At its December 2023 meeting, the USMLE Management Committee, comprised of physicians in licensure, medical education, and current practice, along with two public members, conducted a comprehensive review of the passing standard for USMLE Step 3. After careful consideration, it was decided that a two-point increase in the passing standard, used to determine Pass or Fail outcomes, will be effective for Step 3 examinees testing on or after January 1, 2024. This adjustment on the three-digit score scale raises the passing standard from 198 to 200.
As a part of the USMLE program’s operational procedures and following best practices for licensing and certification exams, a thorough review and analysis of the passing standard for each Step exam typically occur every three to four years. This practice ensures that the passing score aligns with current expectations for the knowledge and skills necessary to support effective medical practice and patient care.
The Management Committee arrived at this decision by meticulously examining information from various sources, including:
- Recommendations from independent groups of physicians not affiliated with the USMLE who participated in content-based standard-setting panels in September and October 2023.
- Survey results from different groups (e.g., residency program directors, medical school faculty, state licensing representatives, examinees) regarding the appropriateness of the current passing standard for the Step 3 examination.
- Analysis of data on trends in examinee performance.
- Evaluation of score precision and its impact on the pass/fail outcome.