USMLE is short for United States Medical Licensing Examination. It’s a series of tests medical students begin taking after completing their second year in med school. The USMLEs are also taken by international medical graduates that wish to practice medicine in the United States.
What’s the purpose of the USMLEs?
They help determine whether your ability to apply your acquired medical skills and values to real-life patient-related situations.
These tests show the medical licensing board that you’re up to the task of becoming a great doctor.
USMLE Test Steps
USMLE tests are taken in four steps at various phases of your med school career:
1. USMLE Step 1
The USMLE Step 1 is a one-day computer exam. It consists of 280 multiple-choice questions. The questions are divided into groups of 40 questions each. This exam takes eight hours to complete.
USMLE Step 1 Concentrates On:
- Behavioral science
2. USMLE Step 2 CK
The USMLE Step 2 CK (Clinical Knowledge) exam determines whether the medical student has grasped the concept of clinical science, which is important for patient care.
It contains 318 questions, which are split into 9 groups of about 40 questions each. The exam takes 8 hours to complete. The exam can also have questions dealing with patient-centered vignettes.
USMLE Step 2 CK topics are picked at random. A student is faced with the task of moving from topic to topic with each question. The exam is multiple-choice and divided into two parts:
- Single Best Answer
- Single Answer Matching
3. USMLE Step 2 CS
The USMLE Step 2 CS (Clinical Science) tests the student’s communication skills. The areas tested are:
- Decision making
- Information provision
- Enabling patient behaviors
- Gathering information
- Fostering relationships
- Supporting emotions
This improves standardized patient (SP) training. It does away with the traditional checklist system that was used in the past to examine whether the student had certain skills.
NBME (National Board of Medical Examiners) decided to change the way they administer the USMLE Step 2 CS examination because they discovered the need for the students to have excellent communication skills.
The more the students are involved with the patients the better. This helps them bond better, creating doctor-patient relationships. That way, the student is in a better position to advise the patient in many areas that may cause life changes for them.
Residents spend a lot of time with patients. This is why it is important to make sure they have mastered the art of good communication skills.
4. USMLE Step 3
USMLE Step 3 consists of 500 questions and computer-based case simulations (CCS). It’s a two-day, two-part exam. Students are advised not to take both exams on two consecutive days. These are the two exams included in Step 3:
- Step 3 FIP (Foundations of Independent Practice)
- Step 3 ACM (Advanced Clinical Medicine)
USMLE Step 3 CCS tests:
- Assess history and physical exam information
- Order diagnostic tests
- Select initial therapies
- Manage the patient
- Patient management (45-55%)
- Lab and diagnostic studies
- History and physical
These questions fall into one of these 3 categories:
- Emergency care
- Initial workup
- Continued care
Changes in USMLE Step 3
There have been a few changes to the USMLE Step 3 exam. The questions focus more on foundational sciences. Administrators want to ensure medical students practice:
- Medical ethic
- Population health management
- Patient safety
- Medical literature interpretation
Prepare for the USMLEs
Having problems retaining information for a USMLE? Test prep and 1:1 tutoring helps medical students pass the USMLEs everyday. If you’re in the Atlanta, GA area, MedSmarter is the way to go. We are industry leaders in USMLE test prep and tutoring services in the ATL community.
MedSmarter offers test prep courses and one-on-one tutoring sessions on on our Suwanee, GA campus. Or you can prep for the USMLE online via 1:1 web conferencing. We even offer USMLE Step 2 CS Mock Exams to help you prep and pass. Click the button below for details.