How USMLE Step 2 is organized
The USMLE Step 2 is broken into two distinct sections. The first section is designed to test your knowledge of the clinical fundamentals needed for the practice of medicine ("Clinical Knowledge", also known as USMLE Step 2 CK). Like any standardized test, it has its problems, but it tries to ensure that students are ready for the clinical part of their training. The second part is USMLE Step 2 CS, or "Clinical Skills". This is a "live" exam in which you have 15 minutes to examine "Standardized Patients." The goal of this part of the exam is to determine if you have the basic skills in history taking and physical exam. This type of exam used to be limited to foreign medical graduates, but has been recently expanded so that all graduates must take the exam (there are some "grandfathering" exceptions for this year - see the USMLE information page). There are several clinical tasks that the USMLE step 2 tries to adress, including topics like preventative medicine, disease mechanisms, differential diagnosis, and patient/case management principles. For a more complete discussion of the topics and tasks of the USMLE Step 2 visit the National Board of Medical ExaminarsUSMLE Step 2 content page).
USMLE Step 2 Question Format
All questions are multiple choice, but requiring either 1) best answer, 2) matching one-to-one, or 3) matching with more than one answer ("Pick-N" matching).
Applying to take and scheduling the USMLE Step 2
Visit the USMLE Application Site.
Studying for the USMLE Step 2
USMLE Step 2 is usually considered slightly easier than USMLE Step 1, but it is probably the more important of the two tests for getting a good residency.
Since many residency programs rely heavily on this test score, it's important to do well on it. The basic techniques for studying for USMLE Step 2 are straight forward (and we've also listed them on theUSMLE home page at the Medical Students USMLE Guide).
Sample questions.Having been through the process, it is clear that the most effective way to study for the USMLE step 1 is by using question banks (Kaplan has a very strong USMLE question bank). These question banks focus on the important, tested topics, and do a good job of identifying and explaining distractors (those "wrong" answers that sound pretty believable).
Focus on your weaknesses. Because USMLE Step 1 is broken down by topics, you have to perform in all the areas to do well on the test as a whole.