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The United States Medical Licensing Examination ® (USMLE®) is a three-step examination for medical licensure in the United States and is sponsored by the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) and the National Board of Medical Examiners® (NBME®).
The USMLE assesses a physician's ability to apply knowledge, concepts, and principles, and to demonstrate fundamental patient-centered skills, that are important in health and disease and that constitute the basis of safe and effective patient care. Each of the three Steps of the USMLE complements the others; no Step can stand alone in the assessment of readiness for medical licensure.
USMLE Step 1 assesses whether medical school students or graduates understand and can apply important concepts of the basic sciences to the practice of medicine. As of 2007, it covers the following subjects, in both systemic (general and individual anatomical characteristics) and procedural (functional, therapeutic, environmental, and abnormality) themes:
Interdisciplinary topics, such as nutrition, genetics, and aging.
US medical students take Step 1 at the end of the Basic Sciences portion of the curriculum, usually after the second year of medical school. It is an eight-hour computer-based exam consisting of 322 multiple-choice questions (MCQs) divided into seven blocks each consisting of 46 questions. As of summer 2008, some questions include audio and video. Each block must be finished within an hour. The remaining hour is break time. An optional tutorial about how to use the computer program of the exam is offered at the beginning of the exam and takes 15 minutes. This time is deducted from the hour of allotted break time. A quality assurance survey is presented at the end, provided some of the original eight hours is left over.
The Step 1 score is frequently used in medical residency applications as a measure of a candidate's likelihood to succeed in that particular residency (and on that specialty's board exams),
USMLE Step 2 is designed to assess whether medical school students or graduates can apply medical knowledge.
USMLE Step 2 CK is designed to assess clinical knowledge through a traditional, multiple-choice examination. It is a 9 hour exam
USMLE Step 2 CS is designed to assess clinical skills through simulated patient interactions, in which the examinee interacts with standardized patients portrayed by actors.
USMLE Step 3 is the final exam in the USMLE series designed to assess whether a medical school graduate can apply medical knowledge of biomedical and clinical science essential for the unsupervised practice of medicine.
Step 3 is a 16 hour examination divided over two days.
In other countries
Medical Council of Canada Qualifying Examination, in Canada
Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board test (similar exam used in United Kingdom)
Australian Medical Council (AMC) in Australia.
Medical Council of India (MCI-FMGE conducted by National Board of Examinations)
Examen Nacional de Aspirantes a Residencias Medicas (ENARM) in Mexico
Saudi Licensing Examination (SLE) in Saudi Arabia