Pathoma vs Boards and Beyond: What’s Best to Use?

There’s often some debate as to what’s better to use to study medicine; Pathoma vs Boards and Beyond.

The quick answer is both if you want an amazing USMLE score.

But, like always, there are some complexities. This article discusses them. Here you’ll learn:

  • What Pathoma and Boards and Beyond are (and why they matter)
  • The similarities and differences
  • When and how to use them
  • The costs involved

Let’s take a look.

Pathoma vs Boards and Beyond

Let’s start by running through a quick overview of the major pros and cons of both.

Pathoma1. High yield, exceptionally explained videos
2. Shorter to complete (35+ hours of video)
1. Covers pathology only
Boards and Beyond1. Fully comprehensive (covers all major subjects)
2. 2000+ question bank
1. More expensive ($299 for 24 months)
2. Takes longer to complete

What is Pathoma?

Pathoma is a video lecture series created by Dr Hussein Sattar, Assistant Professor of Pathology at University of Chicago. It is focused on teaching pathology.

It’s also part of UFAPS – one of the core learning materials US-students use to prepare for the USMLE Step 1 exam.

Here’s a student explaining more about it…

What is Boards and Beyond?

Boards and Beyond (B&B) claims to be the most complete online resource for medical students. It is mainly a suite of video lectures aimed at US board exam reviews (Step 1, 2 and 3). It has 598+ videos and a 2600+ question bank.

It was created by Dr Jason Ryan, an instructor at the University of Connecticut Medical School.

Here’s a video tour that explains more…

Pathoma Vs Boards and Beyond: What’s Similar?

The first obvious similarity between both resources, and one that’s a big reason for the debate, is that they’re both mainly video series. Students pay for access and then watch either platforms’ lectures in their own time. Whether that be on a laptop, iPad, tablet or whatever else.


The technical requirements of each are pretty much the same.

You can’t download either Pathoma or B&B’s videos to take with you on the fly but rather have to stream them from behind a paywall (more on this later). Clearly this is done for copyright reasons.

In terms of video quality though both their styles are pretty similar:

  • There is a single narrator (Dr Hussein Sattar for Pathoma and Dr Ryan for B&B)
  • The videos follow a lecture-style format (occasional real-time diagrams to illustrate points)

Neither particularly reinvents the wheel in this regard!


There’s a fair amount of overlap between the two, specifically when it comes to pathology (the general focus of Pathoma). Both extract the high-yield points and both deliver the material in a very similar way (explanations, diagrams etc).

You can also use both as references for concepts you learn in First Aid (another core material making up UFAPS) too. Annotating your book with points covered by the videos.

Pathoma Vs Boards and Beyond: What’s Different?

After we’ve soon how both resources might compare let’s look at how they differ.

This could help make your mind up if you’re in the position to only invest in one!

Text References

Diving head first into either resource, one of the first places you’ll see them differ is in their reference to respective texts.

Pathoma refers to a 218-page full color book (including the tables, images and structure used in the videos). While B&B refers to PDF-style lecture slides.

In the case of B&B, the slides are presented in a format clean of Dr Ryan’s “real-time” notes.

This means you can annotate them as he talks and add all the things you find relevant.

Pathoma doesn’t work this way; it’s text is intended more as a supplementary reference book you can cross reference with each video.


Perhaps the biggest place Pathoma and B&B contrast is in content.

Pathoma is laser focused on pathology only. B&B is much more comprehensive, featuring videos on most areas of a med school curriculum.

Here’s what else B&B covers (in addition to pathology):

  • Biochemistry (considered one of the best modules of B&B)
  • Cardiology (Dr Ryan, as a cardiologist, is perfectly placed here)
  • Cell Biology
  • Dermatology
  • Endocrinology
  • Gastroenterology
  • Genetics
  • Hematology

The list goes on (check the site for a full list)…

The bottom line is B&B is a much more expansive series than Pathoma but probably isn’t as succinct or as structured in its approach to teaching general and clinical pathology (one of the most high yield subjects on the USMLE).

Most med students will also tell you that B&B puts things into more of a clinical context while Pathoma goes into greater depth about pathology and histology etc.

Boards and Beyond Total Hours Vs Pathoma Total Hours

There’s no doubt B&B, at almost 600 videos, is the longer resource to get through.

Each video averages between 10-15 minutes. This is the reason why many US med students choose to skip it during their dedicated exam preparation time. 

Pathoma is a lot shorter at 19 chapters and about 35 hours long in video. One (or very few) passes are usually enough to get good benefits. Because of this Pathoma is argued to be a lot more manageable.

When Should I Start Using Boards and Beyond/Pathoma?

Most med students planning to do the USMLE go through Pathoma during their dedicated (4-5 weeks before their Step 1 exam) period. There’s enough time then to get through the whole series and review the fundamentals.

As an international med student, I’d advise starting Pathoma a couple weeks before your course on general or clinical pathology begins. Check out my related article; how to memorize pathology for more tips here.

B&B you can use a little differently. As it’s so comprehensive, you’ll probably find use for it from day one. Just make sure you match up the video chapters with whatever it is you’re studying. And review the B&B videos beforehand to be excellently prepared.

Most med students agree that B&B is great for the first pass of material and Pathoma is amazing for review.

Having used both, I’m also inclined to agree.

Boards and Beyond Vs Pathoma: Price

Pathoma has B&B beat on price. For $120 you’ll get 21 months of access to all the Pathoma videos online as well as the textbook. There are also 3 month ($85) and 12 month ($100) options available.

B&B’s pricing is a little steeper. Here’s how it ranges:

  • 24 months – $299
  • 18 months – $249
  • 12 months – $199
  • 6 Months – $149
  • 3 Months – $129
  • 1 Month – $49

My feelings are that it’s probably better to hold off on B&B if saving on the USMLE is your aim.

You’ll save more money from the 3 month Pathoma package. And can probably pick up everything you’d miss from B&B using the rest of UFAPS anyway.

Ideally though, it makes sense to put down the money for both programs.

Doing well to plug your knowledge gaps and score high on the USMLE (think 250 plus) is worth the extra spend.

Definitely something to think about!

Are There Free Trials?

One quick thing to note is that you can try before you buy.

B&B offers a one-week membership for $19 and Pathoma offers free trial access to 6 online videos. 

If you’re on the fence road test either two to see which one you prefer.

What’s More Necessary? Board and Beyond Or Pathoma?

The consensus here is that Pathoma is more necessary if you’re looking to ace the USMLE.

Many students report running through it and scoring higher in their NBME’s as a result.

There’s also another school of thought; use B&B to learn everything first (especially neuro, biochem, biostats/ethics and cardio) and then come to Pathoma later to tie in the big ideas. 

I can vouch for that last one. It’s one of the main reasons I did well in both my year 2 and 3 exams.

Pathoma Vs Boards And Beyond: Reddit’s Response

Most people on Reddit agree that Pathoma is the more important resource when it comes to USMLE preparation.

B&B has a lot of fans too however, but most suggest it’s a more suitable tool for year round study or for a good first pass of the material.

One user claims their NBME scores jumped massively after using Pathoma though.

While others also testify to it being the more indispensable resource!


While it might seem that there’s a battle of Pathoma vs Board and Beyond afoot, there’s no reason the two have to be exclusive.

Yes there’s the argument that med students should try to avoid resource overload and redundancy, that’s mainly reserved for where two or more things overlap.

If you use B&B for mastering concepts other than pathology (and then Pathoma exactly for path) you avoid the issue. 

Image Credit – @wocintechchat at Unsplash