Medical licensing exam to be graded pass/fail

The first portion of the exam medical school graduates are required to take before going into residency will be graded pass/fail beginning in 2022.

Step 1 of the United States Medical Licensing Exam is currently graded with a three-digit numeric score. No changes will be made to the grading methodologies of Steps 2 and 3 of the exam. Step 2 uses pass/fail for clinical skills and a numeric score for the clinical knowledge portion, and Step 3 uses numeric scoring. which use numeric scoring and pass/fail grading, respectively.

The Federation of State Medical Boards and the National Board of Medical Examiners, which co-sponsor the exam, believe the changes will "help reduce some of the current overemphasis on [exam] performance, while also retaining the ability of medical licensing authorities to use the exam for its primary purpose of medical licensure eligibility," according to an online announcement about the change.

Susan Skochelak, MD, chief academic officer for the American Medical Association, said the AMA supports the decision. "Our student, resident and physician members voted to endorse a pass/fail policy, in part, because we know our current residency selection system is causing significant distress for our students," Dr. Skochelak said in the announcement.

The announcement was met with skepticism on Twitter, where critics said they felt it limited the ways students could be evaluated and placed more emphasis on medical school rank.  

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