The ProspectiveDoctor Podcast

Podcast 83: USMLE Step 1 Goes Pass/Fail – The Impact on US Medical Students

You may have heard that USMLE Step 1 just changed from a three-digit score to a pass/fail system. This is huge. In this episode, Dr. Mehta and Dr. Flick talk about how this change will affect US-based medical students.

[3:21] What has changed.

The NBME and USMLE introduced three new rules for test takers. The first is that you can only take it four times, down from six. This doesn’t really affect US med school students.

The second change is that USMLE Step 2 can only be taken after passing Step 1.

The biggest change is the third one, which changes the test to a pass/fail scenario.

[4:32] How big a deal Step 1 is.

The USMLE score essentially pre-determines what you’re going to be able to do in medical school. Dr. Flick feels that this decision came down because while students are going to classes, they’re chronically studying for Step 1.

[6:46] Implications for med students applying to match.

Right now, nothing changes. Students that plan to take the test in 2022 may find themselves focusing more on Step 2 as it is still a graded test. Because there will be less grades to rank students on, it may create a more cutthroat environment.

[10:36] How to distinguish yourself in 2022.

Clinical and non-clinical experience will still be very important. USMLE is hoping that taking the pressure off of Step 1 will allow more time to be spent on research, leadership, and so on. Step 2 can be used to distinguish yourself as well.

[12:36] Names of medical schools becoming more important.

Dr. Mehta is a little bit worried that this change will mean that getting into just any med school in the United States isn’t good enough. Name recognition might become more prevalent.

[16:04] Final words of advice.

USMLE will post more information as the change gets closer. This change is a good reminder to back up and take some perspective of their medical education. It’s not just about Step 1. Try reading your personal statement once a year to remind yourself why you’re getting into this profession.

Sahil Mehta

Sahil Mehta M.D. is an attending physician in the Department of Radiology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the Founder of MedSchoolCoach. Dr Mehta is one of the world’s experts on medical school admissions having founded MedSchoolCoach in 2007. MedSchoolCoach provides admissions consulting to premedical students in the form of interview preparation, essay editing and general advising. In the past 10 years, he has had a hand in over a thousand acceptances to medical school.

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