I’ve planned to take step 2 between late August and early October this year. I’m doing this as I feel my step 1 score in the high 230’s and I’d rather spend time focusing on an away rotation at one of my target institutions and on getting more quality clinical experiences, and therefore LOR’s for my application. Does this seem like a bad idea to you?
Thanks for your input!
First of all, congratulations! High 230’s is a very respectable score. But more importantly, I would say that if you have done well on Step I USMLE, it shows that you can take a test well. It also turns out that with the new radiology core exam, I think there is a much higher correlation between doing well on the USMLE exams and passing the radiology core examination than there was with the old oral board examination. In our program, when we look back at those people that have had trouble with the radiology core exam, they have not done as well on the step I and II USMLE examinations. It makes sense because the style of testing is very similar (multiple choice, matching, etc.) to the current style of the core radiology examination. I think that may be the subject of whole other article!
Getting back to your question, most programs just want to see that you can take a test. So, if you do well on your Step I examination, it is usually acceptable to wait a bit longer to take your Step II USMLE examination and focus on away rotations, clinical experiences, etc. That being said, there may be some programs out there that use both the Step I and II USMLE examination as a screening criteria for getting initial interviews. You may experience a delay in getting interviews at those programs. Many programs, however, will use whatever is submitted at the time and I believe that 230s is usually acceptable for passing that initial screening barrier at most programs assuming the remainder of your application is reasonable.
In particular, you mentioned that you are doing an away rotation at a target institution. Sounds like you might be interested in going there. So, I think it would’t be unreasonable to ask the program coordinator if they require the Step II USMLE examination as an initial screening criterion. If so, then I would take the Step II boards earlier rather than later. Otherwise, it makes sense to get try to get to know the radiologists at the institution of interest rather than hurrying to take the Step II examination. Just remember that when taking an away rotation at a place where you desire to do residency, it is ultra-important to make a decent impression. In some cases, rotating through a desired residency program can be backfire if you make the wrong impression. I’m sure you’ll do great… But, be careful!