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Weekly update: program information in light of COVID-19 - 4/22/2020

Posted: April 22, 2020

As the COVID-19 situation evolves, the USMLE program continues to hear the concerns of examinees, medical schools, state medical boards, and other medical education organizations. We understand the disruption and stress that the testing shutdown has created regarding academic progression, curricular schedules, application for residency, and future licensure. On a weekly basis, we will continue to provide as much information as we can on preparations to resume testing, which is our top priority.  At this time, USMLE exams continue to be unavailable:

  • Testing at CSEC centers for Step 2 Clinical Skills (CS) is suspended until at least June 1, 2020.
  • Testing at Prometric centers for Step 1, Step 2 Clinical Knowledge (CK), and Step 3 is scheduled to resume on May 1, 2020 or later. Testing will resume on a site-by-site basis in accordance with local government guidelines for social distancing. Some common local guidelines have included requiring the use of a face mask in public or six feet of separation between people. Examinees should anticipate some modifications to the administrative procedures with Prometric. We will share updated information on these modifications as soon as we can.

This week’s update pertains to the planned rollout of Step 1 and Step 2 CK content changes, scheduling for Step 1 and Step 2 CS when feasible, and test administration considerations for USMLE.

Step 1 and Step 2 CK Content Changes
In November 2019, USMLE announced an increase in the number of items assessing communication skills on Step 1 that would begin May 4, 2020. We recognize that the stress examinees are experiencing in preparing for this change has been exacerbated because of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, the USMLE program will delay the increase in the number of items in this category until at least June 1, 2020.

Currently, the increase in the number of items assessing systems-based practice, patient safety, legal/ethical issues, and professionalism on Step 2 CK is still expected to begin in June/July 2020. If this plan changes because of the evolving situation, we will share more information as soon as we can in future updates.

Scheduling Step 1
In January 2020, we recommended that examinees who needed their Step 1 scores before July 8, 2020 take their exam no later than May 3, 2020. This announcement was intended to prevent examinees from experiencing delays in their Step 1 score reports. With testing shutdowns because of COVID-19, this recommendation is no longer feasible. Those who are able to test in May 2020 can expect to have their scores reported within four weeks of testing. With the resumption of limited, site-specific testing, examinees may wish to consult their faculty advisor or student affairs dean for guidance on whether, or when, they should consider testing.

Scheduling Step 2 CS
The suspension in Step 2 CS testing has resulted in the cancelation of a large number of testing appointments and created an unprecedented situation. In order to manage the large number of impacted examinees and preserve remaining testing appointments, scheduling functionality in the Step 2 CS Calendar and Scheduling System has been temporarily suspended.

We are reviewing testing capacity and carefully considering scheduling prioritization. We will continue to reach out to impacted examinees with updated information. The USMLE program is also working with the medical education and regulation community to mitigate the impact of this testing disruption.

USMLE Test Administration
Secure administration of USMLE, along with standardized testing conditions, creates fairness and validity of the test results. Maintaining standardized and secure test administration is important to the state medical boards, who are the primary users of the exam results for U.S. and international students and graduates. To address testing delays and backlogs, the USMLE program is carefully weighing the strengths and limitations of various testing methods, such as group examinee administration and remote proctoring. In evaluating all options, the USMLE program keeps focus on the examination’s primary regulatory purpose. Therefore, we are continuing to prioritize resuming testing at Prometric and CSEC centers to ensure standardized and secure test administration.

We will continue providing whatever information we can. If you have any specific questions, you can find the contact information for the organization that registered you for your examination (ECFMG/FSMB/NBME) here. Expect another update from us next week that will be shared on our website and social media channels.

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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