Score High or Focus on Passing the USMLEs

USMLE Passing Score

In addition to passing their classes, medical students must also take additional steps to prove they are ready to care for patients. One test that medical students spend considerable time studying for is the USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Examination), which is divided into multiple parts.

It’s not an exaggeration to say that getting a good score for Step 1 and Step 2 of the USMLE can help shape your future career because it determines your residency and your specialty. The most competitive medical specialties will have higher required scores.

How Is USMLE Step 1 Scored?

Step 1 is a one-day exam, usually taken in the second year of medical school. It covers basic science knowledge, including:

  • Anatomy
  • Pathology
  • Biochemistry
  • Physiology
  • Pharmacology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Cell biology
  • Behavioral science
  • Genetics

In the past, this test was scored on a numerical scale, with a passing score of 194. For competitive specialties, students scored 250 or higher, on average.

However, the scoring format for Step 1 changed in 2020, and it’s now a pass/fail. Students only have four exam attempts to pass the test, down from the previous six, and now must pass Step 1 before taking Step 2. These changes take effect before 2022 and will apply to all students taking Step 1 in 2022.

Do You Need a High USMLE Step 2 Score in 2022?

Once medical students pass Step 1, they can take Step 2 Clinical Knowledge (CK) and Step 2 Clinical Skills (CS). The two-part exam, taken during the third or fourth year of medical school, ensures students are tested on patient interactions.

Step 2 CK is a nine-hour, one-day exam covering pediatrics, surgery, psychiatry, medicine, obstetrics and gynecology. As of 2020, the exam includes more questions about professionalism, patient safety, legal and ethical concerns and systems-based practice. This test has a numerical grade, and the USMLE Step 2 CK passing score is 209.

What’s a good Step 2 CK score? Highly competitive medical specialties will require a higher score than the national average of 243.

For the Step 2 CS exam, medical students work with actors for patient encounters. The student is tested on their skill in addressing the “patient’s” complaint. Step 2 CS takes eight hours and is graded with a pass/fail score.

Now that Step 1 is pass/fail, the standards of a good score for step 2 have changed. Quite simply, more emphasis will now fall on this exam. In the past, students could bolster a lower Step 1 score with a higher Step 2 score, but now this will not be an option. The majority of a medical student’s qualifications for residencies and medical specialties will now rest on Step 2. Don’t hesitate to look into tutoring for help on your USMLE Step 2 score!

Tips If Your Goal Is to Score High on Step 2

If your goal is to score at least 250-284, here are some tips to consider:

  • Start early: Develop excellent study habits from the first day of medical school, and make your study time consistent. That way, you’re not cramming for your exams — you’ll be building on what you have learned.
  • Take clerkships seriously: Even if you have a specialty in mind, go into every rotation and clerkship as though that specialty is one you are pursuing. What you learn will be useful on the exam.
  • Read more and study for the exam: Study textbooks, practice exams and review books, but target your reading for the exam. Use the topics you’ll need to know and practice exams as guidelines for what you need to master.
  • Test yourself: Take mock Step 2 exams regularly to practice and to keep track of where you’re improving and where you need to put in more work. Where possible, try to replicate the long hours of taking the exam, so by the time you sit down to take Step 2, you’ll be used to long periods of focus.
  • Get professional help: Tutoring and professional USMLE test prep can be the difference between passing and getting a high score.

Tips If Your Goal Is to Pass on Step 2

If you want to pass on Step 2, you’ll still want to follow many of the tips for scoring well. You still need to start early, pace yourself and test yourself often. The difference is that you can be more strategic, using exam examples to target studying exactly what you need to know to pass Step 2.

USMLE tutoring and test preparation can be advantageous because it is focused specifically on helping you learn to pass Step 2. Completing your course work and taking advantage of high-quality USMLE test prep can be enough to help you pass.

How Medlearnity Can Help

Medlearnity has been helping doctors reach their USMLE goals for more than eight years. Our secret is our team of tutors, who come from the best medical schools in the nation and have averaged test scores of over 260 on the USMLE. Best of all, they are passionate about what they do and have already helped more than 500 students pass or score high on their exams.

Medlearnity has a range of services to offer the exact USMLE help you need. Whether you need tutoring, a personalized learning plan, test-taking strategies or exam drills, our goal is to put your learning needs first. To see what we can do, book a free, no-obligation one hour tutoring session to experience the power of Medlearnity for yourself.

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About the author 

Akshay Goel MD

Dr. Goel is a body-trained radiologist and an expert in medical education and imaging informatics. He completed his Radiology Residency at Columbia University Medical Center and his fellowship at Weill Cornell Medicine. Dr. Goel has guided several students and doctors into successful careers over the past decade. He continues to help Medlearnity tutors optimize their educational methodology to drive the highest tutoring and admissions impact possible.

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