USMLE® Step 2 CK Exam: 11 Things to Know Before Taking the Exam 

usmle step 2 exam

After successfully passing the United States Medical Licensure Exam (USMLE®) Step 1 exam, it’s time to set your sights on the next critical milestone – the USMLE Step 2 CK. This examination, an integral part of your journey toward becoming a licensed physician, demands a unique set of knowledge and skills. The test is administered by the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) and the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB). 

Have a question about the Step 2 CK exam? We answer some common questions: 

What is the Step 2 CK exam format?

The USMLE® Step 2 CK, the next milestone after conquering Step 1, is a computer-based examination. This eight-hour test is designed to assess your medical knowledge and skills, just like its predecessor. The exam consists of multiple-choice questions organized into eight sections, each containing a maximum of 40 questions. In total, you’ll encounter up to 318 questions, with an hour allotted for each section, translating to approximately 1 minute and 30 seconds per question. 

Test-takers have a total of 45 minutes available for personal breaks, and any time saved from completing sections early can be added to your personal break total. You are allowed a total of six breaks during the exam. At the beginning of the test, there’s an optional 15-minute tutorial period, which, if skipped, adds those 15 minutes to your total break time. 

How do I apply for Step 2 CK? 

To take the USMLE® Step 2 CK, aspiring medical professionals in the United States and Canada should apply through the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME). If you’ve graduated from a medical school outside of the US or Canada, you should register with the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG). Tests are available by appointment year-round. 

How much does the USMLE® Step 2 CK exam cost? 

As of 2023, the cost of taking the USMLE® Step 2 CK for students and graduates of the United States and Canada is $660. In 2024, the cost is scheduled to rise to $670. 

Is Step 2 CK harder than Step 1? 

The difficulty of these exams can be subjective and depend on your background, study methods, and personal strengths. Many medical students find Step 1 to be a significant challenge due to its broad content, while Step 2 can be more manageable because it aligns with their clinical experiences. 

What is covered on the exam? 

The Step 2 CK questions span 18 major areas, as specified in the USMLE® Step 2 CK Content Outline. These questions primarily delve into basic scientific principles, covering a wide array of subjects including anatomy, behavioral sciences, biochemistry, biostatistics, epidemiology, microbiology, pathology, pharmacology, and physiology. Interdisciplinary topics are also included, such as genetics, aging, nutrition, immunology, molecular and cell biology, epidemiology, and medical ethics. 

When should I take the test? 

Most test-takers opt to sit for the USMLE® Step 2 CK at the end of their third year (MS3) or during their 4th year (MS4) of medical school. This is typically after completing core rotations.  

What score do I need to get to pass the Step 2 CK exam? 

As of January 2024, the minimum USMLE® Step 2CK passing score is 214. 

When do I get my test results? 

Scores for the USMLE® Step 2 CK are typically available between two and four weeks after taking the test. 

It takes approximately three to four weeks for your results to become available. You will receive an email notification from the entity you registered with (either NBME or ECFMG) when your results are ready. Results will also be posted on the respective entity’s website. If you don’t receive an email within two months, it’s advisable to reach out directly to the registration entity. 

How is the USMLE® Step 2 CK graded? 

Unlike Step 1, which is graded on a straightforward pass/fail basis, the Step 2 CK is graded on a scale of 1-300. In addition to a numeric grade, you will receive a supplemental report that breaks down how you performed on each content area. 

If you do not open every question block, your exam may not be graded. That attempt will be reported as “incomplete” on your USMLE® transcript.   

What if I fail the Step 2 CK exam? 

Should you not pass on your initial attempt, don’t worry. You can retake the USMLE® Step 2 CK up to four times. However, if you’ve failed or failed to complete the exam four times, you will be ineligible to apply for any subsequent steps in the USMLE® exam sequence. 

How can I prepare for the exam? 

When it comes to passing the USMLE Step 2 CK, you need the right tools at your disposal. The BoardVitals Step 2 CK Question Bank contains more than 1,400 USMLE questions, with detailed explanations and rationales for all correct and incorrect answers. BoardVitals offers a free trial for their question banks for the USMLE® Step 1, Step 2, and Step 3 exams. 

The USMLE® Step 2 CK is your chance to prove not only your medical knowledge but also your ability to apply it in real-world clinical scenarios. So, embrace the journey, use the resources and strategies we’ve discussed, and step into the exam room with the confidence of a future healer. You’ve got this, and the world of medicine eagerly awaits your contributions. Best of luck on your USMLE® Step 2 CK journey! 

Looking for Step 1 advice? Check out 9 Things to Know about the USMLE® Step 1 exam!

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