The USMLE Examination

The USMLE examination began in 1992, and was a created to replace two earlier examinations, the  NBME certification examination and the Federal Licensing Examination. Presently, it is the only examination system for students seeking medical licensure in USA.  Both US medical students as well as international medical students who want medical licenses in United States must take this examination.


The USMLE examination is a computer-based test, which is comprised of three main steps.  As a student seeking a medical license in the United States, you must meet the basic eligibility requirements. In case you are a US citizen, the first eligibility criteria is that you must be a medical student enrolled in a graduate program in the US or Canada, which will give you a MD degree that is accredited by the Liaison Committee. Otherwise, you must be a graduate from a US medical school holding a DO degree that is accredited by the American Osteopathic Association.  In case you are an international medical graduate, you must be eligible for certification conducted by the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates.

Goals of the USMLE

The USMLE examination assesses your ability as a physician to apply your knowledge and skills in a variety of health issues and it checks whether you are capable of providing care to patients in a safe, effective and efficient manner. To obtain a medical license, you need to complete all the three steps of USMLE within seven years. 

USMLE Scoring

 The scoring system used in the USMLE test is unique.  It gives two scores to the examinees – one is a three digit score, which is more descriptive, and the second is a two digit equivalent of the score obtained on the three digit scale.  The minimum passing score on the two digit scale is 75.  Most medical organizations consider only the two digit score for hiring purposes.  On a three digit scale, currently the national mean score is 221, and with a standard deviation of 23. Based on the latest scoring system, the passing score on the three digit system is 188.  

Because there is no negative marking for wrong answers in this examination, it is suggested that if you’re not sure of an answer it’s best to go with your best possible guess, rather than not answering the question at all.

Eligibility Based on the USMLE 

Most residency programs consider the USMLE score for the selection of candidates. Because the examination is standardized, it is one of the best ways to compare medical students from the United States and international students. 

Apart from becoming eligible for residency programs after passing the USMLE test, passing examinees also become eligible for fellowships in United States. This is applicable for both US students as well as foreign students having a recognized post-graduate qualification. Thorough, in-depth preparation for the examination is a must, if you are serious about obtaining your medical license at the earliest opportunity. 

USMLE Preparation

There are a number of ways to prepare for the exam.  There are classroom programs and on-line programs.  The USMLE Tutor offers one-on-one training that is customized to meet your particular needs.  This method has been shown to be very effective and to reduce preparation time, because no time is taken to deal with areas where you are well prepared.