Dealing with Step 1 Exam Cancellations and Rescheduling

  • /Reviewed by: Amy Rontal, MD
  • Coronavirus has led to a lot of uncertainty about Step 1 exam dates. We polled our Campus Heroes to learn more.

    While many of us are adjusting to this so-called “new normal” in the wake of coronavirus, medical students are experiencing a whole other level of disruption. Students who have been studying intensely for weeks, have found their Step 1 exam cancelled without warning as testing centers work to comply with guidelines for social distancing and “safe” approaches to reopening. Many students even reported cancellations of dates in June 2020. We recently surveyed our network of Campus Heroes to learn how people were affected and how they are coping and heard back from 25 individuals who shared their personal experiences.

    How have medical students been affected?

    83% of our respondents’ Step 1 exam dates were cancelled unexpectedly. 69% of them were not able to easily find a new date. What was the experience like to reschedule? Most students spoke of constantly refreshing the Prometric site to try and find a new date, attempting phone calls which went unanswered, or looking for dates in a variety of different cities to try to find a date closer to their original date. Some individuals’ experiences sounded very trying:

    “It was very hectic and draining. For my first reschedule, it took about an hour long to even get to the website. I rescheduled in the city that I go to school in, and I secured a date that would be during my rotations. When more spots opened up I rescheduled to a date that was only a week from my original date, which is also on the first day of my 3rd year orientation. I am still waiting for my prometric center to open up so that I can call and confirm my spot, since I have heard some of these spots that opened later were mistakes. Still a bit worried about all this but I am back on my dedicated schedule finally.” – Elif D., Class of 2022

    “I’ve rescheduled my exam 3 times now. The first time wasn’t difficult to reschedule since it was the first April cancellations but the rescheduling due to social distancing was really difficult. Prometric was overloaded so the site was down for a while, and finding a date was almost impossible. I found one in another state. I had called a friend/classmate to hop online to try and help me search so it would be faster for me to book an appointment when I saw a slot open up. It was like hunger games status. But then recently, I was able to find a date in my home state.” – Anonymous

    “Had to change my entire MS4 schedule to reschedule and will need to travel to another city to take the exam.” – Anonymous

    “I searched over 11 states from June-August only to find no available test dates. Two days later a 4th year med student told me that his girlfriend had rescheduled her exam for September. That was how I discovered Prometric had released new dates from Sept-Dec. The earliest I could take the exam in Phoenix was mid-November. I performed another search of 7 states to figure out which would allow me to test ASAP. I will be traveling to Portland, OR to take my exam in the beginning of August.” – Cassandra H., A.T. Still University SOMA, Class of 2021

    Good to know: a couple of people cited, where you can sign up to be notified of new dates opening up. “Use the movemyexam website! It’s a game changer to get alerted with your ideal date.” – Shawn F., SGU 2022

    One bright spot in our customers’ experience was that about 42% of the respondents were able to find an exam date that was less than 1 month from their original date, and nobody who responded had to wait over 3 months to take their exam.

    pie chart

    How are med students adjusting?

    Our campus leaders are dealing with their exam delays in a variety of ways. Some students had to make the tough choice between exam dates that were much later than their original date, or a week or so earlier than their original date. Those who opted for an earlier date obviously didn’t have a choice but to push hard and keep up their studying, like this person who told us: “I am keeping up the intensity. My new scheduled date is a day sooner than my original, so no time to slack off.”

    Meanwhile many of those who picked a later date took at least a little time off and then got right back to it. Some students reported that their new date is still another 2 months off and they’re going to re-pick up studying near the end of May.

    Still others are using the modified dates as additional motivation and are keeping up their study intensity. In fact, Trey E., from the class of 2021 at Campbell University School of Osteopathic Medicine said, “Yes, I am still studying. I am setting up new study blocks because there are always obstacles on the horizon. There are no breaks in medical school and getting complacent will only be a detriment.”

    Advice for dealing with the uncertainty

    While the process of going through cancellations and rescheduling has been frustrating for many students, most of our survey respondents reflected a positive attitude. Some notable pieces of advice our student leaders wanted to share with their fellow students include these:

    “Just understand that everyone across the country in their 2nd and 3rd years of medical school are going through the same thing. This is beyond our control. It’s annoying, frustrating, and inconvenient but you will take it…and you will pass…and you will proceed on. I can guarantee the employees of Prometric, the NBME and NBOME, the AAMC and those at your respective institutions didn’t want this to happen either. It’s a stressful time for us all. Be grateful to be where you are and be respectful of those trying to help.” – Trey E., Campbell University School of Osteopathic Medicine, 2021

    “This is hard. Try not to focus on things you cannot control. Super cliche, but we are all in this together.” – Cassandra H., A.T. Still University SOMA, Class of 2021

    “The biggest thing is to be kind to yourself during this time. It’s going to be hard to study and to stay motivated when everything is so unsure. Know that you’re not the only medical student who has been negatively impacted by this, and that it’s ok to take a couple days off here and there to deal with everything.” – Kurestin M., Class of 2022

    We wish you luck during these crazy times, and if you need help adjusting your Cram Fighter schedule or need to modify your subscription based on changed exam dates, please email us at

    About the Author

    Erica Forrette is the former Director of Marketing at Cram Fighter.