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  1. Resources
  2. Residency Red Flags
  3. USMLE Scores

USMLE Scores and
Residency Chances

The United States Medical Licensing Examination ® (USMLE®) is a three-step examination process taken by all medical professionals on their way to residency and beyond. They are extensive, expensive, and the most influential part of your residency application.

Are your USMLE scores lower than you hoped?

Low USMLE Scores

The USMLE Step 1 and USMLE Step 2 CK are the three exams required to become ECFMG® Certified and move on into residency training. These exams are challenging and time-consuming to study for and take. It is no surprise that many residency candidates face difficulties while getting these exams completed with consequences that can affect how Program Directors view your application.

One of the most devastating feelings a residency candidate can have is finding out they received a low score on their USMLE Step 1 or USMLE Step 2 CK. It’s no surprise many residency applicants end up feeling frustrated, disappointed, or defeated. Low scores may limit some of your residency choices, such as which medical specialties you should consider, but if residency candidates with low scores work hard and improve the other components of their ERAS® Applications, it is still possible to Match.

Strategies and Suggestions

  • Pick medical specialties that are more flexible about low USMLE® scores such as Psychiatry or Family Medicine
  • Research residency programs carefully to ensure you qualify for their minimum passing score requirements
  • Consider taking the USMLE Step 3
  • Try to score higher on subsequent exams

Do you have multiple attempts on your USMLE transcript?

Multiple USMLE Attempts

Even more devastating than a low score is having multiple attempts with any USMLE® exam. It can happen to anyone. No matter how well you prepared, you can’t always control for life’s unexpected turn of events such as:

  • Illness
  • Death in the Family
  • General Hardship

Or any other number of circumstances which may cause you to not pass a USMLE® exam on the first attempt. While USMLE® exam attempts are not ideal to have on your USMLE® transcript, they are not considered primary factors residency Program Directors and Interview Committees look at when examining residency candidates. It is still more than possible for a residency candidate to Match with multiple attempts.

Strategies and Suggestions

  • Use the story of how you got the attempt to show programs how you handle setbacks and prove you can grow from your mistakes within your Personal Statement
  • Review state restrictions for USMLE® Attempts
  • Try to score higher on subsequent exams
  • Research programs carefully to ensure they do not have an Attempt limit you do not qualify for

Do you have a USMLE exam score gap?

USMLE Scores Gaps

Every exam taker knows you have your good days and your bad days. Unfortunately, this, and other factors, can result in a gap between you USMLE Step 1 and USMLE Step 2 CK scores. The two gaps you can have are:

  • Low USMLE Step 1 score and high USMLE Step 2 CK score
  • High USMLE Step 1 score and low USMLE Step 2 CK score

While the first scenario is actually ideal and proves you have the capacity to improve, the second scenario can be much more difficult to express to Program Directors and Interview Committees.

Strategies and Suggestions

  • Consider taking your USMLE Step 3
  • If you believe there were extenuating circumstances that caused you Step 2 CK score to be impacted, you can potentially, briefly explain the situation in your Personal Statement
  • Focus your application efforts on programs you qualify for both USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 CK, consider prioritizing programs with no minimum USMLE® score requirements

Want to know which programs are best fit for your usmle® exam scores or even multiple usmle® attempts?

Each Match A Resident Customized List is initially filtered with your USMLE® scores and program requirements with additional filters for attempts.

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