Understanding the USMLE
When deciding what medical schools to apply to, consider their United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE) pass rates an important factor. Consisting of three steps, this exam series determines your eligibility to proceed through each phase of your education, ultimately leading to medical licensure in the United States. Let’s take a closer look at each step.
After completing their first two years of medical school, students sit for the eight-hour USMLE Step 1, consisting of 308 multiple-choice questions that assess their understanding of Preclinical Sciences knowledge and concepts.
Step 1, the first major exam taken by medical students, must be passed in order to advance to Clinical Sciences. American University of Antigua (AUA) College of Medicine further prepares students with a Basic Sciences Integration Course designed to synthesize, integrate, and reinforce what students have learned during Preclinical Sciences.
The USMLE Step 2 is usually taken during the final year of clinical rotations. With this two-part exam, students apply their understanding of Clinical Knowledge (CK) and Clinical Skills (CS) to supervised patient care.
Unlike Step 1, Step 2 CK focuses on the clinical application of medical knowledge specific to internal and family medicine, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology, psychiatry, and general surgery. Given a clinical scenario, examinees are required to provide long-form written responses that include a diagnosis, prognosis, cause, treatment, and as applicable, prevention care.
Step 2 CS evaluates clinical skills through simulated outpatient and emergency patient encounters. Students examine 12 standardized patients played by professional actors. Given 15 minutes with each patient, students complete a full history and physical examination, testing not only their ability to collect pertinent information, but also their level of professionalism and bedside manner. Students then have ten minutes to write a patient report, including diagnosis and a list of investigative testing and blood work. This test is evaluated on a pass/fail basis.
A recorded passing score on Step 2 CK is a prerequisite for residency program applications, while some programs allow Step 2 CS evaluations to be submitted after applying.
At the end of the first year of residency, the USMLE Step 3 is given to evaluate a student’s medical knowledge and skills application to unsupervised patient care, from non-emergency to life-threatening scenarios.
The 16-hour exam takes place over two days. Day one consists of a written exam including 256 complex multiple-choice questions. Day two begins with 198 multiple-choice questions and continues with 13 clinical cases, during which the examinee must manage patients in real-time and enter orders for medication and investigative testing through the use of simulation software. Passing this exam is necessary for state licensure.
The USMLE pass rate is an objective metric that can help you determine a school’s ability to prepare students for a medical career. Some schools release their USMLE Step 1 first-time pass rate as a testament to the caliber of their program, but a school unwilling to share their average pass rate may not have a strong one.
U.S. medical schools have an average first-time pass rate of 96% (as of February 2015). With a 97% USMLE first-time pass rate (as of September 2015), AUA ranks among the top Caribbean medical schools.