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Review of USMLE Step 3 minimum passing performance

Posted: September 03, 2019

The USMLE Management Committee is scheduled to review the minimum passing score for the USMLE Step 3 examination at its meeting on December 4-5, 2019. The Management Committee includes physicians drawn from medical education and licensing as well as members of the public.

The committee establishes and monitors Step 3 performance and completes an in-depth review of the minimum passing standard for each USMLE Step or its component every three to four years.

For the 2019 Step 3 review, information from multiple sources will be considered, including:

  • Results of content-based standard setting exercises conducted with three independent groups of physicians in 2019;
  • Results of surveys of various groups (e.g., state licensing representatives, medical school faculty, samples of examinees) concerning the appropriateness of current pass/fail standards for Step examinations;
  • Trends in examinee performance; and
  • Measurement precision near the cut score.

If the Committee determines that a change to the minimum passing score is appropriate, the new recommended minimum passing score will become effective for all examinees who take a Step 3 examination on or after January 1, 2020. The decision of the Committee will be posted at the USMLE website.


Change in minimum passing score for Step 3

Posted: December 09, 2019

The recommended Step 3 minimum passing score will change from 196 to 198. This change will affect examinees who take a Step 3 examination that begins on or after January 1, 2020.

As stated in the USMLE Bulletin of Information and as explained in a previous posting to the USMLE website, the minimum passing score for each USMLE Step examination is reviewed periodically and may be adjusted at any time. 

At its December 2019 meeting, the USMLE Management Committee* conducted a review of the Step 3 examination minimum passing score. During the meeting, the Committee considered information from multiple sources, including:

  • Recommendations from independent groups of physicians who participated in content-based standard-setting activities in 2019;
  • Results of surveys of various groups (e.g., state licensing representatives, medical school faculty, examinees) concerning the appropriateness of current passing requirements for the Step 3 examination;
  • Data on trends in examinee performance;
  • Data on precision of pass/fail classifications. 

As a result of its review, the USMLE Management Committee decided to raise the recommended Step 3 minimum passing score from 196 to 198. 

As noted above, this change will apply to Step 3 examinees who take a Step 3 examination that begins on or
after January 1, 2020.

*The USMLE Management Committee is composed of medical school faculty with experience in undergraduate and graduate education, members of state medical boards, public members, and a resident member. The Management Committee is responsible for setting minimum passing performance levels for all USMLE exams.


USMLE score reporting schedule

Posted: December 02, 2019

Scores for all USMLE Step examinations will be released as regularly scheduled on Wednesday, December 18, 2019. Scores for all USMLE Step examinations will also be released on Tuesday, December 24, 2019. 

Only Step 2 Clinical Skills (CS) score reports will be released on Tuesday, December 31, 2019. 
All USMLE scores will be released as regularly scheduled on Wednesday, January 8, 2020.


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