The USMLE Step 2 is going to be the second of your three stages, and it actually consists of two different parts. This is the USMLE Step 2 CK (or clinical knowledge) portion and the CS (or clinical skills) portion. We’re going to take a look at what you should know going into the USMLE Step 2. That includes information about the test itself as well as information about the scores that you’re looking for.
We’ll talk about the USMLE Step 2 score you need in order to pass, what the highest score possible is, and the score you’ll likely want to achieve. Not only that, but we’ll look at what to do if you fail a portion of this step or even fail the entire Step 2. The most important thing is knowing what you can expect and starting from there.
When Do You Take USMLE Step 2 and How Long is it?
Most students complete the USMLE Step 2 during their fourth year of medical school. In order to take the USMLE Step 2, students must be enrolled in or graduates of a US institution granting an AOA accredited DO degree or enrolled in or graduates of a US or Canadian institution granting an LCME accredited MD degree. They must also have taken and passed the USMLE Step 1.
So, how long is the USMLE Step 2 exam? Well, there are actually two different parts to this exam. The first section is the multiple-choice section, which is very similar to the multiple-choice for USMLE Step 1. These questions relate to clinical science, including surgery, internal medicine, gynecology, pediatrics, and obstetrics. This is the portion of the exam is scored on a number scale, also similar to the way that the Step 1 exam is scored.
It takes approximately 9 hours to complete this section of the test, broken down over 8 45 minute sections with no more than 40 questions per set. In between, there will be breaks, and there will be a 15 minute tutorial on how to use the computer system prior to taking the test.
The second portion of the exam is the clinical skills portion. The Step 2 CS score is a pass/fail model, and it’s designed to offer the opportunity to examine patients. In this part of the exam, you must travel to a testing center, of which there are five in the country. While at these centers, you will encounter actors posing as patients, and your task is to perform an examination as well as diagnosis of those patients. It generally consists of 15-minute encounters as well as 10-minute patient notes per encounter. There will typically be 12 encounters over an 8 hour period.
If you want to learn more about the best time to take Step 2, check our our post on when to take Step 2 here.
When are USMLE Step 2 Scores Released?
If you’ve already taken your Step 2 or you’re curious about how long it’s going to take after you take the test actually to get the scores let’s take a look. Actually, Step 2 CK score release is within 3 to 4 weeks after the test date. The clinical knowledge portion of the exam is the multiple-choice portion that will be similar to the Step 1 exam. It’s also completed entirely on a computer, which makes it easier to evaluate and score. Test results will generally be emailed to you or available through the platform.
The Step 2 clinical skills scores, however, are a little more complicated, and the information gathered from your performance must be evaluated by hand. This means that it takes longer for scores to be generated. It is also scored as either a pass or fail. These scores are released over seven different periods of the year, based on when you take the exam. In general, this is 1-2 months after taking the test. Results will generally be emailed to you or available through the platform for this portion of the exam, as well.
What is a Passing USMLE Step 2 Score?
The USMLE Step 2 clinical knowledge portion requires a numerical score of 209 in order to pass the exam. With a total possible score of 300, this means you need to get over 2/3 of the points in order to achieve a passing score. There are no more than 318 questions on the exam (though the exact number may change from one year to the next). This means that each question is weighted differently and may be worth more than others. To check out the best Step 2 CK resources, read our post on that here.
Just getting a score above passing is not the only thing to consider, however. You’ll also want to take a closer look at the scores that other people are getting in the field that you would like to go into. If you are looking to match with a residency in dermatology, for example, you would need a different score than if you are looking to match in family medicine. Take a look at the chart below to see the average scores students achieve in order to match with different specialties.
You want to be able to get into a residency program that you are going to enjoy, and that means aiming to get at least the average score that others have gotten in order to match. If you are looking to match in orthopedic surgery, you should aim to get at least a 251 on your USMLE Step 2. If you’re looking to match in psychiatry, you should aim to get at least a 233 on your Step 2. Aiming higher, however, is always going to be better.
What is the Highest Possible Step 2 Score?
The highest score possible on the USMLE Step 2 is actually a 300, just like with the USMLE Step 1. However, this hasn’t happened yet. Students have achieved scores of over 280 on this test as well as the Step 1 test; however, that perfect score is still an elusive result. It’s also important to note that the test changes from year to year in slight ways. Different questions are added or removed, and each question is weighted differently from one test to the next.
Now, it’s a good idea to aim for the highest possible score because that’s going to open up a lot more doors for you when it comes to your residency. But don’t be discouraged to fall a little short of your ideal. If you push yourself and you can achieve a good score, you’re going to be in a good place for your applications. If you get a score of 255, you’re over the average for any residency program. Getting a score of between 240 and 260 will give you an excellent opportunity to apply to just about any program and have a comfortable shot at making a match.
What is a Good Score for Step 2?
What is a good Step 2 CK score? A good score for the USMLE Step 2 is at least a 245. This would be a relatively average step 2 CK score. This is going to get you at about the middle of the average scores for most specialties. You’ll be able to meet or beat most of the averages, and you should have a good chance of getting into the specialty you want. If you get a score between 240-250, you should be able to apply for any specialty and have a reasonable chance at it.
Keep in mind that the numbers in the chart below are averages. That means that some people are able to get a match in that specialty with a lower score. Some required a higher score in order to get in. The key is not just your USMLE Step 2 score, but also the rest of your application. If you have a robust application, even without a stellar Step 2 score, you may still be able to make the match you really want.
What are the Average Step 2 Scores for Different Specialties?
