ECFMG®|FAIMER® will expand its pathways for international medical graduates (IMGs) to meet the requirements for ECFMG Certification and to participate in the 2022 National Resident Matching Program® (NRMP®) Main Residency Match® (The Match®). The pathways evaluate IMGs’ clinical and communication skills—skills that are critically important to participate in U.S. graduate medical education (GME) and to provide supervised patient care.
Until mid-March 2020, IMGs were required to pass Step 2 Clinical Skills (CS) of the United States Medical Licensing Examination® (USMLE®) to satisfy the clinical and communication skills requirements for ECFMG Certification. The USMLE program suspended Step 2 CS in March of last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequently indicated that it would take 12-18 months to bring back a modified Step 2 CS exam. In June 2020, ECFMG|FAIMER established five pathways to allow IMGs who had not passed Step 2 CS to meet ECFMG’s clinical and communication requirements and to participate in the 2021 Match (in March 2021). On January 26, 2021, the USMLE program announced that it had decided to discontinue the Step 2 CS exam.
In establishing the pathways, ECFMG|FAIMER has ensured that ECFMG Certification continues to perform the critical role for which the program was established more than 60 years ago—assessing the readiness of IMGs to enter U.S. GME. Clinical and communication skills are essential components of this readiness, and an evaluation of these skills always has been required for ECFMG Certification due to the variety in medical education systems at more than 3,000 medical schools around the world. The pathways ensure that the U.S. public and the U.S. GME community can continue to rely on ECFMG Certification as an indicator that IMGs are ready to enter U.S. GME and to provide supervised patient care.
The ECFMG|FAIMER pathways for the 2021 Match succeeded in producing an IMG applicant pool that is ample, diverse, and highly qualified. ECFMG expects to certify approximately 5,000 IMGs based on one of these pathways leading up to the July 1, 2021 start date for U.S. GME programs. Overall, more than 19,000 IMGs have applied to residency positions beginning in 2021 through the Electronic Residency Application Service® (ERAS®).
The expansion of the pathways currently underway for the 2022 Match ensures the continuity and integrity of ECFMG Certification and the vital service it provides to the U.S. public, the U.S. GME community, and to qualified IMGs who pursue training in our nation’s teaching hospitals.
The pathways for IMGs planning to participate in the 2022 Match (in March 2022) will expand on the pathways that were established for the 2021 Match. The existing five pathways will continue to be offered with some modifications. ECFMG|FAIMER has identified an additional pathway for evaluation of clinical skills. As a result of the addition of this sixth pathway and changes to certain eligibility requirements, we expect more IMGs to be eligible to pursue a pathway for the 2022 Match. Detailed information on eligibility is not yet available; please monitor the ECFMG website since we expect to publish guidelines very soon.
Consistent with the requirements for the existing pathways, IMGs who pursue one of the six pathways for the 2022 Match will be required to pass the Occupational English Test (OET) Medicine to satisfy pathway requirements. OET Medicine is designed specifically for physicians, in consultation with physicians. The test assesses the health care-specific English language competency of physicians. It emphasizes the type of language physicians will need to communicate effectively in a clinical setting with peers and patients, including the ability to show empathy and to break down complex medical terminology and procedures into simpler language.
Who Should Use the Pathways?
The six pathways for the 2022 Match are intended for IMGs who need to meet the clinical and communication skills requirements for ECFMG Certification and who plan to participate in the 2022 Match (in March 2022).
IMGs who applied to a pathway for the 2021 Match and whose 2021 application was rejected can reapply to a pathway for the 2022 Match. Please see “Important Information for 2021 Pathways Applicants,” below.
The following individuals already have satisfied the clinical and communication skills requirements for ECFMG Certification and therefore do not need to pursue a pathway to meet these requirements or to participate in the 2022 Match:
- IMGs who have a passing performance on Step 2 CS that is valid for ECFMG Certification,
- IMGs who are certified by ECFMG, and
- IMGs with an approved pathways 2021 application.
Application to the pathways for the 2022 Match is not yet available. Please monitor the ECFMG website for information on the availability of the on-line application for the expanded pathways.
Important Information for 2021 Pathways Applicants
If your pathway application for the 2021 Match is approved and you do not enter U.S. GME in 2021, you will not be required to apply for a pathway for the 2022 Match. Your previously accepted pathway application will remain valid for the 2022 Match.
If you applied to a pathway for the 2021 Match and your application is rejected, you can pursue a pathway for the 2022 Match, provided you meet all eligibility requirements, but you will be required to reapply. Please monitor the ECFMG website for information on the timeline to reapply.
More Information on Pathways for 2022 Match
ECFMG|FAIMER is developing detailed information on eligibility and application procedures, including documentation requirements. ECFMG also is preparing the on-line pathways application to accept applications from IMGs who plan to participate in the 2022 Match. Please monitor the ECFMG website, since updates will be posted as they become available.
Please contact the USMLE Program with any questions on its decision to discontinue Step 2 CS and any other USMLE-related inquiries.