Once you’ve taken the step 1 exam, you want to make sure that you know when to take step 2 as well. After all, you don’t want to waste time if you don’t have to, and that means you likely want to get started on studying and taking this exam right away. That’s because we definitely want to make sure that you’re taking the step 2 exam.
Some people may tell you that step 2 isn’t that important and that it’s not really required. However, this is a critical exam to take because required or not, residency programs like to see the results. They want to know that you have the knowledge and the skills that they need in their program. Taking this exam, both the clinical skills and clinical knowledge portions will help you to get a little bit ahead when it comes to your placement.
With this article, we’re going to talk about when to take the test, including the best days to take step 2. That way, you’ll be able to get a good head start on your USMLE Step 2 prep as soon as you’ve completed step 1. You want to make sure you have plenty of time to study, and you know the best times to take the step 2 exam.
Why is When You Take the Step 2 Exam Important?
When you take the Step 2 exam is essential because it’s going to help you get into the residency that you want. When you take this exam, you’re going to have the ability to showcase to potential residency programs that you have the skills they’re looking for and the educational background to support you.
The important thing is to make sure that you take the test early enough that you can get the results to the residency program that you want to enter before they make their decisions about who to admit. You don’t want to take it too early, however, because you could be missing some of the information that you would otherwise have learned in class. That’s why most people choose to take the Step 2 exam right around their third or fourth year of medical school.
How Early Do I Have to Register for My Step 2 Test Date?
For the clinical skills portion, you are actually able to register for an eligibility period up to a year in advance, so you’ll want to take a close look at when you’re going to be ready. When you apply, you’ll receive a 12-month window during which you are eligible to take the exam, and you get to choose a time during that window.
For the clinical knowledge portion, you will be given only a 3-month window during which you can schedule. However, you are given the opportunity to apply up to six months in advance. This gives you plenty of time to make a decision on when you would like to take the exam.
With either of these, you should be sure to schedule the test as soon as you believe you are going to be ready. If you will complete your study materials and/or the third year of your medical school training, it’s a good idea to schedule your exam for that time. This keeps you from getting too overwhelmed or holding yourself back when you really are ready.
What Months Are Best for Taking the USMLE Step 2 Exam?
So, when do you take step 2? When it comes to the USMLE Step 2, most people actually choose to take the clinical knowledge portion during the summer. It’s actually popular to take throughout summer with the top four months being May through August. The best months to take step 2, however, are the months in the middle of June and July. Most people try to avoid the beginning of the year with January and February being the least common.
On the opposite side of things is the USMLE Step 2 clinical skills portion. For this portion, the best times to take step 2 for most students are the winter months, with October through January being the most popular months. October and November, at the end of fall and beginning of winter, are the most popular of all. With this test, unlike the others, summer is the least popular time to take it with July and September being the least common.
Does the Day of the Week Matter for When to Take the USMLE Step 2 Exam?
When it comes to taking your exam, there is no specific day that is better than others as far as the test itself. The benefit really comes for you. In fact, medical students recommend taking the exam on a Friday because it allows you to get the exam out of the way and have some time to rest, relax and reset before heading into classes again on Monday morning.
Students who take the exam at the end of the week are also recommended to schedule something fun that they can do on the weekend after taking the exam. This gives them something to look forward to after the exam and also makes sure to take their mind off of it.
How Should I Time My Test Date to My Step 2 Study Schedule?
If you’re looking to plan the right day for your test, you should focus on the materials that you need to know before test day. Pay attention to the subjects that will be on the exam, and when you’re going to be learning about those in class. For most, scheduling this exam immediately after completing their third year or at the beginning of their fourth year is the best way to go.
This means you should be planning your study schedule around the date that you want to take the test. Picking out a test date or an ideal test date (since you can’t actually schedule it more than 6-12 months in advance) is the best way to begin. Then, work backward and decide how much studying you need to do in order to get through all of the materials that you want within the time you have available for study.
What Are Core Essentials for USMLE Step 2 Prep?
With all of the information we’ve already talked about when it comes to planning for when to take your exam, we should also give a little bit of time and focus to exactly what you need to know to prepare. Now, these are only a few foundational tips. Keep in mind if you want more advice on preparing for the USMLE Step 2, you should take a look at our other guide that will walk you through some advanced steps on what it’s going to take to really get ahead.
1. Use UWorld Qbank.
This is one of the most well-known products out there for medical students at any level, and there’s a reason that it’s so well regarded. It has a lot of questions, and those questions are designed to actually prepare you for what’s coming on the exams that you need to take.
2. Focus on learning the thought process.
The key to studying for the clinical knowledge exam is to know how to think and how to approach a situation. You don’t want to just memorize facts and figures in any part of your studying. Most of the questions you’ll find later will want you to apply a thought process to come up with the answer.
3. Utilize NBME practice tests.
These tests will give you a little bit more information on how you’re doing and how well your studying is going. They should also help you with what information you need to focus on more. You’ll be able to get a bit of an idea of what your score may look like, but keep in mind most people get higher scores by about 20+ points from NBME to the USMLE.
4. Study test-taking skills.
It’s not just about studying the material for the exam, though that’s important too. You should also be taking a closer look at your test-taking strategies such as time management, making educated guesses, and reading through the questions carefully. These skills will help you avoid silly mistakes.
5. Treat them like your loved one.
One of the best things to do when working with the USMLE Step 2 CS is to remember that your patient is someone’s family. Treat them warmly and be friendly and empathetic. Even though this is a simulation, you’re being graded on how well you interact with the people, so focus on being a kind person first and then on the actual knowledge gathering.
6. Use First Aid to help you.
The First Aid book is actually a great way to get help because it gives you a patient presenting with symptoms before giving you the answers. So, take a look at what the presenting complaint is and before you read the rest of the case, try to come up with a few possibilities that could be the cause, then read the rest of the information and see if you were right. This will give you more practice for the CS portion.
7. Know the structure of taking a history.
Taking a history involves set steps, and you need to make sure that you remember to ask for each, including: chief complaint, history of present illness, review of symptoms, past medical & surgical history, social history, family history, and medications & allergies.
8. Open and close the visit properly.
You want to walk into the room and make sure to greet the patient before you start asking questions. When you are finished with your exam, make sure that you close out the conversation in a friendly manner before walking out of the room. These will give you more points in the scoring process than just being abrupt, even if you get all of the information that you need and make a correct diagnosis.
Wrapping Things Up: When to Take the Step 2 Exam
When it all comes down to it, the Step 2 exam is best to take around your third to fourth year of medical school. It gives you a bit of an edge and a leg up when you’re working on getting into the rotations that you want. Just make sure that you’re studying well, including learning how to interact with your patients in a friendly way. This is going to make it easier for you during the clinical skills portion. For the clinical knowledge, portion, make sure you know how to take a test properly and focus on learning test-taking skills.
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