UPDATED 2021

The USMLE Test Guide

The USMLE Test Summary
What: The United States Medical Licensing Examination is the national test used by all state jurisdictions to grant licenses to practice medicine. The USMLE presents a nationally-accepted set of standards that all doctors must meet before becoming licensed to p
Who: USMLE administers the exam to soon-to-be graduates of medical school.
Where: Step 2 CS is only offered in five cities: Philadelphia, Chicago, Atlanta, Houston and Los Angeles. Step 1, Step 2 CK and Step 3 may be taken at any Prometric test center in the US.
When: During and after medical school.
How: Some tests evaluate students with hands-on assessments, while others rely on multiple-choice questions.
Type: Step 1, Step 2 and Step 3
Why: The exam is required for MDs to practice.
Time: One hour for each section.
Language: English
Preparation: Students can prepare using workshops, classes, books and other materials.
Cost: Step 1 = $480, Step 2 CK = $480, Step 2 CS = $1025, Step 3 = $670

By Missy Spangler, Tests.com Contributing Writer

US Medical Licensure, state license exams and medical board certification examinations are exams used by medical boards to determine if students have the ability to practice medicine within the US. Students taking these exams generally are a graduate of a medical school and already have a medical degree, though some schools require students to pass some exams prior to graduation.

The USMLE is the national test used by all state jurisdictions to grant licenses to practice medicine. The test measures the candidate’s skills in three parts, and the final portion of the test is vital in determining if the test taker has the ability to practice medicine.

Step I is a multiple-choice test that includes seven sets of 48 questions that test the student’s understanding of scientific concepts relative to the medical practice. Topics generally include anatomy, biochemistry, histology, physiology, neuroscience, psychiatry, genetics, pathology, microbiology, pharmacology, molecular biology, immunology and statistics.

One hour is given for each set of questions. Candidates are charged $480 for this part of the exam. To pass the test, students need a 185 three-digit score, or 75 two-digit score.

Step 2 of the examination, which comes in two types – clinical skills and clinical knowledge - is designed to determine if the test-taker can apply medical knowledge, skills and understanding of the clinical science that are important for supervised patient care provision and has an emphasis on disease prevention and promotion of health. The exam also comes in multiple-choice format, and the test takes eight hours with breaks incorporated into the day. The clinical skills portion, which uses people who are trained to portray themselves as patients, costs $1,025 and the clinical knowledge portion is $670. The clinical skills uses test cases that cover common situations the physician-to-be will encounter, like situations in clinics, doctor’s offices and emergency rooms. The Clinical Skills portion of this part is only offered in Philadelphia, Chicago, Atlanta, Houston and Atlanta, but other portions can be taken at any prometric test center in the country.

USMLE’s Step 3 examination is an assessment that determines whether students can apply their medical knowledge, including understanding of biomedical and clinical science. The test is seen as a final assessment of physicians before they take responsibility for giving medical care to patients.

For more information about the tests and preparation materials, please see our USMLE Directory.