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USMLE's weekly update on COVID-19 - 4/17/2020

Posted: April 17, 2020

The USMLE program recognizes that the testing shutdown has created great stress, uncertainty, and disruption for examinees and medical schools, affecting academic progression, curricular schedules, and application for residency. We are doing everything we can to make decisions that prioritize the safety and health of examinees and test center staff as we develop plans to resume testing. Because of the fluid nature of the COVID-19 outbreak, the ability to make these decisions is slower and more unclear than we would like. We are committed to providing examinees and schools with as much information as we can. Beginning today, the USMLE program will post weekly updates on our website and social media channels, in addition to announcements, as soon as decisions are finalized.

Here is the most updated information we have regarding USMLE testing. As always, we will update our FAQs regarding USMLE and COVID-19 as frequently as possible.

Step 1, Step 2 Clinical Knowledge, and Step 3 
Prometric has communicated that they will begin testing on a site-by-site basis, according to local public health practices and guidelines. We anticipate that USMLE will be available at these sites barring any changes in local restrictions. 

As with many other businesses and institutions, there will be a gradual progression to normal operations of computer-based testing for USMLE. In the meantime, we expect a strong demand for Prometric seat time as a backlog of examinees will be looking to test. Prometric has assured us that they are doing everything possible to build capacity to address this backlog. 

As the Prometric shutdown has impacted many assessment programs beyond USMLE, we cannot guarantee at this time that USMLE examinees will be able to schedule an exam as early as they would like due to the necessary social distancing requirements.

With a limited, site-by-site reopening of Prometric centers, we recognize that availability of testing will vary based on local conditions. Prometric has assured us that they will be following local guidelines and instituting other measures to keep examinees as safe as possible. Examinees should anticipate some modifications to onsite administrative procedures at Prometric, such as the check-in process. We will share updated information on these modifications as soon as we learn about them.

Examinees and medical schools have asked us whether USMLE can be delivered at their medical school or another location. We understand individuals’ desire and need to test as they have studied for weeks and are prepared to test now. USMLE is exploring options for group examinee administration. However, at this time there are no short-term solutions for testing outside of Prometric centers. 

We have received many helpful suggestions, such as paper/pencil testing, use of iPads or schools’ computer labs, and remote proctoring. All of these suggestions require further exploration because they could impact the validity and security of USMLE, which are primary considerations in determining alternative testing viability. As of now, our priority is working with Prometric to resume testing at their sites.

Step 2 Clinical Skills
All CSEC test centers are temporarily closed until at least May 31, 2020. Centers will reopen on a site-by-site basis, according to local public health practices and guidelines. When testing resumes, we will institute measures to keep examinees and test center staff safe. As a result, examinees should anticipate some modifications to administrative procedures at CSEC test centers. 

To increase testing capacity, we plan to add as many additional testing sessions at CSEC centers as possible. As with our computer-based testing, we are exploring other means of test delivery. At this time, we have no short-term solutions for a delivery method outside of CSEC centers. While USMLE is exploring alternative options, test security will remain a primary consideration in determining their viability. 

As we learn more during these next few days, we will share whatever information we can on our website and USMLE social media (Twitter and Facebook). Expect an update from us next week. 

California and Texas Regional Testing Centers

Posted: May 28, 2020

Last week, we announced three regional testing centers at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, the University of South Florida Health Morsani College of Medicine, and the Indiana University School of Medicine.  

Additional regional testing centers will open at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), School of Medicine and the Dell Medical School of the University of Texas (UT) at Austin
. Administrations of Step 1 and Step 2 Clinical Knowledge (CK) are scheduled to begin at UCSF on June 8, 2020 and at UT at Austin on June 9, 2020. At this time, each regional testing center will only serve students from a consortium of schools:

UCSF School of Medicine (host school)

  • University of California, Davis, School of Medicine
  • University of California, Riverside, School of Medicine
  • University of California, Irvine, School of Medicine
  • Stanford University School of Medicine

Dell Medical School of the University of Texas at Austin (host school)

  • Baylor College of Medicine
  • Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine
  • Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine at the University of North Texas Health Science Center
  • University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston
  • University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
  • Long School of Medicine at the University of Texas Health San Antonio
  • University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas
  • University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine
  • University of the Incarnate Word School of Osteopathic Medicine

Students from these schools will be contacted by their medical school Dean’s Office (Student Affairs). Students should wait to hear from their Deans before taking any action to schedule or cancel a Prometric test center appointment. The institutions’ Dean’s Offices, in collaboration with Prometric and the USMLE program, will schedule eligible students for USMLE testing.

We greatly appreciate the collaboration with the leadership of all the schools involved in regional testing as the work to operationalize centers using Prometric equipment is very complex. Next week, we will share more information about phase two of our plans to expand testing capacity in a greater manner, which involves event-based testing at medical schools.

USMLE Suspending Step 2 Clinical Skills Examination

Posted: May 26, 2020

Over the course of the last three months, the USMLE program has considered several options for resuming Step 2 Clinical Skills (CS) testing. This exploration was informed by years of ongoing work charting the future of clinical skills assessment for licensure, including considerations of telehealth (as announced on May 8th). Since the outbreak of the novel Coronavirus pandemic, we have accelerated these efforts. Due to the complexity of technical and psychometric work required, we have determined we will not be able to meet timelines for the immediate release of a revised exam. In making this determination to suspend, we also considered the examinees and stakeholder concerns about the challenges created by rapid deployment of a new test platform. After careful consideration of all factors, we have decided to suspend Step 2 CS test administrations for the next 12-18 months.

We remain committed to the valid, standardized measurement of clinical skills for licensure. We will take this time to determine the optimal approach to do so without compromising the health and safety of examinees and test center staff. While many details surrounding this decision are still being finalized, we felt it was important to share this information with you as soon as we determined our change in direction. We will be providing refunds for all of those who were unable to take Step 2 CS due to the suspension of testing and will work to expedite these refunds. Over the next few weeks, we will be announcing more detailed information on what this decision will mean for examinees, e.g., refunds, progression through education/training and medical licensure.

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