USMLE Prep: What is the USMLE?

The United States Medical Licensing Examination, or USMLE for short, is a three-part licensing examination that is required in order to receive a license to practice medicine within the United States. This exam is designed by the Federation of State Medical Boards and the National Board of Medical Examiners to determine whether or not an individual understands and can apply the knowledge necessary to practice medicine safely and intelligently. The USMLE is actually comprised of three different exams that are referred to as steps, which examine the individual's knowledge of specific topics related to the field of medicine such as basic science, medical knowledge, medical skills, clinical science, and the application of all of these skills and areas of knowledge in the medical field.

All three steps of the USMLE include a series of computerized multiple-choice questions, but the format of the exam and the information covered in each multiple-choice section is different for each step of the USMLE. The USMLE Step II also has a clinical skills portion that examines an individual's ability to work with real patients and the USMLE Step III has a computerized patient simulation portion in addition to the multiple-choice section of the exam. In order for an individual to receive a license to practice medicine, the individual must pass all three steps of the USMLE.

The USMLE and Licensure within the United States

In order for an individual to receive a license to practice medicine within the United States, the individual must have a Doctor of Medicine (MD) degree, a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) degree, or another comparable degree and must have passed Step III of the USMLE. The individual must also have completed at least a one-year internship or a one-year residency program in order to receive licensure. The Step I Exam, the Step II Clinical Skills Exam, and the Step II Clinical Knowledge Exam, are not specifically required in order to obtain licensure, but an individual must pass all of these exams in order to take the Step III Exam. Passing each of these exams is also usually required by each university and medical program in order to receive a MD or DO degree. As a result, the individual must have completed all three steps of the USMLE exam, achieved a MD, DO, or other similar degree, and have completed at least a one-year internship or a one-year residency program in order to receive a license to practice medicine. Individuals that wish to become accredited as a specialist in a particular field of medicine or eligible to practice as a specialist in a particular medical field by the local medical board will usually be required to fulfill their residency performing the particular specialty they are interested in pursuing. However, there may also be other requirements in addition to these requirements in order for an individual to receive a license to practice medicine and/or to become Board Accredited or Board Eligible as a specialist depending on the regulations set by the local medical licensing authority.

USMLE Registration - Other Fees, Rescheduling Exams, and Retaking Exams

The total registration cost for all three Steps of the USMLE will be approximately $2,655 for individuals planning on taking the exam in 2008. However, these fees are usually raised annually and there are other fees that an individual may have to pay in addition to these fees in order to take a particular exam. Some of the additional fees that an individual may have to pay in order to take one of the USMLE Exams include general rescheduling fees, rescheduling fees associated with missing a test date, and fees associated with other certifications such as the ECFMG Certification if the individual that is applying for the exam is a student or graduate from somewhere other than the United States or Canada. An individual that has already scheduled a testing date with Thomson Prometric can reschedule if there is a problem with the date that the individual has chosen, without penalty, if the individual cancels the test appointment with the testing center no later than 14 days before the testing date. The individual taking the exam may also cancel the test appointment during the 14 days prior to the exam date, but Thomson Prometric will assess a $150 rescheduling fee when the individual attempts to choose another date to take the exam. If the individual attempts to cancel his or her test appointment on the day of the test or simply does not show up for the test, Thomson Prometric will assess a $400 rescheduling fee when the individual attempts to choose another date to take the exam.

If the individual taking the exam fails the exam, the individual has the option to retake the exam an unlimited number of times. However, the individual can only retake the Step II Clinical Skills Exam up to a total of 3 times in a one year period from the date that the individual first takes the exam and can only retake any of the other exams up to a total of 4 times in a one year period from the date of the first exam. There may also be limitations on the number of overall attempts an individual can make for a particular exam set by the local medical licensing authority. In jurisdictions where limits are set, the individual will only receive a license to practice medicine if he or she passes the exam before exceeding the number of attempts allowed by the local medical licensing authority for the jurisdiction that the individual is planning on working in.

Video Review

Last Updated: 07/29/2014