USMLE® Step 2 CS Study Schedule

Preparing for the Clinical Skills exam

Start studying strategically

In the United States, most students take USMLE Step 2 CK and USMLE Step 2 CS after their third year of medical school, immediately after finishing their clinical rotations. This is because much of what is tested on Step 2 directly relates to what you learn during your rotations. But how do you efficiently study, when you’re in the midst of your rotations and Shelf exams? It’s actually easier than you might think – what you’re doing in rotations and in preparing for Step 2 CK is already what you need for Step 2 CS!

Preparing for the USMLE Step 2 CS Exam

Step 2 CS is different from the other Step exams, in that you’ll be interacting with live people for a series of 12 patient encounters. During these interactions, you’ll need to interact with a patient, ask relevant questions, perform a focused physical exam, and report your findings (including diagnosis, prognosis, and potential next steps for treatment). This may sound hard to prepare for, but it doesn’t have to be. 

Live preparation

Coming from your rotations, you have been spending day in and day out actually practicing for the Step 2 CS exam. If you treat all of your patient encounters during your rotations as learning and practice opportunities, you should have a solid foundation and good experience interacting with real patients. 

Textbook preparation

While you have certainly gathered significant experience during your clinical rotations, it is also recommended to study different standardized patient cases with the help of a textbook resource. One such book is First Aid® for Step 2 CS. The text goes through different cases. Read the cases, look at the pertinent questions asked for each case and which exams you need to perform for each case, and review how the note is written so that you can emulate this technique on your exam.

Why should I prepare for Step 2 CS and Step 2 CK together?

They’re like two sides of a coin – the clinical knowledge that you internalize for Step 2 CK is knowledge that you can apply in clinical situations, such as those found on the Step 2 CS exam. We recommend trying to take Step 2 CK and Step 2 CS within about a month of each other (1-3 weeks), shortly after or as soon as your rotations are complete. Why? This ensures that you’ve been actively using the knowledge that you need. Taking the two parts of USMLE Step 2 close together will also help you maximize your study efficiency.

For more information on preparing for Step 2 CS, you can check out the USMLE’s Step 2 CS Information Manual.

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