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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 from medical schools and state medical boards 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 program announces upcoming policy changes

Posted: February 12, 2020

Today, the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) and the National Board of Medical Examiners® (NBME®), co-sponsors of the United States Medical Licensing Examination® (USMLE®), announced upcoming policy changes to the USMLE program.

These new policies will continue to enable the USMLE program to provide high-quality assessments for the primary user of exam results (state medical boards) while also addressing other considerations, such as exam security and unintended consequences of secondary score uses. The secondary uses of Step 1 scores for residency screening, in particular, have been the focus of extensive discussion over the past year at the FSMB and NBME, within the USMLE program, and with multiple stakeholders within the broader medical education and regulatory communities.

“These new policies strengthen the integrity of the USMLE and address concerns about Step 1 scores impacting student well-being and medical education,” said Humayun Chaudhry, DO, MACP, President and CEO of the FSMB. “Although the primary purpose of the exam is to assess the knowledge and skills essential to safe patient care, it is important that we improve the transition from undergraduate to graduate medical education.”

“The USMLE program governance carefully considered input from multiple sources in coming to these decisions. Recognizing the complexity of the environment and the desire for improvement, continuation of the status quo was not the best way forward,” reported Peter Katsufrakis, MD, MBA, President and CEO of NBME. “Both program governance and staff believe these changes represent improvements to the USMLE program and create the environment for improved student experiences in their education and their transition to residency."

These policy changes are currently planned to be phased in over the next 11-24 months. For specific information on each policy, consult the links above to the detailed statements accompanying each policy change. A podcast supplementing the information contained in this announcement is below.


Potential impact of coronavirus on USMLE examination administrations

Posted: January 30, 2020

The USMLE program continues to monitor the outbreak of respiratory illness caused by a novel (new) coronavirus, 2019-nCoV, first detected in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China and is prepared to take appropriate measures as warranted to protect the health and safety of examinees and the public.

Whenever an examinee has a scheduled testing appointment, it is important to monitor the impact of illness, weather, or other conditions on USMLE administrations by going to the Prometric website (for Step 1, Step 2 CK, and Step 3 exams) and the CSEC website (for Step 2 Clinical Skills exams) for updates. Test centers may close at any time. 

If you have been impacted by a test center closure related to the corona virus and need assistance with rescheduling your examination, please contact your registration entity.

It is also always important to monitor your own health. If you do not feel well on the day of your test, we strongly encourage you to reschedule your examination. If you become ill while taking any USMLE exam, inform a proctor promptly.

Please check the USMLE website for updates on the potential impact of coronavirus on USMLE administrations.


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