Are USMLE Scores Valid Measures for Chief Resident Selection?

J Grad Med Educ. 2020 Aug;12(4):441-446. doi: 10.4300/JGME-D-19-00782.1.


Background: The US Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 1 and Step 2 scores are often used to inform a variety of secondary medical career decisions, such as residency selection, despite the lack of validity evidence supporting their use in these contexts.

Objective: We compared USMLE scores between non-chief residents (non-CRs) and chief residents (CRs), selected based on performance during training, at a US academic medical center that sponsors a variety of graduate medical education programs.

Methods: This was a retrospective cohort study of residents' USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 Clinical Knowledge (CK) scores from 2015 to 2020. The authors used archived data to compare USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 CK scores between non-CR residents in each of the eligible programs and their CRs during the 6-year study period.

Results: Thirteen programs enrolled a total of 1334 non-CRs and 211 CRs over the study period. There were no significant differences overall between non-CRs and CRs average USMLE Step 1 (239.81 ± 14.35 versus 240.86 ± 14.31; P = .32) or Step 2 scores (251.06 ± 13.80 versus 252.51 ± 14.21; P = .16).

Conclusions: There was no link between USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 CK scores and CR selection across multiple clinical specialties over a 6-year period. Reliance on USMLE Step 1 and 2 scores to predict success in residency as measured by CR selection is not recommended.