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Scheduling Your Step 2 CK for the 2025 Residency Match

8 min


A group of medical students studying for their Step 2 exam, sitting in front of a lap top.


With Step 1 transitioning to a pass/fail format, the significance of the Step 2 CK exam in medical school has heightened. For third-year medical students approaching the 2025 Residency Match, determining the timing for Step 2 CK is crucial. Unlike Step 1, scheduling Step 2 CK offers greater flexibility. Various factors should be considered when making this decision. In this blog, we will cover this topic, and advise on the latest possible date to take your Step 2 CK exam for the 2025 residency match cycle.



The 2025 Residency Match Cycle Timeline and Scheduling Considerations for Step 2 CK


For the 2025 residency season, programs will start reviewing ERAS (Electronic Residency Application Service) applications from September 28, 2024. It’s ideal to have your entire application ready by this date. In the past, before the change to pass/fail for Step 1, some students would submit ERAS in late September and share their Step 2 CK results later in the application season. However, with only a pass/fail Step 1 score, I wouldn’t advise submitting ERAS without a Step 2 CK score. Residency programs conduct a comprehensive review of applications, considering recommendation letters, MSPE, clinical grades, and extracurricular activities. In the initial review of numerous applications, lacking a Step 2 CK score—a key standardized measure distinguishing medical students globally—could be a disadvantage. To maximize your residency application opportunities, plan to have a score by the end of September for submission.


To achieve this, careful planning well in advance is essential. Consider that receiving your Step 2 CK score report can take 2-4 weeks after the exam. Your performance on Step 2 CK may impact the range of programs you apply to and the specific programs you choose. Having this information while compiling your program list and working on your ERAS application in September can be helpful. Depending on your progress and practice exams, you may need to delay your Step 2 CK until fully prepared. Considering these factors, I recommend planning to take Step 2 for the 2025 Residency Match by mid-August 2024 at the latest. However, the optimal timing may vary based on individual factors and your clinical schedules in the third and fourth years.



Navigating Clinical Rotations and Residency Preparation


Most third-year medical students complete their core clinical rotations around April or May of the third year and can start fourth-year rotations soon afterward. The timing may differ based on the school and the individual, particularly if there was a need for a leave of absence or if clinical rotations were delayed for an extended Step 1 study period.
If you’re in such situations, consider meeting our Residency Advisors to explore your optimal application timeline. Contact us to learn more about residency advising with Elite Medical Prep.


For some students, opting to take Step 2 CK right after completing third-year clinical rotations could be beneficial. At this point, you’ve recently wrapped up your studies for all shelf exams and probably covered a substantial portion of the Step 2 CK UWorld QBank and USMLE practice questions. Reflect on your performance in shelf exams and consider taking a baseline full-length Step 2 CK practice exam around this time to assess how much dedicated study time you might require. Generally, students need less preparation time for Step 2 CK compared to Step 1. Typically falling within the range of 2-4 weeks. See our ultimate 4-week Step 2 schedule to help you stay organized.


If you find a gap between completing third-year clerkships and starting fourth-year rotations, taking this opportunity to tackle Step 2 CK could be a good idea. Nevertheless, completing core clerkships is a significant accomplishment, and it’s understandable if you need some time off. Additionally, consider your fourth-year rotation schedule. Typically, June, July, August, and September are peak months for rotations and sub-internships in your chosen specialty. This time provides the chance to secure letters of recommendation and gather grades and evaluations for your residency application. Juggling intense Step 2 CK studies during demanding rotations can be challenging. So, I recommend allocating a dedicated block for studying and taking the exam. Similar to Step 1 preparation, treat it like a full-time commitment for at least 2 weeks. Aiming for 8-12 hours of study per day during this period is ideal.



Expert Guidance and Support


Deciding when to take Step 2 CK to best prepare for the 2025 Residency Match will be a personal decision based on many factors, but for most students the best time will be sometime between May and July 2024. Consider meeting with one of our residency advisors to discuss the best time for you. If you are ready to start preparing for Step 2 CK and think you may need additional help, meet with one of our Step 2 CK tutors!


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About the Author

Kathleen Oakes

Katie has extensive experience tutoring at all levels in various subjects throughout college and medical school, as well as experience helping students with standardized test…

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