The United States Medical Licensing Examination

The United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) is a multi-part standardized test that must be completed by individuals who wish to practice medicine in the U.S. It is sponsored by the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) and the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB). The exam has three distinct parts, all of which must be passed to be successful: medical knowledge, skills and ability to competently and effectively provide patient care.

The test was first implemented in the mid-1990s as a replacement for various tests implemented by individual states. This nationwide standardization also eliminated institution-specific practices, such as bell curving or grade inflation.

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Three Steps

There are three distinct steps in the USMLE, each of which differs from the others in format and expectations, and tests a different component of the skills and knowledge required by medical practitioners.

The steps must be completed in order. Many schools require completion of step one and step two as part of an M.D. degree program, while step three is typically completed by medical school graduates during their first year of residency.

The USMLE Step One is a multiple choice exam designed to test how well you understand basic science as it is applicable in clinical scenarios.

The USMLE Step Two is divided over two days, and tests clinical knowledge, skills and the ability to apply them in a patient care situation.

The USMLE Step Three also takes two days and includes a multiple choice test and computer simulations of clinical situations.


Once you've decided on your intended area of specialization and have a resume in place with good references, you'll begin the process of preparing for the USMLE. This test will be the most important part of your medical license application. It's essential that you begin the preparation process well in advance of your test day in order to achieve success.

Complete preparation for the USMLE will almost certainly require you to familiarize yourself with sample questions. You should be familiar with the format and the type of questions for the specific section you're addressing. There are a number of online resources available that will help you get ready for the test.

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