When (and How) to Schedule Your USMLE Step 2 Exam

  • /Reviewed by: Amy Rontal, MD
  • While some dates on the calendar are fixed, such as your birthday, a vacation you have planned, all the holidays you celebrate, etc… USMLE Step 2 is a bit trickier! Sure, you know it will happen at some point this year, but when do you take USMLE Step 2, exactly? And how do you know you’re ready to take it?

    It’s normal to have those questions. And we’re here to answer them for you! We’ll get to them in short order, but first let’s take an overall look at the exam so you can get a sense of how much prep work you need to do and what your target date might be. 

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    A Refresher on Step 2 Exam Content

    As a refresher, Step 2 is a nine-hour, single-day, computer-based portion of the USMLE. But don’t worry, you’re not testing for nine hours straight!The exam is broken into eight one-hour blocks of (at most) 40 questions, with an optional 15-minute tutorial and 45 minutes minimum break time. Any unused time from your tutorial section will get added to your 45 minutes of break time, and you get to use this break time at your own discretion so long as it doesn’t interrupt a block. If you finish any block early, that time can be added to your break time.

    Consider the Timelines

    No one knows when you’re ready to take USMLE Step 2 better than you, but there are some timelines to consider. ERAS, the residency application software, starts accepting submissions at the end of June, meaning that traditional applicants are applying to residencies the summer before year four.Now that theStep 1 pass/fail change has taken place, it’s more important than ever to do ERAS submissions on the day the system opens because residencies start looking at applications right away.So, similar to the MCAT, the sooner you apply the better your chances are. Ideally, you’ll have everything uploaded, proofed, and ready to submit the day applications open!

    So… When Do You Take USMLE Step 2?

    It’s highly recommended you take the exam before applying to residencies, as the programs will then receive your scores for Step 1 (for the next few cycles) and USMLE Step 2. What does this mean for traditional students? You will want to be thinking about USMLE Step 2 in the fall/winter of year three. This sort of preparation will help you work toward a goal of testing in the spring, 2nd semester, or final quarter of year three. However, students may begin considering taking Step 2 earlier since the majority of programs are planning to require USMLE Step 2 scores as a part of the initial application. This is simply a prediction, however; only time will tell.It’s likely you’ll get your USMLE Step 2 score back in about three to four weeks, but delays are possible so it’s best to allow eight weeks for your results. 

    In the past, the most popular month for Blueprint’s Med School Study Planner learners to take Step 2 was July, with June and August coming in second and third, respectively. 

    How to Schedule USMLE Step 2

    So, how do you even go about scheduling? If you’re in the US or Canada, you’ll follow the steps on the NBME licensing website here. If you’re outside those regions, you’ll sign up through the ECFMG portal instead.Basically, you’re scheduling your eligibility period, which is a three-month period during which you will later schedule your test date. If you’ll need any accommodations due to a disability, the NBME provides some simple steps to follow that can be boiled down to filling out a form and emailing it to them.Sometimes, studying for the exam is not even the hardest part. It’s knowing when you’re ready and actually taking the steps to book it! While they may not make the actual test easy, they do make it simple to reschedule the exam. If you realize 45 days before your first exam date month that some extra time would help, you can reschedule free of charge as long as you are rescheduling within your eligibility period.Even within those 31 days, you can still reschedule, no need to panic! Of course, they add fees accordingly. If you are hoping to reschedule outside of your eligibility period, however, you will have to contact the USMLE to inquire about a one-time eligibility period extension which requires another fee.The cost of the exam is currently $670.

    Preparing for USMLE Step 2… With Help!

    So, when do you take USMLE Step 2? We’ve given you a pretty specific answer to that question. But again, you need to do it when you feel ready. So a lot of it is about prep. You’ve made it this far in your academic life, so you should feel confident in your ability to build a study schedule that is right for you. Still, it’s always helpful to learn from others, and we’ve got the data! 

    On average, Blueprint’s Med School Study Planner learners spent 103.5 days studying for USMLE Step 2. You can even see the most common resources they used to prepare for the wide range of topics covered on USMLE Step 2 including internal medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, pediatrics, preventive medicine, psychiatry, and surgery.

    The fact you’ve even made it to the end of this article means you’re working hard and taking steps to prepare yourself for what lies ahead. You should be proud of yourself! We sure are, and we’re here to help you build a Step 2 study schedule to keep you on track. Blueprint’s Med School Study Planner lets you create a detailed plan quickly and easily adjust or rebalance your daily study tasks as needed.Hopefully this article helped answer the question we began with: when do you take USMLE Step 2? You’ve come this far, and this exam isn’t going to stand in the way of your dreams. Just schedule it in a way that lets you prep correctly, and keep an eye on the calendar. Best of luck on your journey! Looking for more (free!) resources to help you prepare for USMLE Step 2? Check out these other posts on the Med School blog!