What Is the USMLE Step 2 CS All About?
If you dream of becoming a doctor, taking the USMLE Step 2 CS is your chance to show off your clinical skills. This 8-hour assessment tests your ability to provide patient care in a clinical setting.
Unlike the USMLE Step 1 and USMLE Step 2 CK, this US medical licensing exam is not taken on a computer. Instead, you perform real-world tasks while providing care to standardized patients (SPs) during mock exams. You must pass Step 2 CS to become a practicing physician in the United States.
Providing Patient Care in a Clinical Setting
When you think of Step 2 CS, imagine yourself as the star of a movie entitled, “A Day in the Life of a Doctor.” In other words, you must act and perform like a real doctor during mock patient encounters. These specialized patients are trained to take part in mock exams.
You must complete 12 patient encounters within eight hours. Each encounter must be completed within 15 minutes. And you have 10 minutes to write each patient note. If you complete an encounter early, use the extra time to make sure your notes are perfect.
During your USMLE Step 2 CS patient encounters, you’re assessed in three main areas:
- Ability to accurately take patient history
- Ability to perform physical exams on standardized patients
- Ability to effectively communicate in both verbal and written English
That means you must come prepared to play the role of doctor for eight hours. Bring your stethoscope. Wear your white jacket. Put on your smile. And prepare to engage with patients for the day.
How Is the USMLE Step 2 CS Scored?
Step 2 CS is a pass/fail exam. It judges your ability to patient care in a clinical setting. There are three subcomponents, each of which you must pass individually to achieve a passing overall score:
1. Spoken English Proficiency (SEP)
Communicating with patients and colleagues effectively is an essential part of the Step 2 CS exam. You must be able to speak English clearly and pronounce your words properly. The SEP assessment also judges your choice of words and how well patients understand your statements and questions.
This subcomponent is scored by the specialized patients who are trained to perform mock medical conditions. They use a scale to rate your word selections and pronunciation mistakes. So, it’s very important that they understand you and the meanings behind the things you say.
International medical students, graduates and doctors are encouraged to take live USMLE Step 2 CS test prep courses in-person. Instructors help foreign aspiring doctors learn how to pass the SEP assessment.
2. Integrated Clinical Encounter (ICE)
The ICE portion of Step 2 CS is also graded by the SPs. They use a checklist to track how you gather data from patients during physical exams and how you interpret it.
You are also rated by physician-evaluators based on your patient notes. Be prepared to use the facility computer to enter a patient note for each encounter.
Here are some tips to help you get the points you need to pass the ICE portion of Step 2 CS:
- Use proper medical terminology as opposed to slang
- Provide details when documenting physical exam information and patient history
- Document findings based on exam and history and the supported diagnoses
- List your diagnoses in the correct order of probability
3. Communication and Interpersonal Skills (CIS)
The CIS portion of Step 2 CS judges your soft skills when providing care to standardized patients. Some of the things you must focus on include:
- Communicating with patients and colleagues
- Making patients feel at ease and comfortable
- Gathering information and providing it in a comprehensible manner
- Writing patient notes that help others make educated decisions about the next steps
So, be prepared to take on your starring role in “A Day in the Life of a Doctor.” Put on your award-winning smile and make your patients feel like they’re in the hands of a very competent and confident (but NOT cocky) physician.
5 Tips for Practicing & Prepping for the USMLE Step 2 CS
The best way to prep for the USMLE Step 2 CS exam is to practice, practice and practice some more. Team up with a group of classmates to create a study group. Ask friends and family members to act as patients in mock settings. It shouldn’t be too hard to find people willing to help you practice providing clinical care.
Here are five tips to help you practice providing patient care in a clinical setting on your own:
1. Practice Using USMLE Patient Note Template
During medical school, you practice writing patient notes. However, they are very different than the format you must use on test day. Familiarize yourself with the actual note template used during the CS exam. Click here to access the official USMLE patient note template for free.
2. Time Yourself During Test Prep
While performing encounters, you’re only allowed 15 minutes with each patient and 10 minutes to enter the note into the computer system. So, during test prep time, time yourself to ensure you’re completing each encounter and patient note within the allotted amount of time.
3. Practice Your Typing Skills
Remember, you only have 10 minutes to complete each individual patient note. And you are penalized for bad grammar and entering comprehensible information. You also lose points for typos. So, be sure to practice typing to ensure you enter patient notes quickly and accurately.
4. Do Full Dress Rehearsals
Prepare for your award-winning role in “A Day in the Life of a Doctor” by conducting mock exams wearing your white coat and stethoscope. Also, make sure your mock patients wear hospital gowns during the exams. This helps you practice asking for permission to move the gown or untie it.
Getting permission from patients is essential to passing the USMLE Step 2 CS because the exam tests how well you build rapport with them. Remember, test prep is about learning to provide patient care in a clinical setting.
5. Complete a Full Mock Exam
About 1-2 weeks before your scheduled test date, take part in a full mock exam. Perform 12 patient cases within the allotted times, including typing patient notes. That way, you develop the skills you need to keep up your stamina during your patient encounters.
USMLE Step 2 CS Full Mock Exams Suwanee, GA
MedSmarter provides mini mock exams and full mock exams for aspiring doctors prepping for the USMLE Step 2 CS. Our various Step 2 CS review and test prep services are taught by physicians licensed to practice medicine in the US. Learn the art of patient care from professionals holding MDs and PhDs.
Full mock exams help you learn how to apply your clinical skills effectively and quickly. Our mock exams take place on our Suwanee, Georgia campus, not far from the City of Atlanta. Click the link below to learn more about MedSmarter’s USMLE Step 2 CS Full Mock Exam.