Medical School - Clinical

The USMLE Step 2 CK FAQ: What You Need to Know to Succeed

Are you a prospective doctor taking the USMLE Step 2 CK? Here are the most frequently asked questions about the exam with the answers you need to know.

Scoring well on the USMLE Step 2 CK is one of the most crucial steps for matching into your preferred residency. The test gauges your competency in a variety of concepts relating to medicine, and your potential as a future doctor.

Essentially, the USMLE Step 2 CK tells your potential residencies whether or not you know what you’re doing as a 4th year medical student. Naturally, you want to ace it!

However, it’s a complex exam, and by no means easy. Here are some common questions about USMLE Step 2 CK for 2021 and into 2022. 

Section One: The Basics

#1 – What score do I need to pass the USMLE Step 2?

To pass the USMLE Step 2 CK, you need to achieve a score of 209 or higher. However, keep in mind that barely passing doesn’t look great, either – your real goal should be to score 219 or higher. 

One thing unique to the USMLE Step 2 CK is that the difficulty of the test itself determines your score as well. Theoretically, let’s say two students score the same percentage of questions correctly on the test, but one was more difficult than the other. The student who got the same percentage of correctness on the more difficult test would receive a higher score. 

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#2 – How many questions are on USMLE Step 2?

The maximum number of questions in one USMLE Step 2 exam is 318; your number may vary, but it will not be higher than that. Further, there are 8 different sections of the exam. Any given section will contain no more than 40 questions.

#3 – When will I receive my USMLE Step 2 score report?

Generally, you should expect to wait 3 to 4 weeks to get your score results. However, according to USMLE.org, “Delays are possible for various reasons. In selecting your test date and inquiring about results, you should allow at least eight weeks to receive notification that your score report is available.” 

If you’ve waited longer than four weeks, take a look at the USMLE website to see if any delays are taking place via the “Announcements” page.

Section Two: How to Pass

#1 – How can I pass on the first try?

Every experience with the USMLE Step 2 is different, as the test changes regularly, so it’s difficult to know exactly how to pass on the first try. However, it’s not impossible, and you have a good shot of succeeding on your first attempt if you put in the work, and follow these tips:

  • Block out 100-200 hours of study time: The reality is that studying for the exam will be your life for a little while! Depending on your schedule, you’ll want to work out a regular time to study and develop a routine for doing so. It’s recommended to block out 3 to 4 weeks if you plan on studying for 1-2 hours each day. However, to give yourself some cushion if you’re unable to study that frequently, you may want to start studying 6 weeks before the exam; this gives you 30 minutes to an hour required daily. And don’t be afraid to block out “heavy study” days!
  • Study sample questions: There’s no way to know the exact questions that’ll end up on your test, what they look like, or how they’re worded. However, you can use your best guess by studying past exam questions. Getting comfortable with the wording, formatting, and type of questions will only make you feel more confident going into exam day.

    And, the USMLE examination site offers practice materials including practice questions, a general information booklet, and a test tutorial.
  • Build your stamina: The USMLE Step 2 is a thorough exam. Consequently, you’re going to spend a long time taking it! Expect to spend 9 hours at the center on test day, knowing that the test is broken up into eight, 1-hour-long sections. That’s a long day for anyone–while you’re training your brain, be sure to also train for exam-taking stamina. To ensure you succeed, make sure you’re taking care of your physical and mental health. Drink water, eat nutritious meals, get the right amount of sleep for your body, and exercise. Consider scheduling practice exam days so that when the day comes, you’re ready to face the clock.

#2 – What happens if I fail?

Your chances of matching to a residency reduce by 20 to 25% if you fail the USMLE Step 2 exam. However, it’s not the end of the world – retakes are available.

In the past, 6 retakes were available. As of July 1st, 2021, USMLE amended the amount allowed to 4 retakes. You can’t take the test more than 3 times over the course of a year, so if you have specific time constraints for a given residency, you need to pass as soon as possible.

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Section Three: Recent Changes (2021-2022)

#1 – What happened to USMLE Step 2 CS?

Due to COVID-19, the USMLE Step 2 CS (clinical skills) was temporarily suspended for safety reasons. Since the suspension, the FSMB and NBME have decided not to reinstate the “CS” half of the step 2 examination. Therefore, the only test you need to worry about for step 2 is the CK (clinical knowledge) portion.

The organizations who facilitate the exam made the decision based on the progress they made with creating a better exam in comparison to how rapidly technology is evolving in respect to medical education.

#2 – What changes were made to USMLE Step 2?

In November of 2020, questions were changed to include more “soft skills” content, with a higher frequency of questions concerning topics like patient safety, ethics, and professionalism as a medical practitioner. This was likely due to the suspension of the clinical skills portion of the exam. However, that doesn’t mean new concepts were introduced–only that the frequency has risen, and consequently, a subset of questions that were infrequent in the past are now rising in study priority.

Still Have Questions?

If you feel you can’t do this alone, don’t worry. The expert tutors over at MedSchoolCoach have more than 500,000 hours of experience helping students just like you ace every step of the USMLE exams

Learn more about USMLE Step 2 tutoring services and schedule your free consultation to see if it’s right for you. 

We wish you the best of luck on your upcoming exam!

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Amber Kelm

Amber is a writer for ProspectiveDoctor.com. She has more than 15 years' experience writing well-researched, engaging content that helps students achieve their dream of becoming a physician.

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