Before applying for a medical license, you must have a three-step test called United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE), also known as board exam.
The USMLE thoroughly assesses how well you can apply your skills, values, and attitudes to real life, patient-centered scenarios. It is valuable practice for future physicians as well as licensing authorities to understand how well able to operate jobs, both on and off the table.
Who Takes the USMLE?
The USMLE is designed for students of allopathic medicine, who are on the path to an MD, students of osteopathic medicine can take either the USMLE or a similar test called the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMEX).
Overview of the Tests:
The USMLE is divided into three steps.
USMLE Step 1:
The USMLE Step 1 is a one-day computer exam taken by most medical students at the end of their second year of medical school. It is also taken by thousands of international medical graduates who wish to practice in the United States. Step 1 includes no more than 280 multiple choice questions and spans 8 hours of testing, broken down into seven 1 hour block of 40 questions each.
It emphasizes knowledge of basic sciences, including anatomy, biochemistry, behavioral sciences, microbiology, immunology, pathology, pharmacology and physiology. Topics such as nutrition, genetics and aging are also covered. All questions are multiple-choice.
The test is administered by appointment on a year-round basis. When planning your USMLE prep, factor in 6 to 9 months for Step 1 review.
USMLE Step 2:
Step 2 is a two-day test, usually taken in the fourth year of med school. It has two components. The first (called Clinical Knowledge, or CK), requires you to answer multiple-choice questions on clinical sciences like surgery, internal medicine, pediatrics and obstetrics and gynecology. The second (called Clinical Skills, or CS) requires you to examine and diagnose actors posing as patients. For Step 2 CS, students must travel to one of five testing centers around the country.
USMLE Step 3:
Step 3 is a two-day test, usually taken after the first year of residency. This is the final assessment of whether or not you're prepared to practice general medicine in an unsupervised setting. Like Step 2, Step 3 focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of patients. It includes both multiple-choice questions and computer simulations of patient care.