Pharmcards - LWW (publisher)
Step-Up to USMLE Step 1
I *highly recommend* this book purchased early, and use as a study aid during system exams. It will be very helpful for when you go through it again before your boards. I preferred this over FirstAid as it was more complete and had a very good Bugs & Drugs index, as well as a most common list. I would get the latest edition (3rd). Keep in mind that some people only used First AID, and if you don't like reading too many review books, or flipping back and forth between the two, that might be the option for you.
First AID for USMLE Step 1
This is also *highly recommended* but I would hold off buying it until the newest version comes out for the year you are taking your USMLE. It is a required book for ICS in Year II, and I believe it's usually November of the year before your scheduled USMLE test date. For example, if you're planning on taking your USMLE in June 2008, I would purchase First AID for the USMLE Step 1 of 2008 in November 2007. I'm not saying that buying First AID now is a bad idea, but that if you do plan on buying the new edition for the year you are taking your exam, you will have to transfer all your notes over. Also something to consider, some people in the class of 2009 went to Kinko's and had the First AID and Step-Up bound together. I personally liked mine separate, but just so you know, it's an option to consider.
First AID Cases for the USMLE Step 1
This book is a good little review that might show you how to start thinking about a case presentation. I didn't get to finish all of it, but would have definitely liked to finish it.
This is a great book that goes over the diseases you should know from each system, and it has a nice little review section after each section that might be too easy for system exams, but pretty solid for the boards. In general, I recommend getting the latest edition for the BRS series, but I don't want all the 4th years trying to get rid of their books to come kill me. I think the older editions are just as useful.
This is also a *highly recommended* book. Very simply put, "physiology for dummies." I think that it goes over difficult concepts and graphs in "easy-to-understand" language.
High Yield Behavioral Science
This is another *highly recommended* book that lacks questions, but basically nails everything you should know for the boards. Between this book and the basic science section in First AID, I don't recommend purchasing any other book for this topic.
BRS Embryology vs. High Yield Embryology
The BRS series
might be is over kill for this subject. I foolishly read it and wasted my time, but there were high-yield review questions at the end of each chapter in BRS, and some nice diagrams. Which if you didn't know, all the High Yield series lack review questions. From those who read it, I heard High Yield Embryo was an excellent review, but I'm the type of person that learns better from high-yield questions, so decide for yourself.
Robbins Review of Pathology
I recommend this book, as it is very good for the pathology of the organ system. I would purchase it early during your systems and use it as a practice test before your system exam. Keep in mind that these questions are likely to be more difficult than your actual exam, and that I never actually used it during my USMLE review time.
I don't really know much about this book, other than it goes hand-in-hand with the audio lectures he has. But I would recommend at the very least *obtaining* his MP3 lectures and listening to those while you work out, drive around, or whenever- but remember please don't kill yourselves. If you need to get a copy of those awesome audio lectures by Goljan, I am sure you will stumble upon them when you ask around.
Clinical Microbiology Made Ridiculously Simple
Now I still haven't made up my mind as to how helpful this was for me. I was told it was helpful from a lot of people. I did read it probably more times than I would have liked to, but there were some nice pictures that made me remember some of the bugs. After I looked at the Micro cards I didn't buy, I felt like the Micro card would have been better for Boards review, and this book is better as a reference/introduction.
I *highly recommend* this card series. It is amazing for mechanisms, which were highly tested on my USMLE step I. Of course, being an ex-Biochem/Pharm MSP Tutor, I may be biased. Using this as well as the pharm sections in First AID and the scattered mess throughout Step Up should be enough to give you a happy Pharm score.
Microcards - LWW (publisher)
I recommend these cards as well for great case examples of the bugs.
Since I only used Kaplan's Qbank, then it's the only one I can comment on. All I would recommend is to start working on this early. They have so many questions, that it will at the very least get you more prepared for the timing in the USMLE exam. My main complaints about the Qbank were that the question formats were not very close to the real thing, and sometimes they went into far too much detail on very low yield diseases/issues. Other than that, it's still the same set of questions that practically everyone uses to review for the boards. Some people started working as early as Jan.-Feb. of the year of their exam on this, and a lot of people waited until ICS. There are a lot of questions: over 2,000 USMLE style and 1,000+ clinical-style questions( that I did not use). So nonetheless, I *recommend* it as it is the most widely used tool, and I don't think any of the other companies necessarily reflect the USMLE content more closely. I have links to the other companies in the links below.
I would definitely recommend *obtaining* the practice tests sold by the NBME. There are 4 tests they sell that I believe more closely reflect the actual exam. I would purchase and do at least one test just to get an idea of how well you are doing about a week or two before your actual exam date.