Frequently Asked Questions

When will changes take place to USMLE score reporting, and how will the changes affect the 2020 residency application cycle? The 2021 cycle?

No decisions have yet been made regarding changes to USMLE scoring. If a decision is made to change USMLE scoring, any changes would be announced well in advance of the impacted application cycle.

If a change is made to USMLE score reporting, would transcripts for examinees who tested under the previous score reporting system also be changed?

No decisions have been made regarding whether any changes would affect only future test takers, or if all transcripts would use the new score reporting system.

What changes are being considered for USMLE score reporting?

Although no decisions have been made, all of the following options were among those discussed as possibilities during the conference and will be considered:

  1. Pass/Fail (of Step 1 alone or the entire USMLE sequence);
  2. Categorical/tiered scoring of USMLE (e.g., quartiles, quintiles, or some other division);
  3. A composite score across the assessments within USMLE’s Decision Point 1 (DP1), consisting of aggregate performance information from Step 1, Step 2 CK and Step 2 CS.

If USMLE score reporting is changed to pass/fail, how will examinees who fail know how close they were to passing the exam, in order to gauge how much they need to improve their score to pass?

If a change is made to report only pass/fail outcomes on one or more Step examinations, score reports provided to examinees will still include information about relative performance, both overall and in specific content areas.

Who would make any decisions about whether USMLE score reporting will change?

Any changes to USMLE score reporting would be made by the co-owners of the program – the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) and the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME), advised and informed by the USMLE Composite and Management Committees.

Knowledge is an important factor in the quality of a physician but not the only important factor. Compassion, self-awareness, and teamwork/cooperation are just a few other traits that are necessary for a well-rounded physician. Can a standardized exam be created to help measure these factors along with knowledge that would provide at least as much information to prospective graduate medical education programs as the current USMLE exam?

The report includes the recommendation that residency program directors need tools to more holistically evaluate candidates.


Questions & Answers were provided as part of the webinar hosted by the InCUS planning committee and recorded June 24, 2019.