COVID-19 Update: A Phased Approach for Expanding Step 1, Step 2 CK, and Step 3 Testing

Updated: June 2, 2020
Posted: May 15, 2020

In this week’s COVID-19 update, read about our plans to expand testing capacity for Step 1, Step 2 Clinical Knowledge (CK), and Step 3.

As of now:

  • Testing resumed at select Prometric centers for Step 1, Step 2 CK, and Step 3 on May 1, 2020. Prometric’s capacity will increase as testing centers continue to open on a site-by-site basis in accordance with state and local laws and social distancing guidelines.

    • Previously, we announced that Prometric had informed us that their bulk cancellation of May appointments was complete. However, Prometric recently shared that additional May cancellations will occur. We will continue to escalate these and other communication issues to Prometric leadership.

    • Because of the Prometric scheduling challenges examinees are facing, we are focusing on supplemental and alternative test delivery options. Within the next few weeks, we anticipate that we will be able to begin testing at a limited number of medical school campuses.

  • Step 2 Clinical Skills (CS) testing is suspended until at least August 2020.

Expanding Testing Capacity for Step 1, Step 2 CK, and Step 3
The exploration and evaluation of alternate test delivery options to address testing backlogs is ongoing. As we evaluate options, we are accounting for the urgency to resume and expand testing, examinee safety, exam security, technological feasibility, as well as the fluid and unpredictable nature of the COVID-19 situation.

Our current plans include a three-phased approach to expand testing capacity for Step 1, Step 2 CK, and Step 3.

  • Phase One: Regional Testing Centers at Medical Schools
    Implementation: Early June

    Currently, there are a small number of U.S. medical schools that already have Prometric sites. We will be assessing whether these centers can expand their availability and capacity.

    Additionally, we are working to set up a small number of testing sites in medical schools using Prometric equipment. The schools were chosen based on the relative speed with which we could implement testing as well as their ability to serve as regional testing centers in different geographical locations. Initial steps to prepare the sites for testing have already begun, and we will communicate more about these sites soon.

    While many medical schools have demonstrated tremendous support and interest in participating in this type of testing set-up, the work to operationalize centers in this way is very complex. We recognize this solution will not be accessible to every student, but it is a positive development in addressing national capacity.

  • Phase Two: Event-Based Testing at Medical Schools
    Implementation: Late June-August

    To more significantly expand testing capacity, our goal is to create larger scale proctored USMLE administrations at U.S. medical schools while abiding by social distancing guidelines. We are working to overcome some technological challenges to deliver testing via this method to many more medical schools compared with phase one. We will share more details about this plan within the next few weeks. This type of testing will be available no sooner than late June, and recurring events over the summer will allow for any larger testing backlogs to be addressed.

  • Phase Three: Remote Proctoring
    Exploration Timing: Three to six months

    We are exploring the delivery of USMLE through remote proctoring. Although we are aggressively exploring this option, we cannot commit to it at this time as there is still a great deal of technological and feasibility work to do. We anticipate our exploration to occur over the next 3 months, at which point we will be able to make decisions about any future implementation of remote proctoring.

Step 1 and Step 2 CK Content Changes
We recognize and want to mitigate the stress examinees are experiencing in preparing for content changes for Step 1 and Step 2 CK that were expected to begin this summer. We also want to keep our focus on our top priority, which is resuming testing and decreasing backlogs.

Therefore, we will delay the previously announced content changes on Step 1 and Step 2 CK until at least September 2020. Specifically, we are delaying the increase in the number of items assessing communication skills on Step 1 as well as systems-based practice, patient safety, legal/ethical issues, and professionalism on Step 2 CK. We will announce the roll-out of these changes at least 6 weeks prior to implementation.

We will continue to develop and share plans for the three-phased approach to resume and expand USMLE testing.