As you surely know, every medical student in the US needs to pass the USMLE Step 1 as the first major milestone in their medical career. As many things, taking this exam comes with its share of organizational demands and official registration steps. Keep reading for a simple guide on how to apply for USMLE Step 1 and where to look for the most up-to-date information!
Master your USMLE® Step 1
USMLE Eligibility: Who Can Take the Exam?
At the time you apply and on your test day you must fall into one of the following categories:
- You are an officially enrolled medical student or graduate in a U.S. or Canadian school that leads to the MD degree and is accredited by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME)
- You are an officially enrolled medical student or graduate in a U.S. school that leads to the DO degree and is accredited by the Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation (COCA)
- You are an officially enrolled medical student or graduate in a school outside the U.S. and Canada that is listed in the World Directory of Medical Schools as meeting ECFMG eligibility requirements, and that meets other eligibility criteria of the ECFMG
Initially, when you apply for the USMLE Step 1, you are assigned a three-month eligibility period within which you must take the exam.
How to extend the eligibility period for the USMLE Step 1
If you are facing any unforeseen circumstances and need more time to prepare for your exam, you can extend the eligibility period for the USMLE Step 1 exam. Generally, you can request an extension of your eligibility period only once and it must be done for the same calendar year as your original eligibility period. Make sure you meet these criteria before applying. Also, note that you must request the extension before your current eligibility period runs out! To request an extension:
- Access your application on the NBME’s website (ECFMG for IMGs) and complete the eligibility period extension form available there.
- Pay the extension fee; only after you have paid you can submit your request.
- Make sure you receive the confirmation; you should get it after the NBME has processed your request.
- Double-check your scheduling permit: It should reflect your new eligibility period.
- If applicable: Reschedule your exam day (Prometric website).
Remember to regularly check the official USMLE and ECFMG websites for any updates or changes to the process.
How to Register for the USMLE Step 1
Students and graduates of LCME- and COCA-accredited programs in the U.S. and Canada have to apply through the National Board of Medical Examiners. After registration, you will receive your USMLE®️ ID via email. Then, you apply for the exam and pay the registration fee. After your registration is completed and you are verified, you will receive your scheduling permit. This can take up to two weeks. To schedule your test day and location, visit the Prometric website. You can schedule your exam up to six months in advance.
Students and graduates of medical schools located outside the U.S. and Canada have to apply through the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates. Make sure that your passport is still valid! After registration, you will receive your USMLE®️ ID via email. This can take up to 5 business days.
The USMLE Step 1 registration process:
- Before you begin your exam application, you have to complete the application for ECFMG certification and pay the certification fee.
- After payment, you have to complete and notarize the Certification of Identification Form 186. This can be done online through NotaryCam.
- After the ECFMG accepts your application for ECFMG certification and the notarized Form 186 you can complete the USMLE®️ Step 1 application form and pay the fees.
- With the payment process complete, you will have to verify your medical school status online or on paper using Form 186.
- The next step is submitting all other necessary documentation required by the ECFMG.
- After receiving your scheduling permit you can finally schedule your test day and location at the Prometric website.
In case you need an in-depth tutorial, IMGPREP is a great resource.
How to register for the USMLE Step 1 as a DO
As a DO student or graduate, you typically should be eligible to take the USMLE and just go through the general registration steps as detailed above.
When Should I Register for the USMLE Step 1?
Most students register for the USMLE Step 1 about six months before they plan to take it.
However, the ideal time for registration depends on quite a few factors:
- Alignment of the registration and test-taking with your studies (most people take Step 1 after finishing the pre-clinical part of their studies)
- How much time you need to prepare for the exam
- Available test dates and locations
- Application processing time (there may be unforeseen delays, so add some time to be safe)
It makes sense to consider your preparation needs, schedules, and test center availability when deciding on when to start the registration process. Especially, keep in mind that once you apply, you will have a specific three-month window of time in which you are supposed to schedule your exam (the eligibility period). In summary: Don’t procrastinate looking at the formal requirements and making sure you are all set for registration. You will have enough on your mind with studying for Step 1!