Last updated on October 13th, 2023
Each United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step exam is scored differently. Understanding what your USMLE Step 2 score means and how it is calculated can help you prepare in a more focused way.
Understanding your USMLE Step 2 CK score
Scores for the USMLE Step 2 exam range from 1 to 300. However, a 300 has never been achieved. Although scores across steps (such as between Step 1 and Step 2 CK) are not comparable, each step’s exam scores are statistically adjusted so that they are comparable to scores on the same exam over a three- to four-year timeframe. Therefore, an examinee’s score can be compared to other examinees’ scores to determine their proficiency on the tested material.
What score do I need to pass?
The minimum passing score for the Step 2 CK is determined by the USMLE Management Committee, which reviews data once every four years to determine if any changes need to be made to the passing score. It is important to check the USMLE website for up-to-date information on the clinical knowledge tested and minimum passing test scores. At the time of writing this article, the current minimum passing score is 214. This typically amounts to answering 60% of the questions on the exam correctly.
What does my percentile mean?
The USMLE program develops a norm table that can be used to determine the percentile of a particular score. The norm table is composed of the average score results of first-time test-takers from the US or Canadian LCME-accredited medical school, or international medical schools, over the past three years. These tables are updated every year to include the most recent data and average scores.
When viewing a norm table, the test scores are located in the left column, and each step is sequentially listed in columns to the right. The test columns contain percentile ranks. Thus, you find the row matching your score and the appropriate column of your test. The number at this intersection is your percentile rank. For example, if your score on Step 2 CK was 235, you will find the number 42 in the Step 2 CK column corresponding to that score. This means your exam score is at the 42nd percentile. This means that 42 percent of all first-time test-takers over the past three years scored lower than 235 on the Step 2 CK.
How precise are the scores?
Measurement errors are present on all tests, but the USMLE has calculated these for each Step examination.
The standard error of measurement (SEM) for the Step 2 CK exam is 6. This means that your score plus and minus 6 is the score range that you are likely to achieve two-thirds of the time.
The standard error of difference (SED) determines whether the difference between two scores is statistically significant. The current SED for the Step 2 CK exam is 8. Scores that differ by two SEDs (16 points) are considered to denote differences in their proficiency of the tested material.
The standard error of the estimate (SEE) for the Step 2 CK exam is 8. This gauges the likelihood that you will score similarly on repeated attempts. It is estimated that two-thirds of the time, the score of a repeat attempt will fall within one SEE of the previous score.
USMLE Scores and Residency Programs
Your score and percentile on the USMLE Step 2 exam are used to determine your proficiency in the tested material. These scores can be compared to other test-takers and previous test-takers (within a three- to four-year period). To pass the Step 2 CK exam, you must answer 60% of the questions correctly to achieve a minimum score of 214. Generally, to get your desired residency placement, your target score should be at least 245. With this score, you should be able to meet or beat other Step 2 CK score for residency programs.
Passing the USMLE Step 2 Exam
Most medical students find the best method to prepare for USMLE exams throughout their medical education includes the use of a comprehensive question bank. With 4,200+ multiple-choice questions written specifically for the USMLE Step 2 exam, students get the most questions of any QBank available. Our unique QBank system allows you to study through flashcard mode or practice exam mode to let you prepare in the most efficient ways possible. Learn more here.