'Momentous' USMLE Change: New Pass/Fail Format Stuns Medicine

Medscape (02/14/20) Frellick, Marcia

Students and physicians are cautiously optimistic about the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination program's Step 1 scoring system switching from a three-digit score to pass/fail starting Jan. 1, 2022. The Federation of State Medical Boards and the National Board of Medical Examiners said the Step 2 Clinical Knowledge exam and Step 3 will continue numerical scoring, while the Step 2 Clinical Skills exam will maintain its pass/fail system. One positive is that less emphasis will be put on the Step 1 test, which includes memorizing various science details that may or not be relevant depending on a student's later specialty choice, notes one third-year student at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. However, there is concern that in lieu of a scoring system in Step 1, residency program directors will rely more on the reputation of candidates' school and the influence of the person writing a letter of recommendation. "We're hoping that this will force change in the system so that residency directors will look at more than just test-taking ability," said Joseph Safdieh, MD, at the Weill Cornell Medical College.

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