In November, we covered the USMLE Composite Committee and Management Committee’s decision to change the length of time allotted for individuals to complete the test and the number of questions that will be found in each section. These changes are slotted to launch this May.

Recently, the USMLE’s committees made additional changes that will have an impact on all students but may impact IMGs the most.  Read on for a snapshot of the upcoming changes, when to expect them, and how they can affect your plans as an IMG.


Upcoming USMLE Changes


  1. Scoring Changing to Pass/Fail

For those who don’t test well or worry that their UMSLE scores could be on the lower end of the spectrum, this news may seem like a blessing. For IMGs hoping to standout from U.S. medical students, this may not be the case.  In the past, IMGs with higher USMLE scores tended to have a higher chance of matching.  Higher scores show academic rigor and a greater knowledge base.  If scoring changes to a pass/fail system, it will be difficult for more qualified IMGs to standout and therefore may provide issues when matching.

When to expect it:

The USMLE’s committees have not stated when the changes to pass/fail will occur. They have indicated, however, that test takers can expect these changes to be implemented January, 2022. This said, those who are now preparing for the exam should prepare for a test that is scored.


  1. Attempts Allowed Changing From Six to Four

Currently, individuals can take the USMLE Step 1 exam six times, provided they do not pass the exam during any of these attempts (re-testing for a higher score is not permitted). The USMLE decided to cap the number of attempts allowed for Step 1 at four. This decision was made based on data compiled by the USMLE indicating that the likelihood of someone taking the exam a fifth or sixth time, matching into residency, completing residency, and becoming a physician is relatively low. Removing these additional exam attempts can help to ensure that the physicians in residency and those who are practicing have the skills and drive to do so with success.

When to expect it:

This change may take place as early as January, 2021.


  1. Step 1 is required before taking Step 2 CS

The decision to require Step 1 before Step 2 CS was born out of logic. According to data from the USMLE, most individuals do not take Step 2 CS until after they have taken Step 1. The committee made this decision to eliminate confusion and keep the exam competitive.

When to expect it:

This change may take place as early as March, 2021.

Find out more about this change >



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