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How to Pass USMLE Step 2

A medical school student customizing their USMLE Step 2 study plan on a daily planner.


Arguably the most important test you will take as a medical student is the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 2 Clinical Knowledge (CK). Given that this is the only remaining USMLE exam that reports a score (at least one that matters), it is expected that this test will be used as a means to screen residency applicants. Resultingly, it is critically important for you to not only pass this exam but also obtain a competitive score for your intended residency specialty. In this blog post, we will provide some of the most important information you need to know to pass the USMLE Step 2.



How Easy is It to Pass Step 2?


At the time this post is written, the passing Step 2 score is 214 (https://www.usmle.org/change-step-2-ck-passing-standard-begins-july-1-2022). Importantly, according to USMLE performance data, 99% of US/Canadian MD Degree test takers and 98% of DO Degree test takers pass the test on their first attempt. Additionally, 75% of US/Canadian repeat MD Degree test takers and 71% of repeat DO Degree test takers pass the test. For Non-US/Canadian test takers, 91% pass on the first attempt, and repeat test takers pass 62% of the time. Together, these data signify that the overwhelming majority of ALL medical students will pass the USMLE Step 2 on their first attempt. This data should provide you with some comfort that you have a good chance of passing this examination. However, passing is not just enough! You want to score as high as possible.



What is Considered a Good Score on Step 2?


It is difficult to say what is a good score on Step 2. It entirely depends on which medical specialty you plan on applying for. The most recent data provided by the NRMP from the 2022 Match show the following:

  • Average USMLE Step 2 Score for US MD Test Takers
    • Matched: 248
    • Not Matched: 242
  • Average USMLE Step 2 Score for US DO Test Takers
    • Matched: 241
    • Not Matched: 236
  • Average USMLE Step 2 Score for US International Medical Graduate Test Takers
    • Matched: 233
    • Not Matched: 225 
  • Average USMLE Step 2 Score for Non-US International Medical Graduate Test Takers
    • Matched: 243
    • Not Matched: 234 


So, as a good rule of thumb, if you score around the average number of those students who matched, you can rest assured you have a solid score. However, if we look at medical subspecialties, this is where the definition of good can get complicated. For example, the average Step 2 score of US MD Test Takers who matched into Family Medicine in 2022 was 241. So, obtaining the average score of 248 for this group of students is above average for Family Medicine. That is fantastic!


However, if you look at the average USMLE Step 2 score for US MD Test Takers who matched into Neurosurgery, which is 252, then getting the overall average score of 248 is slightly below average (although, not too far off!). To figure out what a good score is, think about which medical specialty you plan on applying to, look up the average score of students who matched into that specialty, and aim to score around or above that number!



How Do I Pass UMLE Step 2?


While there is no one size fits all approach, there are a few general approaches you want to take advantage of:


Make a study schedule


Come up with a USMLE Step 2 study schedule that will allow you to complete the resources listed below with ample time prior to test day. Aim to finish your question bank at least two weeks prior to test day.


Find yourself a trusted question bank (UWorld, Amboss, etc.) and complete it!


Try and get through the question bank in its entirety at least once – ideally, you would complete your first pass through these practice questions during your core clinical clerkships (generally third year of medical school), and then your second pass during a dedicated study period for Step 2.


Utilize Practice Tests


There are a myriad of practice tests available (NBME, UWorld, Amboss) and it is important to take multiple tests throughout different stages of your study period to track your progress.


Take advantage of other resources


While practice tests and a question bank are the most important resources for Step 2, some students like to supplement their studying with textbooks, videos, online courses, or study outlines. Find something or somethings that work for you!


Learn the content and how to take the test


Often, students focus only on the content of the test. While this is the largest part of the test, it is important to also practice how to be a good test taker. This refers to how to read through a USMLE question, create a differential diagnosis, and work through the answer choices systematically and methodically.


Reach out for help


If you find that you are not progressing or are not sure what resources to utilize, consider getting a USMLE Step 2 CK tutor. Tutors are excellent resources that can help understand your strengths and weaknesses as a test taker and make recommendations on how to improve your knowledge base, study skills, and test-taking skills. Additionally, they can lead didactic sessions to teach you high-yield content and difficult material.


While studying for Step 2 can be difficult, it does not have to be! Working with other students, colleagues, or a tutor can simplify the process and provide insight into how to be the best test taker you can be. Schedule a complimentary consultation today to learn more about what Elite Medical Prep can do to help you succeed!

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