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Importance of the USMLE

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USMLE Step 1 and 2 CK:  9 Important Points for the Pediatrics Residency Applicant

1. In 2018, the mean USMLE Step 1 score among U.S. seniors who matched to pediatrics was 227. Among unmatched U.S. seniors, the mean score was 209. 

2. Among the reasons for the importance of the USMLE in the selection process is the desire to select residents who will pass the American Board of Pediatrics board certification examination. In one study, researchers evaluated the relationship between the USMLE Step 1 score and American Board of Pediatrics board certification examination score.  “The data suggests that performance on USMLE Step 1 is an important predictor of a resident's chances of passing the pediatric boards," concluded the authors.

3. In a survey of 73 pediatrics residency programs, 95% cited the USMLE as a factor in selecting applicants to interview. 

4. Although pediatrics programs differ in how USMLE Step 1 scores are used in the residency selection process, the score is an important factor used to make interview decisions. 40% of programs have established a target score while 56% look for evidence of a passing score. "Passing scores for USMLE are required; there are no minimal passing score requirements," writes the Department of Pediatrics at the UAB School of Medicine. "However, USMLE scores are considered an important part of the complete application, and higher USMLE scores offer a more competitive edge to your application as a whole."

5. Applicants with low USMLE Step 1 scores may have difficulty matching with pediatrics residency programs. 2% of U.S. seniors with scores < 220 failed to match in 2018.

6. The USMLE Step 2 CK score is also a factor used by many pediatrics residency programs in deciding whom to invite for interviews. 82% of programs use the Step 2 CK score in their decision-making process.

7. Should you take the USMLE Step 2 CK exam before applying to pediatrics? Some programs want to see Step 2 scores when you apply. Applicants are urged to visit program websites as early as possible so that informed decisions can be made with respect to the timing of the USMLE Step 2 CK exam. 

8. Some programs want to see Step 2 scores before rank-order lists are due for submission in February. Review of program websites will allow for proper planning.

9. When pediatrics residency program directors were asked, “Would your program consider applicants who fail their [Step 1] exam on the 1st attempt,” 4% of programs indicated that they never do and 79% reported that they seldom do. At MD2B and The Successful Match, we have helped applicants overcome such obstacles, and you are welcome to contact us for more information.

Some applicants are concerned about their chances of matching in the specialty or securing a position in highly competitive residency programs.


If you have such concerns, consider our Strategy for Success Session with Dr. Samir Desai.


Dr. Desai will perform a comprehensive review of your credentials, assess your strengths and weaknesses, and provide you with a specific plan to implement tailored to your unique situation and school.


This plan will significantly improve your chances of a successful outcome.

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