, and even up to 200 flashcards a day. If you really try to focus, you can fly through these cards within 4 to 5 hours.

One factor that plays a large role in the duration you go through Zanki cards is the extent of how well you know the material. You’ll obviously take more time if you immediately jump into the cards without reading through your materials.

For the time you consume in reviewing the Medical School Zanki decks without a pass on your review materials, this is the most ineffective study strategy ever.

Remember, Medical School Zanki is a remembering tool. Know your materials by heart and mind first before you dive into the cards.

When Should I Start Medical School Zanki?

If Zanki is aligned with the curriculum of your school, it’d be best for you to start going through your Zanki decks from the beginning of M1. Pull cards that are aligned to what you’re taking in class or what you have read and reviewed in your textbooks. Start your dedicated Zanki at the start of M2.

Start as early as you can due to the enormous amount of cards included in Medical School Zanki. Starting too late would result in an ineffective study strategy that would force you to go through all the cards as much as you can without any regard to how much information your brain can take.

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That’s a wrap on the ultimate guide in using Medical School Zanki to your advantage so that you can crush your Step 1 and achieve the scores you dream of!

If you have enjoyed this post, you may want to check out our other blog posts!

Also, remember that rocking your USMLE Step 1 is possible and you can do just that by signing up for FREE Step 1 Masterclass here.

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Or maybe you need a bit of help and support to push yourself up the ladder? If so, join Step 1 Academy now.

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Finally, if you want access to our full library of guides and free courses for med students, check out the Med Vault!

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