Posted: December 14, 2023

At its December 2023 meeting, the USMLE Management Committee, representing a national group of physicians in licensure, medical education, and current practice, and two public members, conducted a review of the USMLE Step 3 passing standard. It was decided thata two-point increase in the passing standard – used to determine a Pass or Fail outcome – will apply to Step 3 examinees testing on or after January 1, 2024.  On the three-digit score scale, the passing standard will change from 198 to 200.  

As part of the USMLE program’s operational procedures and in alignment with best practices for licensing and certification exams, a scheduled comprehensive review and analysis of the passing standard for each Step exam typically occurs every three to four years. This ensures that the passing score reflects current expectations concerning knowledge and skills needed to support effective medical practice and patient care.

The Management Committee determined this adjustment to the passing standard through the careful and thorough consideration of information from multiple sources, including

  • Recommendations from independent groups of physicians unaffiliated with the USMLE who participated in content-based standard-setting panels in September and October 2023; 
  • Results of surveys of various groups (e.g., residency program directors, medical school faculty, state licensing representatives, examinees) concerning the appropriateness of the current passing standard for the Step 3 examination; 
  • Data on trends in examinee performance; and 
  • Score precision and its effect on the pass/fail outcome. 

The USMLE program provides advanced notice of Step exam passing standard reviews and any adjustments on the USMLE website. Details about the review process also appear in the USMLE Bulletin of Information.