What You Need To Know About the USMLE Board Exam

The term ‘USMLE Step1’ is probably the most dreaded in medical school. Every third-year student has to pass through this baptism of fire before achieving their dream of becoming a fully qualified doctor.


The United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) is a series of four tests in three ‘Steps,’ these being, Step 1, Step 2 CK and Step 2CS, and Step 3. USMLE Step 1 is a test used to assess a medical student’s ability to apply essential concepts of the sciences fundamental to the clinical practice of medicine in real-time.

Step 1

Due to its rigorous application, USMLE Step 1 is undoubtedly the most critical test a med student will take in med school. Success in the test dictates the specialty the student takes up and the residency. It essentially charts the med students’ career path. The USMLE Step 1 pass mark is 192 on a scale of 1-300. However, you are allowed to retake the exam if you fail to achieve this minimum passing score. For competitive specialties in medicine, a score of 240 is necessary. Your Step 1 score, pre-clinical grades, extracurricular activities, research aptitude, and other factors are taken into consideration in residency matching.

The USMLE Step 1 is a multiple-choice test, with most questions targeted at your ability to solve complex clinical problems by employing scientific principles gathered during your first two years in medical school. There are a total of 280 questions to be answered in one day consisting of seven, one hour blocks with 40 questions per block.

Step 2

Step two of the USMLE is taken in the fourth year of med school and has two parts, Clinical Knowledge (CK) and Clinical Skill (CS). CK consists of multiple-choice questions on clinical sciences such as surgery, obstetrics, internal medicine, and others. CS consists of more practical activities such as examining and diagnosing models acting as patients. Due to the nature of the CS test, there are five testing centers in the country where a candidate can book a slot.

Step 3

Step 3 is taken during the first year of residency and is the final assessment test. It consists of examination, diagnosis, and treatment of patients in unsupervised settings. It comprises both multiple-choice and practical treatment situations.

COVID 19 and The Role of Medical Students

The highly contagious COVID 19 disease is wreaking havoc in countries around the world. No country has escaped the devastating effects of the disease. Millions of people around the world have been infected, and thousands are dying every day.

As world governments struggle to grapple with the pandemic, most have imposed harsh measures that have seen the restriction of movement for people within their borders, closing border points to curb movement into and out of the country, shutting of airports and grounding airlines and trains. Some cities are under total lockdown.

Social Distancing Measures

‘Stay home, stay safe’ is the new norm, with many schools and educational institutions shut, learners in all spheres are staying indoors to continue their learning from home. Online learning has become the new face of education, as social distancing becomes a key plank in stopping the rapid spread of the disease.

Medical facilities have been stretched to breaking point as more and more put are put into isolation centers and treatment wards. Medical practitioners in the frontline of this fight against this ravenous disease have not escaped the ravages of the pandemic.

Many doctors and nurses have contracted the disease in the course of their duties. Many, unfortunately, have paid the ultimate prize.

Medical Students’ Input

Caught up in this situation are medical students. With the demand for medical care at an all-time high, any practitioner with any knowledge of medicine is a welcome pair of hands. Third-year med students have to grapple with the dangers of contracting the disease as they offer their much-needed services and study at home for their day with the exams board.

Today is a tough time to be a doctor, and more so, to be a med student forced to study from home. Luckily, online education platforms such as Lecturio, which is a special learning site for medical students, can make home study easier for most.

Here is a summary of all the interesting things that med students need to know about UMSLE Step 1.

  1. You may retake the test if you score less than 192, which is the pass mark. You cannot retake the test if you attain 192 and over.
  2. A reason to smile. 96% of first-timers pass the test.
  3. The average score nationally is 220-240.
  4. The only things allowed into the exam room are soft earplugs. No food, water, or jackets are allowed in. Food, water, or refreshment can only be taken during breaks.
  5. Apart from being a test on your clinical knowledge, USMLE Step 1 tests your stamina and endurance.


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