MSHQ 028 : The USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 CK with Dr. McInnis

Session 28

Session 28

In this episode, Ryan talks with Dr. Mike McInnis, Chief Educator at Doctors in Training, a small company that focuses mainly on test prep specifically USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Exam) and COMLEX (Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination) to help prepare medical students pass the boards.

Today, he talks about the USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 board exams, their importance on your path to residency, and studying strategies you can employ. COMLEX will be covered in a different podcast.

Here are the highlights of the conversation with Mike:

What is a USMLE Exam?

A three-part test designed to test whether a medical student is knowledgeable enough to be licensed as a physician.

USMLE Step 1

  • A long, computerized, multiple choice test based on basic sciences
  • Usually taken at the end of the second year of medical school
  • Used as a determining factor in residency application
  • Doing well gives you better chances to the kind of residency you want
  • Similar to the MCAT where you need to do well to get as many offers from the top residency programs you want to get into
  • Changing from knowledge-based test to a more clinical/patient-centered exam

From NRMP Charting Outcomes 2011[/caption]

USMLE Step 2 CK (Clinical Knowledge)

  • Computer-based, multiple choice test moving away from the basic sciences and more toward actual patient care such
  • How to make diagnosis, what diagnostic tests should you order for a patient based on clinical data and history, lab findings to expect,  and the beginnings of treatment
  • Mostly taken at the tail-end of 3rd year or beginning of your 4th year where at this point you've already been exposed to patient care during clinical years
  • Designed to test a medical student whether they're able to function at a level appropriate for a senior level medical student

USMLE Step 2 CS (Clinical Skills)

  • Setting you up with mock patients (actors paid to act as patients)
  • Expensive test as you will be flying to the site since they are only offered in 5-6 testing locations throughout the country
  • Taking histories, doing physical exams, writing a SOAP note that integrates it all with a good assessment and plan
  • Total of 12 patient encounters

Is Step 2 important for residency?

  • Yes, residency programs directors still look at your Step 2 scores and it may affect your chances to match
  • Average Step 2 score being considerably higher than Step 1 score

Step 3

  • Taken after the intern year (first year of residency training)
  • May be required in some residency programs before moving to 2nd or 3rd year of residency
  • No full medical license until you've passed all three steps
  • Mostly covers basic general medical conditions

About Doctors in Training:

  • Online USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 CK test products
  • Also offers COMLEX products as well as anatomy and others
  • Around 75 hours of video-based lectures with study guide
  • Helping medical students bring the stuff out of their memory review the course

Some pieces of advice for premed students:

The best way to prepare for the Step 1 exam is to do well in your coursework in medical school. Learn pharmacology and pathology as much as you can. Do not ignore

Connect with Dr. McInnis on Twitter @DrMcInnisDIT

Links and Other Resources:


USMLE Step 1 Question Formats

USMLE Step 2 CK Question Formats

USMLE Step 2 CS Tools

USMLE Step 2 CS Patient Notes

Doctors in Training


First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 2013 (First Aid USMLE)

First Aid for the USMLE Step 2 CK, Eighth Edition (First Aid USMLE)

First Aid for the USMLE Step 2 CS, Fourth Edition (First Aid USMLE)


Amazon’s COMLEX books

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