USMLE® Step 2 CK Overview
The USMLE® Step 2 CK is one of the standardized exams required to earn your medical license in the United States. Preparation for the exam and understanding of its setup will be critical for your success. You will need to focus on important physician tasks, physiological conditions, and diseases. Once you’ve felt like you’ve mastered those topics, focus on getting the best possible score. Remember, you need a passing score on Step 1 (which will change to pass/fail score reporting on January 26, 2022) and Step 2 CK to take Step 3. In the past, you would have also been required to take Step 2 CS, but after its suspension in 2020, this exam was discontinued in early 2021.
When Should I Take Step 2 CK?
When you take Step 2 CK should be based on when you complete clinical rotations and when you need to take Step 3 in order to apply for residency. Why? A lot of what you will be tested on in Step 2 CK will be learned during your clinical rotations. For example, if you finish your clinical rotations after your third year of medical school then you might plan to take Step 2 CK sooner rather than later, so the information is fresh. Once you apply to take Step 2 CK, you will need to choose a 3-month eligibility period in which to take the exam. Choose this period carefully, as not every Prometric testing center offers the exam. If your local Prometric testing center doesn’t offer Step 2 CK, you will need to organize travel and strategically plan your residency application steps.
What Should I Expect on Step 2 CK?
While the focus of Step 2 CK may be on the basics of patient care, the exact content covered will include internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, preventive medicine, psychiatry, and surgery. All of this content will be tested through a variety of questions, which will require you to do one or more of the following:
- Provide a diagnosis and prognosis
- Use basic science knowledge in different clinical situations
- Determine the next step(s) in patient management
There are two types of questions you will have to answer on Step 2 CK.
Traditional questions are patient-centered vignettes you will need to match with 3 to 26 multiple choice options. The correct answer will not be as simple as you may think. Why? Multiple answer options could be partially correct, but there is only one choice that is the best answer. You should double check your answer to make sure it’s not only correct, but rather is the best answer option.
Sequential items are a single patient-centered vignette covered by 2 to 3 consecutive questions. Be careful! Once you mark your answer choice and move onto the next question, you will not be able to change your answer for the previous question in this small series. If you are unsure about a question, use your best judgement to make an educated guess. Any unanswered questions will automatically be counted as incorrect, so any answer is better than no answer.
What Score Do I Need on the Step 2 CK?
Step 2 CK will soon be the first numerically scored exam you will have to take before applying for the residency, due to Step 1’s shift to pass/fail scoring. There are a few basics you should be aware of. First, the current minimum passing score for Step 2 CK is 209. Second, the passing rate for examinees varies on their location.
|U.S. or Canada||95%|
|Outside the U.S. or Canada||71%|
Scores will be released about 3 to 4 weeks after your exam takes place, usually on Wednesdays. Those results will remain available for 120 days. If you fail the Step 2 CK exam, you will still be able to retake it while you still meet eligibility requirements. Keep in mind, however, that attempt limits on this exam will decrease to four attempts no earlier than July 1, 2021. Also, any failing grades will remain on your record, so make sure you are well-prepared before you try to retake the exam.
How Should I Study for Step 2 CK?
Your path to success on the Step 2 CK will be similar to your path to success for Step 1. The study schedule and types of resources will stay almost the same, but your content and practice is going to look different. Your first goal? Figure out your day-to-day schedule and set aside the appropriate amount of time to study. Your studying should include high yield resources and a plan for taking NBME® practice exams. It is often recommended taking one NBME® practice exam per week. Developing your schedule can be a challenge, but Lecturio has resources to help you develop both a schedule for Step 2 CK and any clinical subjects you may still need to master. Take the time to individualize these schedules, or use them as is, and then work on making your study plan part of your routine.
The best study material, and your source for your questions, will be a QBank dedicated to Step 2 CK. If you use Lecturio’s QBank, a free account will give you access to more than 1,200 Step 2 CK questions that will test your understanding of high-yield concepts. With a Premium account, though, you will also have access to in-depth explanations for all answer options, First Aid® references, and linked video lectures. Those explanations will help with active learning of high-yield facts for the exam. Above all, create a study schedule that will help you develop mastery of required topics while avoiding studying burn out.