What is the USMLE?

By askdoc / April 8, 2011
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The United States Medical Licensing Examination or USMLE is a series of 4 examinations you need to take and pass in order to be licensed to practice medicine in the United States. The USMLE Step 1, USMLE Step 2 CK and USMLE Step 2 CS is required to enter any residency program in the US. While USMLE Step 3 is required in order to be licensed to practice medicine independently in the US.

” The USMLE assesses a physician’s ability to apply knowledge, concepts, and principles, and to demonstrate fundamental patient-centered skills, that are important in health and disease and that constitute the basis of safe and effective patient care. Each of the three Steps of the USMLE complements the others; no Step can stand alone in the assessment of readiness for medical licensure. Because individual medical licensing authorities make decisions regarding use of USMLE results, physicians seeking licensure should contact the jurisdiction where they intend to apply for licensure to obtain complete information. Also, the FSMB can provide general information on medical licensure.”

from the USMLE website

USMLE STEP 1 covers the Basic Medical Sciences and includes 7 subjects:

  1. Anatomy
  2. Physiology
  3. Biochemistry
  4. Pathology
  5. Microbiology and Immunology
  6. Pharmacology
  7. Behavioral Sciences

It covers 7 blocks, with 46 multiple choice questions per block. You have 1 hour to finish each block plus 1 hour total for breaks for a total of 8 hours.

USMLE STEP 2 CLINICAL KNOWLEDGE (CK) covers the Clinical Medical Sciences and includes 6 Subjects:

  1. Internal Medicine
  2. Pediatrics
  3. Obstetric and Gynecology
  4. Surgery
  5. Psychiatry
  6. Preventive Medicine

It covers 8 blocks, with 44 multiple choice questions per block. You have 1 hour to finish each block plus 1 hour total for breaks for a total of 9 hours.

USMLE STEP 2 CLINICAL SKILLS (CS) assesses whether you have the fundamental clinical skills essential for safe and effective patient care under supervision. This comprises of 12 Standardized Patients (SP) from which you will obtain a medical history, do a physical examination and write a patient note.

USMLE STEP 3 assesses your ability to practice medicine independently and without supervision. It covers the same subjects as Step 2 CK but with emphasis on diagnosis, therapy and continuing care. Includes multiple choice questions and Clinical Case Simulations (CCS). This is the only 2-day examination in the USMLE.

You can visit the USMLE website at http://www.usmle.org for additional information.

-> back to USMLE FAQs 

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