How to Score a 240 on Step 2CK

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The USMLE Step 2CK is the second written medical school board exam and it is typically taken after one year of clinical rotations. With USMLE Step 1 becoming a pass/fail exam this coming January, reaching your Step 2CK score goal may become more important than ever.

 

The goal of this test is to assess the examinee’s ability to assimilate the knowledge from pre-clinical and clinical years, apply that knowledge to clinical scenarios, and make decisions about how to proceed with testing and/or treatment in these scenarios. Furthermore, this test aims to assess the ability to practice medicine under supervision. As with USMLE Step 1, USMLE Step 2 CK is graded with a typical score range from 1 to 300. In order to avoid failing Step 2CK, you will need to attain a score of at least 209. Now, having this brief test and scoring overview, we can consider individualized approaches to the exam.

 

 

Getting Started: USMLE Step 2CK Resources

 

Before you can begin studying, creating a study schedule, or even setting a score goal, you will need to determine the appropriate resources. This is dependent upon many different variables, such as study schedule, Step 2CK score goal, time until test day, previous experience and learning style.

 

As with USMLE Step 1, UWorld is a tried and true resource that does a great job of promoting active learning by testing your knowledge and providing comprehensive review thereafter. NBMEs and other practice exams are a great resource for simulating test day. Some other key resources that have been beneficial are master the boards and onlinemeded.

 

Master the boards allows you to practice the mentality that is required to reach your USMLE Step 2CK score goal. The trick to getting the most out of these resources is applying the knowledge gained while using them to UWorld questions and practice exams. One important thing to remember is to not invest in or use too many resources. Pick a few resources (around 3) that you use primarily and if you have any questions or gaps in knowledge that are not covered with these, feel free to supplement.

 

 

Defining Your USMLE Step 2CK Score Goal

 

Defining a score goal can be difficult, so let’s look at some data about the test. The average USMLE Step 2CK score is approximately 242, mean is 245 with a standard deviation of 15, meaning that 68% of students who take the exam will fall between 230 and 260, 95% will fall between 215 and 275, 2.5% greater than 275 and 2.5% less than 215.

 

This is great news from the get go because it means that more than 97.5% of students taking this exam will pass. For some students, the primary goal is to pass, but the goal of this post is to discuss the loftier goal of getting above a 240. It can be helpful to break scoring ranges into tiers with average being within one standard deviation from the mean (230-260), between 1 and 2 standard deviations (215-230 and 260-275), and greater than 2 standard deviations (less than 215 or greater than 275). It is important to note that these percentiles are based on relation to other test-takers, not off pure average.

 

One way of attempting to extrapolate a personal baseline score goal is by taking your Step 1 score and adding about 10 points as this is the approximate change from Step 1 average to Step 2CK average (232-242), though this is crude. As with all tests and goals, they are fluid and can change as new variables are encountered. I would caution against setting too rigid of goals as they can both add undue stress and distract from the actual process that goes into reaching them.

 

 

Creating Your Study Schedule

 

To reach the score goal that you defined above, you will need to engineer a schedule that will lead you on the process towards this goal. Similar to the discussion on goal setting, it is important to recognize the need for some fluidity in study schedule creation. Unlike Step 1, studying for Step 2CK does not typically include a dedicated study period. Thus, the intricacies of schedule planning become that much more convoluted. This makes it that much more important to take advantage of all opportunities to add to your fund of knowledge, and to make efficient use of your Step 2CK study resources.

 

Studying for Step 2CK begins with the shelf exams that are encountered throughout the first year of clinical training. The most appropriate suggestion from the onset is to learn as much as possible on every rotation. A goal should be to perform as well as possible on each shelf exam as these will lay an important groundwork when shifting focus to Step 2CK. Especially important is the internal medicine shelf as this has the highest percentage of questions on Step 2CK.

 

As you near the time to be taking Step 2CK and want to narrow your studying, purchasing the study resources described above and honing in your schedule is paramount. Using the resources discussed above, you will work to supplement what was learned during rotations and studying for shelf exams in pursuit of the Step 2CK score goal that you set above. This may also be a good time to consider enlisting the help of a Step 2CK tutor.

 

The crux of any board studying discussion is results. How do you get to the point where you are ready to take this test? The first step is understanding the test and what you are getting into, which was already covered here. The next step is selecting the best resources for you and executing your study schedule as well as you can. UWorld can be an important tool to help you gauge how you are doing. It is important to note again, that the important variable is not your raw percentage correct, but that percentage correct relative to other students. NBME can serve as another tool to give you an idea about where you stand.

 

As with any competitive endeavor (academic, physical, or otherwise), your confidence or lack thereof can make a big difference in your performance. Being able to practice in situations akin to what will be encountered on test day will be helpful in creating some familiarity. The more practice you have will also promote confidence on test day. When test day comes, the most important thing is to trust in the preparation that you have done and use it as an opportunity to demonstrate the fruits of your hard work.

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