USMLE Step 1:
The registration process for the USMLE exams require online and mail-in paperwork. It can take several weeks from when you first pay for the exam on the NBME’s website to when you finally receive a scheduling permit granting you permission to book an exam date on the Prometric website. You should register with the NBME at least three months prior to your intended exam date. Check with your medical school whether there is a deadline by which all students should take Step 1 (i.e., prior to year three, during year three, etc.), as this varies by institution. The step exam registration process may also vary by medical school, so you should check with your medical school in advance.
Dedicated Study Period Length
The length of the dedicated study period can vary for a student depending on their comfort with preclinical coursework. A survey from the class of 2020 at University of North Carolina School of Medicine showed an average of 7 weeks committed to dedicated studying for Step 1, with a range of 5-14 weeks (1).
Note: The USMLE Step 1 exam is pass-fail starting January 1, 2022. Typically, 60% of the questions need to be correctly answered to pass.
Steps for USMLE Step 1 Registration:
- NBME Online Application and Payment
Fill out the NBME online application using this link (https://www.usmle.org/apply/). Register for an account on the NBME website (https://apps.nbme.org/nlesweb/#/login) as a first-time user. After registering, wait for an email from the NBME for your USMLE ID and password to proceed with registration. Sign into the NBME website and click “Apply” for a new application. You will need to pay the $645 registration fee now. Note that if your medical school is outside of the United States or Canada, you need to use ECFMG (https://secure2.ecfmg.org/emain.asp?app=iwa) to register for the USMLE exams.
For more information on ECFMG: https://www.ecfmg.org/online-services/
- Certification and Authorization Form
This form becomes available after you make the fee payment. Download and fill out the form. Attach a resized passport-style photo to the form. This photo can be printed on regular paper, it does not need to be glossy paper. Submit this form in-person to your medical school’s student affairs department. Your medical school will mail the completed authorization form to the NBME.
- Enrollment Verification
After the NBME receives and processes your certification and authorization form, the NBME will contact your medical school to confirm your status. This step can take up to 2 weeks.
- Wait for Scheduling Permit
The NBME will email you a scheduling permit that will allow you to schedule your exam during a 3-month period that has been assigned to you.
- Schedule Exam on Prometric
Use the scheduling number from the permit form to select an exam date on the Prometric website (https://www.prometric.com/test-takers/search/usmle). Remember that you can only schedule an exam 6 months in advance and no earlier. Fees are applied for rescheduling and can be found on the Prometric website.
USMLE Step 2
Step 2 CK:
The timing for when to take Step 2 tends to be more flexible than Step 1. Step 2 primarily tests clinical knowledge acquired from third year medical school clerkships. Most medical students take Step 2 during the beginning of their fourth year. It is ideal to take Step 2 within 6 months of finishing core clerkships.
Dedicated Study Period Length
Students typically take a shorter dedicated study period for Step 2 compared to Step 1, however the length of dedicated depends on one’s confidence with the material from third year clerkships, time passed since completing clerkships, and number of hours per day spent studying (i.e., studying during a vacation may allow a shorter overall study period). One to two months of focused studying without other obligations is reasonable.
Steps for USMLE Step 2 Registration:
The process for USMLE Step 2 registration is similar to registering for Step 1 and requires an online application, certification and authorization form, enrollment verification, and a scheduling permit. Use the same links as above to complete the registration process.
Step 2 CS: Discontinued
The USMLE has discontinued the requirement of Step 2 CS and is no longer a licensing requirement.
On exam day, be sure to bring a hard copy of the scheduling permit to your test center along with an unexpired government issued photo-ID with a signature. The name on the ID must exactly match your scheduling permit. Examples of ID include a passport or driver’s license.
Results are available 3-4 weeks after the exam via email. Allow for up to 8 weeks for score release in case there are potential delays in score release. Check updates on score releases here: https://www.usmle.org/announcements/. Scores are viewable online for up to a year, and afterwards the score transcript can be requested for a fee (https://www.usmle.org/transcripts/).