At one point in time, the USMLE (United States Medical License Exam) was used to evaluate a student’s knowledge and clinical application of that knowledge. It functioned as a qualitative measurement to be sure one had reached the appropriate education to continue medical training. As the test and technology have evolved, the importance of getting a higher Step 1 and 2 scores has become vital to the success of a residency match. Students studying at a Caribbean medical university face challenges that can be overcome with the appropriate preparation.
Relatively Few Openings
Students entering a Caribbean medical school should understand that there are relatively few openings in US residency programs for foreign educated students. There are approximately 16,000 open residency positions each year. Of those positions, 12,000 are filled by students graduating from US medical schools. Leaving only 4,000 openings for the over 30,000 foreign doctors and IMGs (International Medical Graduates) looking to secure a residency.
Many of these applicants are already highly skilled practicing professionals in foreign countries. They already have training and practical experience. This means that the competition is fierce.
Importance of the USMLE to IMGs
USMLE scores may be the only quantitative way for reviewers to compare students or evaluate IMGs. USMLE scores can help determine whether or not an individual will be a good match for their desired specialty. If the applicant is applying for a highly selective specialty or residency, USMLE scores will need to be that much higher.
IMGs, in general, have to score several points higher than graduates of US programs. Once a Step exam has been passed, it cannot be taken again. This puts more pressure on exam-takers to achieve the highest score possible. However, IMGs have the option to be prematched to a residency, an option not open to US medical school graduates.
As higher test scores have become increasingly more important, study helps and aids have begun to be a common practice for IMGs and US medical school graduates. UWorld and other online tutoring sites are often used by students to gain an advantage. They produce a realistic testing environment with questions that not only cover medical knowledge but also clinical application. These study aids help with comprehension and assessment.
Students at Caribbean medical schools can achieve the USMLE scores needed for a residency match with adequate preparation. Attending a university that has a good track record of acceptance can help in the matching process. It should always be remembered that while test scores are important, Letters of Recommendation and volunteer clinic work should not be neglected so that applicants present a well-rounded picture of their achievements.