USMLE Step 3 Before Application: Yes or No?
The USMLE Step 3 exam is sometimes a bit of a mystery. Medical residency applicants are never quite sure if they should try to take it before they apply to residency programs or wait until they are accepted/already in the program.
Unfortunately, there is no absolute answer.
Having a USMLE Step 3 score has the potential to strengthen a residency application– but not as much as you might hope. According to the 2014 NRMP Program Director Survey, the Step 3 was the last factor Program Directors consider when offering interviews. Recent medical school graduates may also want to avoid taking the Step 3 until they have the training and medical knowledge enough to take the exam properly.
That doesn’t mean a USMLE Step 3 score on your USMLE transcript is useless. Having Step 3 in hand could be good for older candidates who are looking for another leg up in their application. Step 3 is also useful for International Medical Graduates (IMGs).
Programs like to see that you have passed your USMLE Step 3 exam as an IMG for many reasons:
- They know you will not run the risk of failing the test during your residency.
- Having the USMLE Step 3 alleviates the pressure of worrying about previous USMLE exam attempts on other Steps, because attempts only give an indication of how you will do on further tests. With the Step 3 passed, there are no further exams.
- You won’t have to study for the test while completing your residency. Less stress is never a bad thing!
- With your USMLE Step 3 in hand, you can apply for a permanent license rather than a limited provisional license.
- Many states require a passing USMLE Step 3 score before the third year of residency.
- USMLE Step 3 is part of the requirements to qualify for an H1-B Visa sponsorship.
A passing USMLE Step 3 score shows programs that there will be less problems with bringing you in by clearing away a lot of obstacles that may pop up as a result of NOT having Step 3 done.
You may be nervous about taking the USMLE Step 3 if:
- You are still studying for or taking your other USMLE exams
- Can’t afford the exam fee
- Are a recent graduate lacking experience
- Don’t want to fail which adds an attempt to your transcript
It would be a gamble to take the Step 3, but it’s a bet that might increase your chances even further for a Match.
Above all, if you are thinking about taking the USMLE Step 3 exam, PASS Step 3. Make sure you have done enough preparation to pass as a failing score during the application season would be far more damaging than not having the score at all.