Change to the USMLE Attempt Limit Policy

The USMLE program is changing the limit on the total number of times an examinee may take the same Step or Step Component. After this policy is implemented, an examinee will be ineligible to take a Step or Step Component if the examinee has made four (4) or more prior attempts on that Step or Step Component, including incomplete attempts. This policy change will reduce the total number of attempts an examinee may take per Step or Step Component from six (6) to four (4). The new policy will be implemented no earlier than January 1, 2021.

The USMLE Composite Committee, the governing body of USMLE comprised of medical educators, regulators and members of the public, considers all aspects of the examination as they seek to ensure that the program fulfills its mission to protect the public by providing meaningful information to licensing authorities in the United States. The committee voted to change the number of allowed attempts to protect the integrity of the exam and more closely match the USMLE attempt limits imposed by state medical boards in the majority of states. As part of the review, the committee reviewed information showing that it is uncommon for individuals with multiple repeated attempts on USMLE examination Steps or Components to complete the examination sequence successfully, gain access to postgraduate training and, ultimately, receive a license to practice medicine in the United States.

For more information regarding the policy change, please review the FAQs below.

Attempt Limit FAQs

What is the change to the attempt limit policy?

The attempt limit policy change reduces the total number of attempts allowed per Step or Step Component from six (6) to four (4).

Why is the policy changing?

The USMLE Composite Committee, the governing body of USMLE, considers all aspects of the examination as they work to ensure that the program fulfills its mission to protect the public by providing meaningful information to licensing authorities in the United States. Because it is uncommon for individuals with multiple repeated attempts on USMLE examinations to complete the examination sequence successfully, gain access to postgraduate training and ultimately receive a license to practice medicine in the United States, the committee voted to change the number of allowed attempts. This change also protects the integrity of the exam and more closely matches the USMLE attempt limits imposed by state medical licensing boards in the majority of states.

When does the change to the attempt limit policy take effect?

The policy change will be effective no earlier than January 1, 2021. More information about the effective date of the new policy will be announced within the next few months.

Is there a limit on the number of times I can take an individual USMLE Step or Step Component before the attempt limit policy takes effect?

The current attempt limit will remain in effect until the policy change occurs. Currently, examinees can make a maximum of six (6) attempts at each Step or Step Component. All attempts at USMLE Steps are subject to the retake pacing rules, as explained in the USMLE Bulletin of Information

What does this policy change mean for someone who already has four (4) or more attempts at a Step or Step Component once the policy is in effect?

After the policy change takes effect sometime on or after January 1, 2021, an examinee with four (4) or more attempts at a Step or Step Component can contact the Office of the Secretariat for additional information.


If you have additional questions, please contact us.