2018 USMLE Minimum Passing Score Increase

  • /Reviewed by: Amy Rontal, MD
  • Just when you thought the USMLE was hard enough, the Step 1 minimium passing score increased in 2018.

    As of January 1, 2018, the National Board of Medical Examiners increased the Step 1 passing score from 192 to 194 for all examinees testing in 2018 and beyond.

    While a two point increase may not seem like a dramatic change, many of you may be wondering what was behind this decision.

    As per the official announcement from the USMLE: the minimum passing score for each USMLE examination — with the exception of Step 2 CS, which is graded on a pass/fail basis — is reviewed periodically (approximately every three to four years) and can be adjusted at any time. The last increase to the minimum passing score for Step 1 took effect on January 1st, 2014, which implemented a slightly more dramatic increase from 188 to 192.

    In their review of the minimum passing score for the Step 1 examination, the USMLE Review Committee considered information from the following sources:

    1. Recommendations from independent groups of physicians who participated in content-based standard-setting activities in 2017
    2. Results of surveys of various groups (e.g., state licensing representatives, medical school faculty, examinees) concerning the appropriateness of current passing requirements for the Step 1 examination
    3. Data on trends in examinee performance
    4. Data on precision of pass/fail classifications

    After surveying various groups in the medical community, including those who actually generate the questions that appear on the USMLE Step 1, the review committee found a general consensus in favor of increasing the minimum passing score. Their decision was supported by data on the trends in examinee performance — which show that those who pass Step 1 generally do so with a score of at least 194 — and data on the precision of pass/fail classifications.

    The USMLE Management Committee is scheduled to review the minimum passing score for the USMLE Step 2 CK examination at its May 2018 meeting. If they determine that a change is appropriate, the new minimum passing score would take effect for all examinees sitting for Step 2 CK on or after July 1, 2018. Stay tuned for more updates!

    Not sure how to study for Step 1? Visit our ultimate step 1 study guide!