Correlation of USMLE Step 1 scores with performance on dermatology in-training examinations

J Am Acad Dermatol. 2011 Jan;64(1):102-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2009.12.051. Epub 2010 Oct 30.


Background: Although United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 1 was not designed to predict resident performance, scores are used to compare residency applicants. Multiple studies have displayed a significant correlation among Step 1 scores, in-training examination (ITE) scores, and board passage, although no such studies have been performed in dermatology.

Objective: The purpose of this study is to determine if this correlation exists in dermatology, and how much of the variability in ITE scores is a result of differences in Step 1 scores. This study also seeks to determine if it is appropriate to individualize expectations for resident ITE performance.

Methods: This project received institutional review board exemption. From 5 dermatology residency programs (86 residents), we collected Step 1 and ITE scores for each of the 3 years of dermatology residency, and recorded passage/failure on boards. Bivariate Pearson correlation analysis was used to assess correlation between USMLE and ITE scores. Ordinary least squares regression was computed to determine how much USMLE scores contribute to ITE variability.

Results: USMLE and ITE score correlations were highly significant (P < .001). Correlation coefficients with USMLE were: 0.467, 0.541, and 0.527 for ITE in years 1, 2, and 3, respectively. Variability in ITE scores caused by differences in USMLE scores were: ITE first-year residency = 21.8%, ITE second-year residency = 29.3%, and ITE third-year residency = 27.8%.

Limitations: This study had a relatively small sample size, with data from only 5 programs.

Conclusions: There is a moderate correlation between USMLE and ITE scores, with USMLE scores explaining ∼26% of the variability in ITE scores.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Career Choice
  • Clinical Competence
  • Dermatology / education*
  • Education, Medical, Graduate / organization & administration*
  • Educational Measurement*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inservice Training / organization & administration*
  • Internship and Residency / methods
  • Licensure, Medical*
  • Male
  • Personnel Selection
  • Program Evaluation
  • Specialty Boards / organization & administration
  • United States