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Update on planned changes to USMLE Step 3 examination

Posted: April 11, 2012

The USMLE Composite Committee and USMLE parent organizations (the National Board of Medical Examiners and the Federation of State Medical Boards) recently approved plans to change the structure of USMLE. Step 3 will be the first examination impacted, with changes to this examination to occur no earlier than 2014.

The plans call for the division of Step 3 into two separate exams, each one day in length, focusing on different sets of competencies. The proposed examinations will continue to be administered by computer using multiple choice questions and computer simulations. The two examinations will be scored separately and examinees will be expected to pass each.

The first exam is expected to focus on whether an examinee possesses the knowledge essential to the independent practice of medicine, including a comprehensive knowledge of both foundational science and clinical medicine. The second exam will assess an examinee’s ability to apply knowledge in the context of patient management, including demonstration of comprehensive knowledge of health and disease, and their impact on patients. The second exam will also require a demonstration of evidence-based medicine and quantitative reasoning skills important to patient care and to life-long learning. Specific information about these changes will be provided well in advance of implementation.

New testing formats that focus on competencies not currently addressed by the Step 3 examination may also be introduced. If new testing formats are to be introduced, announcements will be made and sample material provided in advance of their introduction in the live examinations.

The change to Step 3 will occur no sooner than 2014. After experience is gained with implementation of the Step 3 changes, the Composite Committee and USMLE parent organizations will consider possible modifications to Steps 1 and 2 CK.

As new information becomes available it will be posted to the USMLE website.


USMLE Physician Tasks/Competencies

Posted: July 10, 2014

USMLE Physician Tasks/Competencies, a publication that provides a common organization of competencies and tasks assessed in USMLE examinations, is now available.

The outline comprises seven major sections:

  • Medical Knowledge/Scientific Concepts
  • Patient Care: Diagnosis
  • Patient Care: Management
  • Communication and Interpersonal Skills
  • Professionalism, including Legal and Ethical Issues
  • Systems-based Practice, including Patient Safety
  • Practice-based Learning

While this outline is common to all USMLE examinations, each Step will continue to have test specifications specific to that Step and will emphasize certain parts of the outline.

The USMLE Step 3 Content Description and General Information booklet contains a description of physician tasks/competencies covered in the restructured Step 3 examination for examinees taking the Step 3 examination on or after November 3, 2014. An updated USMLE Step 2 CK Content Description and General Information booklet containing a description of physician tasks/competencies covered in that examination will be available in July 2014.

USMLE Physician Tasks/Competencies is useful for understanding competencies assessed by multiple-choice question (MCQ) formats such as Step 1, Step 2 Clinical Knowledge, and the MCQ portion of Step 3. The outline will be updated as work to identify competencies covered by non-MCQ exam formats progresses.


Practice materials and other information for examinees taking the restructured Step 3 examination on or after November 3, 2014

Posted: July 10, 2014

Practice and informational materials for the restructured Step 3 examination have been posted to the USMLE website. Examinees who plan to take a Step 3 examination on or after November 3, 2014 should read the materials and practice with the sample items and cases. The materials include:

A summary of changes resulting from the restructuring of the Step 3 examination is also available.
Practice and informational materials for examinees taking the current Step 3 examination, which will be administered through September 30, 2014, will remain available on the USMLE website until early October, 2014.


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