If you have a particular specialty in mind, you’ll want to take a closer look at this chart to see just what it’s going to take for you to get into the field that you want. Remember that each of these is only averages and while it’s a good idea to hit the average if, at all possible, a strong application and strong capabilities in other areas could make up for a slightly lower score.
|Pediatric Internal Medicine||245|
|Obstetrics & Gynecology||242|
|Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation||234|
What to Do if You Fail Step 2 CS?
Failure is painful to accept no matter what it’s about, but when it comes to your USMLE, it can be even harder. When you’re facing the prospect of not getting into your residency of choice or not matching with a residency of all, it can be hard to deal with. The first thing to understand is that you are not alone.
While the majority of students pass the CS test the first time, between 5% and 15% of first-timers failed Step 2 CS, according to data from 2016-2018. In fact, DO students find themselves at the higher end of that spread, with MD students achieving a Step 2 CS pass rate of close to 95%.
Come to terms with failure. The first thing you need to do is simply to accept that you’ve failed. It can be a difficult thing for anyone, and when you’ve come this far in your studies to find out that you’re going to be pushed back a little further can be discouraging, but accepting the facts and being ready and willing to continue is an integral part of the process.
Get back to it. Don’t let this be the end for you. Just because you didn’t make it the first time around does not mean that it’s not going to happen at all. It just means you need a little more time to study and a little more effort at it. So get right back to it and start studying again. You’re going to need to put in even more effort than you did the last time. Even though you’ve got a head start on some of the studying, you still have a good ways to go.
Take a break. We just said to get back into it, but you may need to take a little break first. Take a few days or no more than a week to just rest and come to grips with the thought of starting over again. Relax and let your mind rest for a little bit of time. You may need this in order to recharge the same way your classmates need to take a bit of time off. You’ve been studying extensively for a long time, and a reset could be a great thing.
Ask for advice. It can be hard to tell anyone that you’ve failed and that you’re not going to be moving forward at the same pace as they are, but it’s a great time to ask for help. Talk to your friends and classmates who have passed the exam and find out what they did differently. Seek out a mentor in a teacher or a resident or even a doctor that will help you understand what it is you missed the first time around with your exam.
Know where the mistakes came from. Did you skip studying something because you thought you had a good understanding? Did you not answer every question because you ran out of time? Know what the problem was and start with that as you’re studying. If you struggle with time management, then taking timed practice tests is essential. If you struggle with a particular area, then put more focus on that area right away.
Make a new Step 2 study plan. It’s easy to get caught up in doing exactly the same things that you did last time, but those didn’t work out so well last time. That means this time around you need to have new ideas and new ways of doing things. Asking for advice is one way to find those out, but make sure you actually implement new ideas. Don’t ignore the advice you’re getting from others and assume you can do better this time with the same old ideas.
When Should You Take a USMLE Step 2 Prep Course, if at All?
Are you ready to start studying for the USMLE Step 2, but you’re not quite sure about a prep course? You’re definitely not alone because not everyone really feels like they’re a great idea. What you should know is that these courses are designed to help you understand what to study and how to do it. You definitely want to take a prep course to aid in your study process.
When you should actually take the course, is another question entirely, right? Well, you should start the course as early as you possibly can. You’ll generally take USMLE Step 1 after your second year of medical school. That means you’ll want to start studying for Step 2 as soon as you can after this. You want to make sure you have as much time to prepare as possible. With a prep course, you’re generally going to pay for access based on the length of time you want to use the program.
Starting early with your prep course means you’ll pay a little more because you’re going to have more months of studying. This can help you get a better result, however, because you have more time to go over the material. You can also choose to use more than one prep course, beginning one as soon as you pass the USMLE Step 1 and then taking another once you’ve finished that course, usually somewhere in the middle of year three or the beginning of year 4. You can take a look at the way each course works and make a decision about which is the best for you. Then you can go back to one or the other if they work for you.
Wrapping Things Up: Average USMLE Step, 2 Scores Takeaways, to Remember
Are you ready to take a closer look at some of the most important things that we’ve talked about over the course of this article? We believe there are some extremely important things that you should pay attention to, even if you don’t actually read any of the rest (though we definitely think that you’re going to get a lot of great information out of reading the entire thing).
Aim for your specialty average. Take some time to check out the chart above and really think about the specialty that you would like to match with. Then, work hard at getting at least that average and preferably a little higher. A score of between 240-250 will get you a good shot at matching with most programs.
Be willing to accept failure. Understand that not everyone is going to pass this exam the first time around. The failure rate for the clinical knowledge portion is between 3% and 5%, while the failure rate for the clinical skills portion is between 5% and 15%. Accept that if you don’t make it around, you can and should keep trying and go for it again. You can absolutely be a great doctor without passing on the first go.
Know you’re ready to go. One way to cut down the chance that you don’t make it on the first try is to take the exam only when you’re confident that you’re ready. Now, if you’re the type of person who never feels prepared, you may have to set yourself a deadline, but for most, you want to be your own judge. If you take the test too early, before you feel comfortable, it’s going to increase your chances of failure.
Study hard. Take that prep course. They’re definitely going to help you get a good understanding of what you’re doing, and they’re going to make it easier for you to get through the material in a cohesive and effective way.
Hopefully, each of these tips and techniques is going to help you along. You absolutely can pass the USMLE Step 2 exam, and you can get the score that you’re looking for. Just make sure that you’re paying attention to what you need to get into your specialty and that you’re making a reasonable effort toward preparation.
Did you like this post? Then you may also like our post on what the average USMLE Step 1 score is here.
Make sure to also check out our medical school study tips.