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USMLE Step 1 Pass/Fail Decision

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This topic contains 4 replies, has 5 voices, and was last updated by Avatar Dan S., MST USMLE Tutor 2 years, 3 months ago.

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    My sister is a third year, and I was planning to apply to med school this year. We were talking about the usmle change, and I’m not sure what to do. I’m not great with standardized exams, but I’m a good student (currently 6th in my class) and I want to go into surgery. Would it look bad for my application if I took a gap year so I can take STEP 1 when it’s pass/fail? TY!


    The obvious answer is how would schools know that you took that gap year to slide into the new system? You could easily give a number of answers to why you took a gap here, and because it is so common, not a soul blink twice.

    That being said, Step 2 CK is still scored so there’s still an inherent risk involved. One of the best parts about step one being scored is that you had an opportunity on CK to improve on it.

    My best advice to use to gather lots of opinions. However, personally I would say to not use this change as the sole or major reason for taking or not taking a gap year.


    I actually don’t think it would make too much of a difference — I wouldn’t change your plans based purely on whether Step 1 is P/F or scored. I will say that Step 1 is not a *typical* standardized exam in my own experience. My students who have done well in class, typically do well on the exam. I would also say, as David noted above, Step 2 is skill scored, so it might not make that much of a difference in “protecting” you from the effects of residency assessment. I would probably advise you to still apply now – especially if you don’t have another compelling reason to pause for a year!

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    I heard a rumor that they may make everything pass/no pass retroactively once 2022 hits. Has anyone else heard that?

    Dan S., MST USMLE Tutor
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    USMLE ExpertMD or DOContributor

    I agree with Sana and David. I think it’s also worth noting that all we have so far is an “earliest” date of 2022…given the logistics that still remain to be ironed out for this transition, I could definitely see that date getting pushed back. Another reason to not plan a medical school application timeline around the changes.
    Of course, there are lots of other good reasons to take some time off before medical school – bolstering your application, sure, but also making sure its the right path for you.
    @student-soma, I haven’t personally heard that rumor, but we’re all sort of guessing until we hear more from USMLE. Here’s a summary of what we know so far:

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