If you’re a medical student getting ready for your residency training, you’ll need to pass the USMLE Step 2 for it. Unfortunately, because of the hectic nature of medical schools, you may not have enough time to prepare. This is why you need specific information to help you optimize the little time you have to prepare. We’ve researched this information, including the best resources available to help you prepare better. Before jumping to those, let’s understand what the exam is about.
What is USMLE Step 2?
The USMLE-Step 2 is the second part of the United States Medical Licensure Examination. It is a nine-hour long multiple-choice exam used to assess clinical knowledge. It typically tests an examinee’s ability to apply medical skills, knowledge, and understanding of clinical science essential in the provision of patient care. In contrast to the USMLE Step 1, the USMLE Step 2 focuses more on the clinical application of medical knowledge. The exam is generally taken during the 4th year of medical school, and it provides the foundation for the safe and competent practice of medicine under supervision.
What to Study for USMLE Step 2?
While taking feedback for this article, we found that students commonly assume that more resources typically equals better performance. You’d commonly see students admit that reviewing everything in each study resource would set them up for better performance than using one resource. Unfortunately, this is a fallacy. With the right resource in your armory, you may not need to search for different resources. Most exam experts accept the UWorld question bank as the best resource for Step 2 CK.
If you can get through the entire QBank and understand each question, passing Step 2 CK won’t be a problem. However, beyond the QBank, another resource that we’ve found helpful is the official exam practice questions offered by the NBME. These questions are the best possible predictor of actual exam scores. We recommend taking at least two practice exams to familiarize you with the exam structure and stimulate the stress of the actual exam. We also recommend taking a practice exam about two weeks before the exam, as this will allow you to know how close you are to your goal score.
Besides the resources mentioned above, several other high-yield resources exist to supplement your studies. Such resources can be used to further research problem topics. However, they should never be considered primary resources because of their shallowness in specific vital topics. Some of such resources include Online MedEd, First Aid for Step 2 CK, Step 2-3-Clinical from Boards & Beyond, Master the Boards Step 2 CK, and USMLE Step 2 Secrets.
What is a Good USMLE Step 2 Score?
Usually, you’d need to get a numerical score of at least 209 out of a possible 300 to pass the USMLE Step 2 exams. This translates to 2/3 of the total possible score. The exact number of questions in the exams typically changes yearly, although it’ll never exceed 318 questions. The variation in the number of expected questions means that different questions are weighted differently. So, a question may earn you more marks than the others.
Let’s point out that it’s not just enough to meet the passing score. You also want to look at the average score of other candidates in the field you’re aspiring to go into. For example, students looking to major in dermatology may require a different score from students looking to major in family medicine. Therefore, it’s also important to research the average score of each specialty before the exam.
How to Pass the USMLE Step 2 Exam?
Imagine spending four years and several thousand dollars in medical school only to fail in your efforts to get a residency because you didn’t do so well in the USMLE Step 2 Exam. It’s even more painful realizing that the exam is one of the most straightforward exams to study for, requiring just a few readily available materials, practice, and personal organization. That said, here’s a guide to give some of the most valuable tips on how to pass USMLE Step 2. Acing the exam is quite easy, as long as you’re ready to follow these preparation tips:
Learn to type
The new Step 2 CS exam is computer-based and requires you to be able to type quickly and efficiently. If you’re not a good typist, then the 25 minutes allotted for each case would not be enough to finish. So while preparing for the exams mentally, it’s also essential to take some typing lessons. Fortunately, you just need to understand the basics of typing to be able to handle this part.
Know your differentials
Remember that you also need to know the key buzzwords for the prototype cases to nail the diagnosis. The board expects you to have done your assignment by mastering the differentials before the exam date. So, they’ll look out for how well you can identify cases. For example, if they present a patient with RUQ pain in a fertile forty female who happens to be obese, they expect you to know it is cholecystitis right away.
As we’ve pointed out in one of the sections above, there are so many practice materials available out there. You just need to lay your hands on the right ones and use them well. Many of these resources would allow you to practice real-life case simulations, so they wouldn’t be strange when you meet them in exam situations. So, find a serious study buddy and regularly practice before the exam.
Be humble and warm to the patient
Part of the most valuable characteristic of any medical practitioner is patience. You’re expected to have empathy before going into the medical field. Unfortunately, not many people show as much compassion to patients these days. So, it’s not surprising that the board emphasizes it when qualifying students for residency programs. The more you’re able to demonstrate empathy to your patients, the better your chances.
3 Best Study Materials for USMLE Step 2
Most times, when people ask questions like “is USMLE Step 2 hard?” They are worried about the preparatory phase. Fortunately, it’s not as difficult as it seems, especially since it has some of the most straightforward preparatory processes any exam can boast of. Never forget that you’ll need the right preparatory resources for the exam. If you don’t know what’s right yet, here are some of the best study materials for the exams. These resources feature the right USMLE Step 2 syllabus, so you shouldn’t be worried about content.
First Aid for the USMLE Step 2 CK by Tao Le
One of the reasons for this book’s popularity is how it summarizes otherwise bulky topics. It is a very comprehensive guide yet still manages to cut out all the information you won’t need for the exam. It contains hundreds of critical facts and mnemonics to reinforce essential concepts. If you prefer self-study, this is certainly an option you should consider.
- It offers concise summaries of over 1,000 commonly tested clinical topics
- Expert coverage of best initial steps in patient diagnosis and treatment
- It contains tons of full-color illustrations and photographs for detailed understanding.
- Le, Tao (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 656 Pages - 10/15/2018 (Publication Date) - McGraw Hill / Medical (Publisher)
Last update: 2023-09-24
Master the Boards USMLE Step 2 CK by Conrad Fischer
If you’re looking for a book containing a detailed review of the clinical knowledge exam, this is a good option. The book offers a step-by-step approach to patient care, but it doesn’t just stop there. It offers sample questions on each topic to familiarize you with how exams will look. Most users are impressed with how the inclusion of hundreds of full-color diagnostic images makes studying easier and more engaging.
- The inclusion of comparison tables, decision tables, and flowcharts helps to condense broad topics and make them easily understandable at a glance.
- There’s a chapter dedicated to offering expert tips for recognizing incorrect answers.
- It offers a step-by-step approach to patient care.
- Fischer MD, Conrad (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 744 Pages - 01/05/2021 (Publication Date) - Kaplan Test Prep (Publisher)
Last update: 2023-09-24
This concise study material has mnemonics and quick-hit facts spread around it for easier memorization. It’s one of the shortest guides available for Step 2 CK, but that doesn’t take away anything from the amount of information it has to offer. It’s the perfect supplementary resource to turn to when you need a break from reading paragraphs of text.
The guide offers you key facts in small sentences and paragraphs so that you can study more efficiently. Readers are typically impressed with it because it gives them a glimpse of how topics show up on the Step 2 exam.
- Straight to the point, with bullet points to highlight important parts of each topic
- It includes sample questions with detailed explanations to help familiarize readers with the exam structure.
- This guide still contains enough information to prepare you for the exam despite its shortness.
Last update: 2023-09-24
Wrapping Things Up: How Hard is the USMLE Step 2?
Like most other exams you’ll meet on your way to becoming a doctor, the USMLE Step 2 is pretty straightforward. However, it needs adequate preparation. Most students fail to hit the required pass mark for this exam because of inadequate preparations. But don’t be scared; you wouldn’t fall into this hole if you had the right information. Remember that it pays to start preparing early. Get any combination of the resources we’ve listed in this article. You can also head to the board’s website to see other exam-specific information that will help you prepare better.