Step 1 Test Change: What it Means for You

Step 1 Test Change: What it Means for You

February 18, 2020 - Kaplan Test Prep

The NBME announced upcoming changes to the Step exams this past week. The most significant being that USMLE Step 1 will be changing to a pass/fail exam. The other two changes include a reduction in allowable number of exam attempts from six to four, and requiring all test takers to successfully pass Step 1 as a prerequisite for taking Step 2 Clinical Skills. The change in scoring to a pass/fail has a lot of students asking what it means for them and how this will impact their studies, and most importantly, the Match. Here is what you need to know:

When is this change happening?

The test will change from a numeric score to pass/fail “no sooner than January, 2022”, as stated by NBME. A firm date most likely won’t be set until The Coalition for Physician Accountability (CPA) publishes their recommendations for what Program Directors should use as an objective measure of applicant performance, and those recommendations are debated and consequences better understood.

How does this impact you?

Step 1 score has historically been one of the most important factors considered by Program Directors. Since there will no longer be a numerical score to compare candidates, other factors will increase in importance for students in the Residency Match—including overall academic performance, Step 2 CK scores, Shelf Exams, clinical experience, and letters of recommendation.

How should you prepare for the Step 1?

If you are testing before January 1, 2022, you should continue to prepare and test as planned. Most students that are preparing right now will likely take Step 1 before the change, unless you are considering programs where students take both Step exams in third year, and the scaled score will still serve as a differentiator to Program Directors. Incoming Fall 2020 students may or may not be affected, as it was denoted that there may be some flexibility in the date.

At Kaplan, we are paying close attention to news and information coming out from the NBME, and we will help you navigate and prepare for any changes coming so you have your best chance of getting into the residency program of your choice.