The United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE) Step 1 is the first of three licensing exams needed to practice medicine in the U.S. USMLE Step 1 is asks you to apply basic scientific concepts to the general practice of medicine. It is an 8-hour examination and is a comprehensive assessment of your pre-clinical medical education.

Most American Medical Graduates will take the USMLE Step 1 following their second year of medical school when basic science concepts are most fresh in their minds. International medical students who know they want to do a U.S. residency often take the USMLE Step 1 at a similar point in their medical education system.

Currently, a passing score is 194 points out of a possible 300 points. But that will soon be changing.


What’s Changing?

In February of 2020, the USMLE announced that it will be changing its Step 1 exam to report on a pass/fail model effective beginning on January 26, 2022. Any exam taken on or after January 26, 2022, will report as pass/fail.

This change comes on the heel of the USMLE’s decision to cancel the Step 2 Clinical Skills exam, which seems to be an early effort of the USMLE’s mission to enact sweeping change to its examination system and smoothen the transition from medical student to medical graduate.

What does this mean for you?

While the change might feel like a welcoming sign for medical students, as it implies lower stakes in exam results and thus less of a negative impact test prep has on students’ well-being, this may only hold true for U.S. medical students.

International Medical Graduates often face barriers when applying to U.S. residency not faced by their U.S. counterparts. Because of this, higher scores on the USMLE exams are an opportunity to show the validity of their medical education and the extent of their medical skills. Without the chance to prove their skills and knowledge through high test scores, some studies predict that the availability and longevity of IMGs’ contributions to the U.S.’ physician task force will be negatively affected.

While this news may be worrisome, there are many ways that IMGs can showcase their knowledge, skills, and commitment to practicing in the United States. U.S. clinical experiences give you experience to the U.S. healthcare system in real-world settings. Booking your USCE through AMO gives you guaranteed seating in programs across the United States as well as the opportunity to earn merit-based letters of recommendation, which provide valuable evidence of skills and knowledge on your residency applications.

Want to know more about the USMLE Step 1 move to pass/fail reporting? Read more here.

Interested in standing out with a U.S. Clinical Experience? Reach out to an AMO Advisor at