USMLE Step 1 Scoring Changes and the Urology Residency Application Process: Program Directors' Perspectives

Urology. 2020 Nov;145:79-82. doi: 10.1016/j.urology.2020.08.033. Epub 2020 Aug 31.


Objective: To capture the perspectives of urology program directors (PDs) regarding the change in United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 1 scoring to pass/fail (binary) and the impact of this change on the urology residency application process.

Methods: A validated survey was developed and distributed via email to urology PDs at all Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education-accredited programs.

Results: A total of 65 PDs completed the survey, for a response rate of 49.0%. Most PDs (58.7%) did not agree that binary USMLE Step 1 scoring is a good idea. The majority (84.6%) felt that this change would make it more difficult to compare applicants objectively and that the change would increase emphasis on Step 2 clinical knowledge (CK) scores. Likewise, 73.8% of PDs reported that they would start requiring applicants to submit Step 2 CK scores and 78.5% of PDs felt that Step 2 CK should remain numerically scored. Free text responses highlighted concerns for students at medical schools with pass/fail grading and the potential impact this change could have on the early match.

Conclusion: Urology PDs have generally negative perspectives towards binary scoring of USMLE Step 1. They believe the change will make residency selection more arduous and less objective, without increasing medical student well-being. PDs anticipate a heavier emphasis on USMLE Step 2 CK scores and this may alter the urology early match process. Modifications to application requirements and interview schedules may be necessary to uphold an unbiased selection of applicants with respect to the early match timeline.