Do I need to take a review course for the USMLE Step 2 CS Exam?

(This article was originally published 11/02/07)

Many of your colleagues may advise you that the USMLE Step 2 CS is "easy" to pass

This is not necessarily true. It may be relatively easier than theory based exams like the Step 1 and 2 CK, which test your knowledge. We're all different. What one deems easy, someone else may find more challenging. Regardless, the point is that one shouldn't take any USMLE exam lightly. Many have learned the ironic truth the hard way: While the Step 2 CS may seem easy, it is just as easy to fail. The proof is in the numbers. This exam is notorious for having the lowest pass rate of all USMLE steps for IMGs! Why? The smallest of "harmless" mistakes if done consistent enough erodes your score slowly.

Most people who don’t pass the exam will invariably tell you that they don’t know where they went wrong

Although it seems natural or logical to just do or say what looks good to you, or what you've been used to in the real clinical world, it's not the best strategy. What we each think may not align with what the general standard is. Specific and appropriate responses to various situations ensure that you'll accrue the maximum number of points every time. If you've had years of real clinical experience, these methods may not be natural to you or seem immediately obvious. If you've been distanced from clinical practice for awhile then drilling the books won't compensate and fix that.

You need to study smarter, not harder

Some of your colleagues will give you blanket advice that a preparatory course is not necessary for Step 2 CS. Overconfidence is very common but can spell disaster. Yes, of course, we all know that there are those who have passed 2 CS without a preparatory course. The truth is that most examinees just  pass on the BORDERLINE. They are luckier than they think. The ones that miss the mark are usually on the knife's edge. Just because they were unlucky doesn't make them any "less smart". Do you really want to take a chance on this exam? The saddest of stories we hear are about those who scored high on their Step 1/ Step 2 CK on a first attempt, only to be shocked with the bad luck of failing the 2 CS on the edge. Many residency programs tend to be more forgiving towards previous attempts on other steps, but not so much with the 2 CS. And as time goes on they are paying more and more attention to attempts on Step 2 CS and taking it seriously. After the amount of time, money and energy you've invested to achieve ECFMG certification, it's prudent to put forth your best efforts and ensure you will be thoroughly prepared. Go the distance. Also remember that time is of the essence. In order to meet the deadlines of the matching process, you need to plan your year ahead with precision. Just one failure has a domino effect that can result in unintended consequences and time loss that can derail your entire career path. It's a lesson you don't want to learn. 

High Performance

Some believe that their English proficiency is good enough to carry them through the exam with minimal preparation. There is no reported numerical score, but remember that the exam is scored like 3 separate exams. You need to pass ICE, CIS as well as SEP, which are separate components averaged over 10-11 cases to attain an overall PASS. Many students are accustomed to relying on books. You can read all you want, but there is no substitute for LIVE practice. Many will advise you that the best method is to practice with a study partner. But think about it; if neither person is knowledgeable or experienced, all you may end up accomplishing is unintentionally reinforcing your mistakes.

At STEP2IT we invest hard work, persistence, positive energy and extra time into our students because this is a detail oriented exam. Our unique strategies and concepts are reinforced using a unique perspective you won’t find elsewhere. We utilize an ingenious, organized methodology that works. The effort here is not to merely pass. It is to pass comfortably with HIGH PERFORMANCE. We are truly dedicated to our students; we go that extra mile above and beyond. You will not receive this level of sincere attention anywhere else. On the final day after a complete assessment, you will be told the honest truth of where you stand. We want to be comfortable sending you out of the program knowing that you have the best chances to pass the exam. Through our experiences we have seen students walk in, take the program, and walk out totally different; as a "residency ready" physician. It’s a night and day difference. We appreciate all the positive feedback and have continued a friendship with our students over the years. We see their continued progress and success. This is our reward and makes it all worth it. We invite you to schedule yourself for STEP2IT’s exclusive services. We welcome any questions.