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Jefferson Medical College Alpha Omega Alpha Guide to USMLE Step II: Clinical Knowledge

Planning a Schedule

The schedule for Step II CK preparation varies significantly (more so than with Step I preparation), and depends on several factors including:

  • Test taking ability (think back to how long you studied for Step I compared with other students)
  • Concurrent rotation requirements and hours per day that you will be able to devote to studying
  • Goals for the exam (passing versus achieving a fantastic score).

Another important factor to consider is how much time has passed since certain clerkship rotations, and therefore, how much time you will need to refresh your memory. Overall, study time usually ranges from 1-4 weeks. Most students feel that two to three weeks is sufficient time to prepare for this exam. Unlike Step I, most students dedicate half days rather than full days when studying.

Many students may choose to take the exam during the weeks of vacation between third and fourth year. This is an ideal time for many students, particularly those hoping to improve on their Step I exam score. Additionally, many students also prefer to take the exam while their clinical experiences of third year and shelf exam studies are still fresh in their minds, and to get the exam out of the way before the craziness of applications ensue. However, taking the exam at this time limits study time to about two weeks, but students who finish the third year with a lighter rotation often are able to begin studying and completing practice questions during this rotation.

Students may choose to take Step II during Vacation when they are interviewing, but be careful in scheduling a date since you do not want Step II CK to conflict with a potential interview. Additionally, programs are beginning to value Step II CK exam scores more and more, therefore please be sure that the programs you are applying to do not require a Step II CK exam score as part of your application. It would not be a good idea to schedule Step II CK during an intense rotation like a Medicine Sub-I.

Students who wish to truly ace the exam, or who have difficulty with standardized tests, often will study four weeks or more for Step II CK and many will significantly outperform their Step I score. Others who just want to pass, and who recently finished highly relevant core clerkships, such as internal medicine, might find one to two weeks to be satisfactory. It depends on how comfortable you feel with the material and whether or not your scores will make a difference for your application to residency. Please remember that the USMLE world and NBME have practice tests at your disposal, it might be a good idea to take a practice test before you start studying to help gauge your comfort level, and can be used throughout your studies to follow your progress.

Last updated: May 2013


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