About the USMLE

What Is The USMLE?

The United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) is a multi-step examination necessary to be licensed as a medical practitioner in the United States.  The exam is sponsored by the Federation of State Medical Boards and the National Board of Medical Examiners.

The USMLE is designed to test a physician’s ability to apply core knowledge and concepts and to demonstrate the ability to provide important patient-centered care skills.

How Is the USMLE Structured?

The USMLE is administered in three steps.

USMLE Step 1

The Step 1 examination is a one-day examination consisting of 308 multiple choice questions.  It is designed to cover basic science knowledge.  The Step 1 exam covers material on anatomy, behavioral sciences, biochemistry, biostatistics and epidemiology, microbiology, pathology, pharmacology, and physiology.  It also covers information on genetics, aging, immunology, nutrition and molecular and cell biology.

USMLE Step 2

The Step 2 examination tests the application of medical knowledge and skills necessary for the provision of patient care.  It is divided into two separate examinations: Step 2 Clinical Skills (CK) and Step 2 Clinical Skills (CS).

Step 2 CK is a multiple choice test.  It tests General Principles of Foundational Science, as well as information on individual organ systems including the Immune System, Blood & Lymphoreticular Systems, Behavioral Health, Nervous System & Special Senses, Skin & Subcutaneous Tissue, Musculoskeletal System, Cardiovascular System, Respiratory System, Gastrointestinal System, Renal & Urinary Systems, Pregnancy, Childbirth, & the Puerperium, Female Reproductive System & Breast, Male Reproductive System, Endocrine System, and Multisystem Processes & Disorders. In addition, it also tests information on Biostatistics & Epidemiology/Population Health Interpretation of the Medical Literature.

Finally, Step 2 CK tests physician tasks and competencies including diagnosis and management of patient care, communication and interpersonal skills, professionalism (including legal and ethical issues) and more.

Step 2 CS is designed to assess clinical skills.  Test takers are given twelve standardized patient encounters and are tested on their ability to gather patient information, perform physical examinations, and communicate findings both to patients and to other medical professionals.

USMLE Step 3

The Step 3 examination is the final examination in the USMLE.  It is designed to test medical knowledge and understanding of biomedical and clinical science which is essential for the unsupervised practice of medicine.  Step 3 is a two-day examination.  The Day 1 examination is known as the Foundations of Independent Practice (FIP) while the Day 2 examination is known as the Advanced Clinical Medicine (ACM).

The FIP focuses on assessing knowledge of basic medical and scientific principles including understanding of biostatistics and epidemiology/population health, interpretation of the medical literature; and application of social sciences, including communication and interpersonal skills, medical ethics, systems-based practice, and patient safety. In addition, the FIP tests knowledge of diagnosis and management.  The FIP consists of entirely multiple-choice questions.

The ACM focuses on the test takers’ ability to apply knowledge of health and disease in the context of patient management and the evolving manifestation of disease over time.  It consists of just under 200 multiple-choice questions as well as 13 case simulations.

What USMLE Study Guides Can Help Me Prepare?

Our expert team has compiled a selection of the Top 10 best USMLE review books. Our editors continually update this list to ensure that our readers always have the most recent and accurate information available to them. Of course, if you have additional suggestions or feedback, we would be delighted to hear from you.

Best USMLE Review Books