What is USMLE exam?

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United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) is a multi-part professional exam which is sponsored jointly by the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) and the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME). Physicians with an MD degree have compulsion to clear this test if he wants to practice medicine in the United States of America.

The test checks the medical students'ability as to if they apply their theoritical knowledge practically. It is a test conducted to check the ability of a medical student as to how well he can put into use his medical knowledge, skills and understanding of clinical science which is required at the time of patient care under supervision. Examination committees consisting of medical educators and clinicians from across the United States and its territories prepare the examination materials each year.

Students and graduates of US or Canadian medical school programs accredited by either the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) or Committee on Accreditation of Canadian Medical Schools, leading to the Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree, or by the American Osteopathic Association (AOA), leading to the Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree have to apply and register for Step 1 and Step 2 of the USMLE with the NBME. Those who are studying and graduating from medical schools outside the United States or Canada have to apply for the same with the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG). Graduates of medical schools in and outside the United States and Canada register for Step 3 with the FSMB or with a medical licensing authority in the United States. All these three steps have to be cleared in order to achieve the purpose. Neither of the step stands by itself. They are complementary to receive the license to practice. The USMLE program recommends that for Step 3 eligibility, licensure authorities require the completion, or near completion, of at least one postgraduate training year in a program of graduate medical education accredited by the Accreditation Council on Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) or the American Osteopathic Association (AOA).

A candidate needs to clear all the three steps in order to practise medicine and get a license for the same in the US. The same license can be made available to the students studying in US osteopathic medical school if they clear the multi-part Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX) professional exam instead of USMLE. But students who have pursued their graduation from medical schools outside the US and Canada are required to clear all three steps of the USMLE to be licensed to practice in the US, regardless of the title of their degree.

Overall pass rates for first time USMLE Step 1 test takers are: 94% for US MD medical school graduates, 89% for US DO osteopathic medical school graduates, and 73% for international medical school graduates. First-time USMLE Step 2 CK test taker pass rates are: 97% for US MD medical school graduates and 93% for US DO medical school graduates. First-time USMLE Step 2 CS test taker pass rates are: 98% for US MD medical school graduates and 88% for US DO medical school graduates. Overall pass rates for first time USMLE Step 3 test takers are: 97% for US MD medical school graduates, 94% for US DO medical school graduates, and 78% for international medical school graduates (In these statistics, “US MD medical school graduates” includes graduates of Canadian MD programs.).

This test was initially started as a paper based test but later converted into objective type computer based test. This test can be taken at Prometric test centers worldwide. However, the Step 2 CS and the Step 3 can only be taken in the USA and is administered on NBME FRED software which was updated to new version called FRED V2 in 2008.

For more information refer the official website at USMLE website.

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