There are many relevant criteria that factor into the quality of a US medical residency application. USMLE exam scores are arguably one of the most important. In fact, Program Directors rate Step 1 and Step 2CK scores high on the list (1st and 3rd, respectively). Keep reading to learn more about the USMLE exams eligibility criteria. (Program Director Source)
What are the USMLE Exams Eligibility Criteria?
The following is taken directly from the USMLE (Eligibility for the USMLE Steps):
If you meet the eligibility requirements, you may take Step 1 and Step 2 CK in any sequence. You may take Step 3 only after passing Step 1 and Step 2 CK.
To be eligible, you must be in one of the following categories at the time you apply AND on the day of your examination:
- a medical student officially enrolled in, or a graduate of, a US or Canadian medical school program leading to the MD degree that is accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME), OR
- a medical student officially enrolled in, or a graduate of, a US medical school leading to the DO degree that is accredited by the Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation (COCA), OR
- a medical student officially enrolled in, or a graduate of, a medical school that is outside the US and Canada, listed in the World Directory of Medical Schools as meeting ECFMG eligibility requirements, and that meets other eligibility criteria of the ECFMG.
What if your eligibility status changes?
If you are dismissed or withdraw(n) from medical school, you are not eligible for the USMLE, even if you are appealing the school’s decision to dismiss you or are otherwise contesting your status. If you are on a leave of absence, please check with the organization that registered you for your examination before submitting your application; if you have already registered, check before testing. Failure to notify the organization that registered you for your examination of your changed status may result in a determination that you engaged in irregular behavior and placement of a permanent annotation on your score reports and transcripts.
If your eligibility for a Step or Step Component changes after you submit your application but before your scheduled test date(s), you must promptly notify the organization that registered you for your examination.
If you take a Step or Step Component for which you are not eligible, results for that examination may not be reported or, if previously reported, may be canceled, at the discretion of the USMLE program.
(Quoted directly from the USMLE as of May 17, 2021)
When is the best time to take the Step exams?
If you’re hoping to secure a residency position, be sure to take the USMLE exams in time for the scores to be reported at the beginning of The Match. Since it can take up to 3 – 4 weeks for scores to be released, it’s important to schedule your exams earlier rather than later.
According to the USMLE, “[y]ou must pass Step 1 and Step 2 before you are eligible to take Step 3. In LCME-accredited medical schools, although Step 1 and Step 2 can be taken in any order, most students will take Step 1 at the end of their second year and Step 2 in their fourth year; Step 3 is usually taken during the first or second year of postgraduate training…Most medical licensing authorities require completion of USMLE Steps 1, 2, and 3 within a seven-year period, which begins when you pass your first Step.”
Where are the exams administered?
USMLE Step exams are offered at Prometric test centers worldwide. IMGs will schedule their Step exams through the ECFMG. Visit their Testing Regions page for more details.
Step 3: What you need to know
As per the USMLE, “to be eligible for Step 3, before submitting your application, you must:
- pass Step 1 and Step 2 CK, AND
- obtain the MD degree or the DO degree from an LCME- or COCA-accredited US or Canadian medical school, OR
- obtain the equivalent of the MD degree from a medical school outside the US and Canada that is listed in the World Directory of Medical Schools as meeting ECFMG eligibility requirements and obtain ECFMG Certification.The USMLE program recommends that, for Step 3 eligibility, applicants should have completed, or be near completion of, at least one postgraduate training year in an accredited US graduate medical education program that meets state board licensing requirements.”
There’s lots more to learn about the USMLE exams. For information about related fees, visit our blog Fees for the 2021-22 US Medical Residency Application Cycle. You can also read The Truth About USMLE Exam Attempts to get the scoop on this common topic.