Some Things to Know About the United States Medical Licensing Examination

Medical students who would like to practice in the U.S. will need to ensure that they are able to pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE Step 1 and 2). This examination is sponsored by the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) and the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) and it can be written on various pre-determined dates during the year.

What it is

All sections of the United States Medical Licensing Examination have been designed to assess a physician’s ability to demonstrate his or her patient-centered skills and to apply all of the concepts, knowledge and principles that form a crucial part of effective and safe patient care. Step 1 and Step 2 of this examination have to be passed in order for the relevant medical examining and licensing authorities to determine whether a student is competent and ready to deal with actual patients and real-life medical scenarios or not.

How Students are evaluated for Step 1

Students will be evaluated by means of a multiple choice question exam that is computer-based. Each section will consist of content pertaining to pathology, physiology, microbiology, pharmacology, anatomy, biochemistry and behavioral sciences. Interdisciplinary areas such as immunology, genetics, nutrition, aging and molecular and cell biology are included in this exam as well. Students will be expected to perform other tasks as well such as identify microscopic pathologic and normal specimens, interpret graphs and tables and/or apply basic scientific knowledge to various clinical problems. The 8 hour exam consists of 322 questions divided into 7 blocks of 46 questions per block.

Evaluation for USMLE Step 2

The USMLE Step 2 consists of 2 parts, namely Clinical Knowledge (CK) and the Clinical Skills (CS). USMLE Step 2 CK assesses a student’s clinical knowledge by means of a 9 hour multiple choice exam. The exam consists of 8 blocks, each with 44 questions and an hour is given for students to complete each block. Subjects covered here include pediatrics, medicine, surgery, psychiatry and obstetrics and gynecology. The CS section assesses a student’s clinical skills by means of simulated interactions with 12 different patients. Students have 15 minutes to perform clinical examination and take notes from each patient, and 10 minutes to note findings and provide diagnoses for each case.

Preparing for these Exams

It is essential for students to get as much study time in as possible when preparing, as this will help ensure that they are ready to pass the exams the first time round. One of the best ways that preparation can be done is by making use of online question banks, as these simulate the actual examinations that will eventually be written. It is normally recommended that students use these question banks for a minimum of 3 to 6 months, so that they can completely familiarize themselves with the type of questions they can expect to encounter during their actual exams.

Once students have achieved a passing mark for each of these examinations, they can look forward to being able to apply their knowledge in real-life medical situations at various hospitals, clinics and other health care facilities around the country.