Predicting Academic Performance during Plastic Surgery Residency: Can Step 2 Scores Reliably Replace Step 1?

J Surg Educ. 2022 May-Jun;79(3):828-836. doi: 10.1016/j.jsurg.2021.11.015. Epub 2021 Dec 21.


Objective: Step 1 will transition to a pass/fail system in 2022. This study aimed to characterize the effects of this change on integrated plastic surgery program directors' selection criteria and assess whether Step 2 Clinical Knowledge (CK) can replace Step 1 as an application selection metric.

Design: Online survey that was administered to a collaborative group of ten plastic surgery program directors collecting USMLE Step 1, Step 2 CK, In-Service, and written board scores for 3 years of graduated integrated residents.

Setting: Ten academic integrated plastic surgery programs.

Participants: Data from 80 graduated integrated plastic surgery residents.

Results: Across 80 included integrated residents, mean (SD) Step 1 score was 247 (13), Step 2 CK was 249 (13), PGY1-6 In-Service percentiles varied from 45 to 53 percentile, and written board pass rate was 98.3%. Both Step 1 and Step 2 CK correlated highly with In-Service percentiles (both p < 0.001), with Step 2 CK scores correlating similarly with In-Service performance compared to Step 1 (rho 0.359 vs. 0.355, respectively). Across applicant characteristics, program directors reported the highest relative increase in Step 2 CK importance after Step 1 transitions to pass/fail.

Conclusions: Step 2 CK correlates similarly with plastic surgery In-Service performance compared to Step 1. While Step scores do not necessarily correlate with residency performance, Step 2 CK may also be used as an application screening metric for programs seeking objective data to differentiate plastic surgery applicants.

Keywords: Examination; Integrated Plastic Surgery; Plastic Surgery; Residency; Step Exam.

MeSH terms

  • Academic Performance*
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Surgery, Plastic* / education
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States