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Changes to Step 3 examination in 2013

Posted: November 28, 2012

As previously announced, changes to the USMLE Step 3 examination are scheduled to take place no earlier than 2014. The redesigned examination will include assessment of "a comprehensive knowledge of both foundational science and clinical medicine," as well as "a demonstration of evidence-based medicine and quantitative reasoning skills important to patient care and to life-long learning."

Over the next few years, Step 3 examinees will see a gradual increase in test items that assess knowledge of foundational science.  To give examinees a sense for what such an item might look like, an example of a 2-item set is provided below. The second item in the set is an example of how foundational science might be assessed in Step 3.
 
Example Step 3 item set:

A 74-year-old man comes to the ED with a 2-week history of nosebleeds with associated nausea. He says the blood drips down his throat. He denies recent trauma. Medical history includes hypertension and a stroke 2 years ago. Medications: enteric-coated 81-mg aspirin, simvastatin, and losartan. BMI is 21 kg/m2. The patient is pale. Vital signs: T=36.9°C (98.4°F), P=110/min, R=18/min, and BP=115/85 mm Hg. Pulse ox =93% O2 sat.  PE: dried blood around the right nostril; left nostril is clear. Muscle strength is 4/5 in the left upper extremity. Stool occult blood is positive.

Labs:
Serum      Blood
  Urea nitrogen 49 mg/dL        Hematocrit 18%
  Creatinine 1.49 mg/dL        Hemoglobin 6.1 g/dL
       WBC 13,100/mm3
       Platelet count 212,000/mm3
       INR 1.3

Which of the following is the priority in management?
(A) Infusion of 0.9% saline
(B) Nasal packing
(C) Referral for colonoscopy
(D) Transfusion of packed red blood cells*


The patient is admitted to the hospital and undergoes transfusion of packed red blood cells. Four hours later, the patient's bleeding recurs. Following cautery and nasal packing, the bleeding ceases. Twelve hours later, the patient develops headache, vomiting, and muscle weakness. He is disoriented and delirious. He appears flushed and uncomfortable. Vital signs: T=38.3°C (100.9°F), P=110/min, R=26/min, and BP=92/60 mm Hg. Physical examination discloses nonpurulent conjunctivitis and a diffuse, erythematous maculopapular rash over the trunk and both lower extremities.

Which of the following is the most likely pathophysiologic mechanism of this patient's current condition? 
(A) Exotoxin-mediated T-cell activation*
(B) Interleukin-mediated inhibition of CD 4+ T-lymphocytes
(C) Lipopolysaccharide-induced cytokine production
(D) Sphingosine kinase activation in inflammatory cells

*Correct answers shown in bold.

In 2012, new item formats that assess an examinee's ability to appropriately interpret information presented both in the form of a research abstract and a pharmaceutical advertisement were introduced into the Step 3 examination. More information about these item formats is provided in the Comprehensive Review of USMLE updates.

In 2013, Step 3 examinees will see an increase in the number of research abstract and pharmaceutical advertisement questions.


 



Updated practice materials for Step 1 examination

Posted: April 23, 2014

Updated practice materials for the Step 1 examination have been posted to the USMLE website. They include:

• Four blocks of downloadable practice test items, with tutorial
• USMLE Step 1 Sample Items booklet (PDF)
• USMLE Step 1 Content Description and General Information booklet (PDF)

As announced in January 2014, all USMLE examinations will be constructed from an integrated content outline that organizes content according to general principles and individual organ systems. Each Step exam will continue to have test specifications specific to that Step. Each Step exam will emphasize certain parts of the outline, and no single examination will include questions on all topics in the outline.

Step 1 examinations administered on or after mid-May 2014 will be constructed using the integrated content outline. However, changes resulting from use of the new outline are minor, and the examination content will be similar to content on previous examinations.

The previous Step 1 content outline will remain available on the USMLE website for reference.


Use caution in selecting review courses

Posted: June 29, 2011
Updated: April 04, 2014

Orientation, Practice, and Self-Assessment Materials Available through USMLE, NBME, and Third Parties

The United States Medical Licensing Examination® (USMLE®) program recognizes the importance of providing all examinees the opportunity to learn about the design and content of its examinations and to have some exposure, before examination day, to samples of testing formats and materials. USMLE provides orientation and practice materials for all USMLE Steps and Step Components. These materials, which are available at no cost on the USMLE website, include:

• Informational materials on the overall USMLE program and content descriptions for each of the USMLE examinations,
• Tutorials that illustrate the USMLE Step 1, Step 2 Clinical Knowledge (CK), Step 3 multiple-choice question software and the Step 3 computer-based case simulation (CCS) Primum® software,
• Sample multiple-choice test questions with answer keys for each Step,
• Sample Step 3 CCS cases with feedback, and
• Orientation materials for Step 2 Clinical Skills (CS).

In addition, the National Board of Medical Examiners® (NBME®) provides, for a fee, self-assessment services to help the examinee evaluate his or her readiness to take USMLE. These services help individuals become familiar with questions like those that have appeared on USMLE and provide performance feedback on the individual’s areas of relative strength and weakness. See www.nbme.org to obtain additional information and to purchase self-assessment services.

Beyond these USMLE and NBME services, there are a variety of commercial test preparation materials and courses that claim to prepare examinees for USMLE examinations. Examinees who are considering using such services should fully understand the nature of these services, the sources of any content being used, and the basis for any claims being made. None of these third-party materials or courses are affiliated with or sanctioned by the USMLE program and information on such materials and courses is not available from the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG), the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB), NBME, USMLE Secretariat, or medical licensing authorities.
 
Please note that it is unlawful for any test preparation program or any individual to use, disclose, distribute, or provide access to questions or answers from actual USMLE exams. An examinee who is involved with any enterprise that disseminates USMLE content should be aware of the consequences, which include the possible cancellation of USMLE registration and/or testing, the withholding or cancellation of scores, and the imposition of additional sanctions.



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