On May 26, 2020, the USMLE® (the United States Medical Licensing Examination®) announced that they are suspending the Step 2 Clinical Skills (CS) for the next 12-18 months. This suspension is due to the novel coronavirus that has been sweeping the world over the past few months. Many medical students are now left wondering what will happen with testing in the future.

What is the USMLE®?

The USMLE® is a three-step test that physicians must pass to receive their United States medical licensure. The test is broken into multiple steps to test all aspects of becoming a physician. Step 1 focuses on the understanding and application of the sciences relevant to medicine. Step 2 is actually two tests: step 2 CK (clinical knowledge) and Step 2 CS (clinical skills). Step 2 focuses on the ability to use medical knowledge and skills essential to patient care. Step 3, the final test, tests an examinee's knowledge of medical, biomedical, and clinical sciences. Test-takers must prove their knowledge to practice without supervision.

Put Together a Study Plan

Just like any other exam, you need to study. Medical students often have busy schedules due to observations, school, and having a personal life. After you register for the exam, mark that date on your calendar. You also need to add any other important dates and deadlines for medical school or your personal schedule are also marked. This gives you a better idea of how much time you can dedicate to studying for the step exam. Schedule time for yourself throughout the week to take practice exams and study.

Create a Study Group

Many of your classmates and peers will be taking the examinations around the same time as you. One way to create comradery within your class is to create a study group. Creating a study group allows you to study together, quiz each other, and have a support group. Having a study group can also keep you accountable and prevent you from avoiding or procrastinating your studying. Study groups are also beneficial for hard to understand concepts. Not every person will have the same understanding of a topic or the same study style. Working together can also teach you new study styles or ideas.

Test Results

Once you have taken a step of the test, the next step is to await the results. With each exam, except for Step 2 CS, you will receive a numeric score. Step 2 CS is a pass/fail exam.

According to the USMLE®, the current minimum scores are: 

  • Step 1: 194
  • Step 2 CK: 209
  • Step 3: 198

If you do not meet the minimum pass score, you will need to retake the exam. These scores will also play a part in your residency application. Just like colleges and universities use SAT and ACT scores, residency programs look at your USMLE® step scores. If your test scores are too low for your desired program or specialty, retake the test(s) to boost your score(s).