Student Perspectives on the "Step 1 Climate" in Preclinical Medical Education

Acad Med. 2019 Mar;94(3):302-304. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000002565.


The United States Medical Licensing Examination Step 1 was implemented in the 1990s as the most recent version of the National Board of Medical Examiners' preclinical licensing examination originally created in the late 1960s. For the purposes of state licensure, the exam is pass/fail, but the Step 1 numeric score has in recent years become central to the residency application and selection process. Consequently, a medical student's Step 1 score is increasingly viewed as a key outcome of preclinical medical education.In this Invited Commentary, students from various institutions across the country draw on their shared experiences to argue that the emphasis on Step 1 for residency selection has fundamentally altered the preclinical learning environment, creating a "Step 1 climate." The authors aim to increase awareness of the harms and unintended consequences of this phenomenon in medical education. They outline how the Step 1 climate negatively impacts education, diversity, and student well-being, and they urge a national conversation on the elimination of reporting Step 1 numeric scores.

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Competence
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / economics
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / organization & administration*
  • Educational Measurement / standards*
  • Humans
  • Licensure, Medical / economics
  • Students, Medical / psychology*
  • United States