The MCAT is my last and hardest test…right?!
Move over MCAT. After two years of basic medical school coursework (1 ½ years at some medical schools), your next conquest is the USMLE exam, or U.S. Medical Licensing Exam. It’s really five tests in one. And it’s a killer.
- Step I exam — This day-long bonanza tests one’s basic knowledge, requiring not only mastery of the material learned during the first two years of medical school, but also the ability to apply the concepts in order to succeed as a physician. It’s administered in 7 hour-long blocks, for a grand total of eight hours in length.
This USMLE exam covers everything from anatomy and biochemistry to physiology and pharmacology. It’s multiple choice. It’s comprehensive in its coverage of health, diseases and modes of treatment. A passing score is 194 as of 2018, and most students score 140-260. The mean score is 229.
- Step 2 exam — This USMLE exam covers two full days, and is taken in the fourth year of med school. It consists of two sections: (1) a multiple choice written test (Clinical Knowledge/CK) covering clinical specialties like OB/GYN, internal medicine and surgery; and (2) a multiple choice practical exam (Clinical Skills/CS) where medical students examine and diagnose actors posing as patients. To take the Step 2, students must travel to one of five testing centers located in Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles or Philadelphia.
The CK passing score is 209, but getting a competitive residency will require your getting a greater score (average for orthopedic surgery is 251; otolaryngology is 252; plastic surgery is 252; pathology is 241; pediatrics is 241; family medicine 234; and psychiatry 233). The Step 2 Clinical Skills USMLE exam is a pass/fail test.
- Step 3 exam — This two-day USMLE exam is required after the first year of residency, and focuses on patient management. It’s considered the “final exam” in the series of three USMLE exams. It’s delivered in multiple choice and computer simulation styles. A score of 196 is required to pass this final USMLE exam.
This USMLE exam is the passageway granting the physician-to-be access to the world of treating patients independently if he/she demonstrates the ability to care for patients through the application of both data and diagnostic skills.
Once you’ve complete (and passed) the two-part Step 3 exam, you’re well on your way to be coming a doctor. You’ve now finished the “board exam,” and can breathe a little easier in your residency years ahead.
Here are a few other medical school-related posts you may be interested in: