Change to USMLE Step 1 Passing Standard Begins January 26, 2022

At its December 2021 meeting, the USMLE Management Committee conducted a review of the USMLE Step 1 passing standard and decided that a two-point increase in the passing standard  – used to determine a Pass or Fail outcome  – will apply to Step 1 examinees testing on or after January 26, 2022. On the current three-digit score scale, the 2022 passing standard will change from 194 to 196. 

As part of the USMLE program’s operational procedures and in alignment with best practices for licensing and certification exams, a comprehensive review and analysis of the passing standard for each Step exam typically occurs every three to four years. This ensures that the passing score is consistent with expectations of the level of content mastery of the knowledge and skills needed to support effective medical practice and licensure.

This minor adjustment to the passing standard was determined through the thorough and careful consideration of information from multiple sources, including:

  1. Recommendations from independent groups of physicians unaffiliated with the USMLE who participated in content-based standard-setting panels in October 2021;
  2. Results of surveys of various groups (e.g., residency program directors, medical school faculty, state licensing representatives, examinees) concerning the appropriateness of the current passing standard for the Step 1 examination;
  3. Data on trends in examinee performance; and
  4. Score precision and its effect on the pass/fail outcome.

Because all USMLE Step 1 scores reported on or after January 26, 2022 will be reported as Pass or Fail only, future reviews of the Step 1 passing standard will not be reported in terms of a three-digit score.

The USMLE program provides advanced notice of Step exam reviews and any adjustments on the USMLE website. The review process also appears in the USMLE Bulletin of Information.

As more information becomes available, updates will appear on the USMLE website.