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Attempt limit for USMLE examinations

Posted: June 20, 2012

Examinees who have made six or more attempts to pass a Step or Step component, including incomplete attempts, should be aware that all applications to register for additional attempts will not be processed unless they are submitted on or before December 31, 2012. This limit was first announced in August of 2011.

The effective date for the six-attempt limit depends upon whether an examinee has taken any Step or Step Component (including incomplete attempts) before January 1, 2012.

 Examinees who had NOT taken any Step or Step Component before January 1, 2012
If you did not take any Step or Step Component before January 1, 2012, the six-attempt limit went into effect for all exam applications that you submitted on or after January 1, 2012.

Example 1: On January 15, 2012, Examinee A submits his application for his first attempt at any Step or Step Component. The six-attempt limit is effective at that time for all Steps and Step Components and Examinee A will be allowed to take each Step or Step Component no more than six times, including incomplete attempts.

• Examinees who have taken any Step or Step Component before January 1, 2012
If you have taken any Step or Step Component (including incomplete attempts) before January 1, 2012, the six-attempt limit is in effect for all exam applications that you submit on or after January 1, 2013.  After that date, all attempts at a Step or Step Component will be counted toward the limit, regardless of when the exams were taken.

Example 2: Examinee B’s application for a seventh attempt at a particular Step or Step Component is received on December 15, 2012. For this examinee, the six-attempt limit will not prevent the seventh attempt, since the application was submitted before January 1, 2013.  However, if Examinee B fails the exam, he will not be eligible to submit an application after January 1, 2013 to retake that Step or Step Component.

Example 3:  Examinee C attempts to submit an application for a seventh attempt at a particular Step or Step Component on or after January 1, 2013. The application will not be processed, since all exam applications submitted on or after January 1, 2013 will be subject to the six-attempt limit.


Please refer to the Bulletin of Information for more complete information on time and attempt limits.



Step 1 and Step 2 CK – score delays in 2020

Posted: September 04, 2019

Most Step 1 and Step 2 Clinical Knowledge (CK) scores are reported within four weeks of testing. However, because of necessary annual modifications to the test item pools, delays occur for examinees who test at certain times of the year.

Please be aware that examinees testing during the following dates may experience delays in score reporting:

  • Step 1 examinees testing early May through early July 2020 - more specific information will be posted January 2020
  • Step 2 CK examinees testing late June through late August 2020 - more specific information will be posted March 2020

Why is this important to know?

If you need to receive a score before a certain date, plan to take that exam before the projected score delay windows to avoid missing deadlines.


Review of USMLE Step 3 minimum passing performance

Posted: September 03, 2019

The USMLE Management Committee is scheduled to review the minimum passing score for the USMLE Step 3 examination at its meeting on December 4-5, 2019. The Management Committee includes physicians drawn from medical education and licensing as well as members of the public.

The committee establishes and monitors Step 3 performance and completes an in-depth review of the minimum passing standard for each USMLE Step or its component every three to four years.

For the 2019 Step 3 review, information from multiple sources will be considered, including:

  • Results of content-based standard setting exercises conducted with three independent groups of physicians in 2019;
  • Results of surveys of various groups (e.g., state licensing representatives, medical school faculty, samples of examinees) concerning the appropriateness of current pass/fail standards for Step examinations;
  • Trends in examinee performance; and
  • Measurement precision near the cut score.

If the Committee determines that a change to the minimum passing score is appropriate, the new recommended minimum passing score will become effective for all examinees who take a Step 3 examination on or after January 1, 2020. The decision of the Committee will be posted at the USMLE website.


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