The United States Medical Licensing Examination is not just another test – it’s much more. Unlike other knowledge-based exams, the USMLE thoroughly assesses how well you can apply your skills, values, and attitudes to real life, patient-centered scenarios.
Not only is it valuable practice for you as a future physician; it shows licensing authorities how you will operate on the job, both on and off the table. Now put on those mental scrubs and show them what you’re made of.
USMLE Step 1
The USMLE Step 1 is a one-day computer exam taken by most medical students at the end of their second year of medical school. It is also taken by thousands of international medical graduates (IMGs) who wish to practice medicine in the United States. The Step 1 is divided into seven 60-minute blocks and administered in one 8-hour testing session. The number of questions per block on a given examination form may vary, but will not exceed 40. The total number of items on the overall examination form will not exceed 280.
The USMLE Step 1 emphasizes basic science principles, specifically anatomy, behavioural science, biochemistry, microbiology, pathology, pharmacology, and physiology. Interdisciplinary areas such as genetics, immunology, and nutrition are also tested.
The test is administered by appointment on a year-round basis. When planning your USMLE prep, factor in 6 to 9 months for Step 1 review.
Step & purpose
Step 1 assesses the examinee’s:
Understanding of and ability to apply important concepts of the basic sciences to the practice of medicine,
Special emphasis on principles and mechanisms underlying health, disease, and modes of therapy
Approximately 280 multiple-choice questions, divided into seven 60-minute blocks
Length (including breaks): One-day test session –Approximately eight hours
USMLE Step 2 CK
The USMLE Step 2 CK is a multiple-choice exam designed to determine whether the examinee possesses the medical knowledge and understanding of clinical science considered essential for the provision of patient care under supervision. The Step 2 CK includes approximately 355 questions and spans 9 hours of testing, broken down into eight 1-hour blocks of about 45 questions each.
The USMLE Step 2 CK will include two multiple-choice formats: Single Best Answer and Single Answer Matching. The exam may also contain patient-centered vignettes with a series of associated questions. Topics are presented randomly. For example, there is no unique pediatrics section. You’ll face the challenge of having to switch from one topic to another without skipping a beat.
The test is administered by appointment on a year-round basis. When planning your USMLE review, factor in 4 to 6 months for Step 2CK prep.
Step & purpose
Step 2 CK assesses the examinee’s:
Ability to apply medical knowledge, skills, and understanding of clinical science essential for the provision of patient care under supervision.
Emphasis on health promotion and disease prevention.
Clinical Knowledge (CK)
Approximately 318 multiple-choice questions, divided into eight 60-minute blocks
CK: One-day test session – Approximately nine hours
USMLE Step 3
Step 3 assesses whether you can apply medical knowledge and understanding of biomedical and clinical science essential for the unsupervised practice of medicine, with emphasis on patient management in ambulatory settings.
It is the final examination in the USMLE sequence leading to a license to practice medicine without supervision.
The examination material is prepared by examination committees broadly representing the medical profession. The committees comprise recognized experts in their fields, including both academic and non-academic practitioners, as well as members of state medical licensing boards.
Step 3 content reflects a data-based model of generalist medical practice in the United States. The test items and cases reflect the clinical situations that a general, as-yet undifferentiated, physician might encounter within the context of a specific setting.
Step 3 provides a final assessment of physicians assuming independent responsibility for delivering general medical care.
The Step 3 examination devotes attention to the importance of assessing the knowledge and skills of physicians who are assuming independent responsibility for providing general medical care to patients.
The test is administered by appointment on a year-round basis.
The first day of the Step 3 examination is referred to as Foundations of Independent Practice (FIP), and the second day is referred to as Advanced Clinical Medicine (ACM).
Step & purpose
Step 3 assesses the examinee’s ability to apply medical knowledge and understanding of biomedical and clinical science essential for the unsupervised practice of medicine, with emphasis on patient management in ambulatory settings.
Day 1: foundations of independent practice (FIP) assesses the examinee’s knowledge of basic medical and scientific principles essential for effective health care.
Day 2: advanced clinical medicine (ACM) assesses the examinee’s ability to apply comprehensive knowledge of health and disease in the context of patient management and the evolving manifestation of disease over time.
Day 1 FIP: Approximately 232 multiple- choice test questions, divided into six 60-minute blocks which includes 232 multiple- choice items. Computer-based, administered at Prometric test centersin the US.
Day 2 ACM: Includes a 5-minute optional tutorial followed by 180 multiple-choice items, divided into 6 blocks of 30 items. 45 minutes are allotted for completion of each block of test items which also includes a 7-minute CCS tutorial. Followed by 13 computer-based case simulations (CCS). Each simulation is allotted a maximum of 10 or 20 minutes of real-time, administered at Prometric test centers in the US.
Length (including breaks):
FIP: One-day test session – Approximately seven hours including 45 minutes of break time and a 5-minute optional tutorial.
ACM: One-day test session – Approximately nine hours including a 5-minute optional tutorial