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The USMLE stands for United States Medical Licensing Examination which is a three-step examination for medical licensure in the United States. The Three Steps of the USMLE.

The USMLE steps are:

Step 1

USMLE Step 1 assesses whether medical school students or graduates understand and can apply important concepts of the sciences basic to the practice of medicine. It covers the following subjects: Anatomy, Physiology, Biochemistry, Genetics, Behavioral Medicine, Statistics, Microbiology (including Parasitology), Ethics, Pathology, Pharmacology, Histology, Immunology, Molecular Biology, and Epidemiology. US medical students usually take Step 1 at the end of the second year of medical school. It is an eight-hour computer-based exam consisting of 350 multiple-choice questions (MCQs) divided into seven blocks each consisting of 50 questions. Each block must be finished within an hour. The remaining hour is break time. An optional tutorial about how to use the computer program of the exam is offered at the beginning of the exam and takes 15 minutes. This time is deducted from the hour of alloted break time.

The scores are reported with a three digit score and a two digit score. A score of 182 is required to pass the exam, which corresponds to a two digit score of 75. A three digit score of 200 corresponds to a two digit score of 82. If the student passes the exam, he or she may not repeat the exam to achieve a higher score.

While not recommended by the creators of the USMLE, the Step 1 score is frequently used in medical residency applications as a measure of a candidate's likelihood to succeed in that particular residency (and on that specialty's board exams). More competitive residency programs usually accept applications with higher Step 1 scores. The Step 1 exam is arguably the hardest and most important examination a medical student will take during his/her career.

Step 2

USMLE Step 2 is designed to assess whether medical school students or graduates can apply medical knowledge, skills and understanding of clinical science essential for provision of patient care under supervision. US medical students typically take Step 2 during the fourth year of medical school. Step 2 is further divided into two separate exams.

Step 2-CK

USMLE Step 2-CK is designed to assess clinical knowledge through a traditional, multiple-choice examination. It is a 9 hour exam consisting of 8 blocks of 46 or 47 questions each.

Step 2-CS

USMLE Step 2-CS is designed to assess clinical skills through simulated patient interactions, in which the examinee interacts with standardized patients portrayed by actors. Each examinee faces 12 Standardized Patients (SPs) and has 15 minutes to complete history taking and clinical examination for each patient, and then 10 more minutes to write a patient note describing the findings, initial differential diagnosis list and a list of initial tests. Administration of the Step 2-CS began in 2004.

The examination is offered in five cities across the country:

Before 2004, a similar exam, the Clinical Skills Assessment (CSA) was used to assess the clinical skills of foreign medical graduates.

Step 3

USMLE Step 3 is designed to assess whether a medical school graduate can apply medical knowledge and understanding of biomedical and clinical science essential for the unsupervised practice of medicine. Graduates of US medical schools typically take this exam at the end of the first year of residency. Foreign medical graduates can take Step 3 before starting residency in about ten U.S. states.

Step 3 is a two-day examination. Each day of testing must be completed within eight hours. The first day of testing includes 336 multiple-choice items divided into blocks, each consisting of 48 items. Examinees must complete each block within sixty minutes.

The second day of testing includes 144 multiple-choice items, divided into blocks of 36 items. Examinees are required to complete each block within forty-five minutes. Approximately 3 hours are allowed for these multiple-choice item blocks. Also on the second day are nine Clinical Case Simulations, where the examinees are required to 'manage' patients in real-time case simulations. Examinees enter orders for medications and/or investigations into the simulation software, and the condition of the patient changes accordingly. Each case must be managed in a maximum of 25 minutes of actual time.

Approximately forty-five minutes to one hour is available for break time on each of the two days of testing.

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