The Association Between USMLE Step 2 Clinical Knowledge Scores and Residency Performance: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis

Acad Med. 2023 Feb 1;98(2):264-273. doi: 10.1097/ACM.0000000000005061. Epub 2023 Jan 20.


Purpose: With the change in Step 1 score reporting, Step 2 Clinical Knowledge (CK) may become a pivotal factor in resident selection. This systematic review and meta-analysis seeks to synthesize existing observational studies that assess the relationship between Step 2 CK scores and measures of resident performance.

Method: The authors searched MEDLINE, Web of Science, and Scopus databases using terms related to Step 2 CK in 2021. Two researchers identified studies investigating the association between Step 2 CK and measures of resident performance and included studies if they contained a bivariate analysis examining Step 2 CK scores' association with an outcome of interest: in-training examination (ITE) scores, board certification examination scores, select Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education core competency assessments, overall resident performance evaluations, or other subjective measures of performance. For outcomes that were investigated by 3 or more studies, pooled effect sizes were estimated with random-effects models.

Results: Among 1,355 potential studies, 68 met inclusion criteria and 43 were able to be pooled. There was a moderate positive correlation between Step 2 CK and ITE scores (0.52, 95% CI 0.45-0.59, P < .01). There was a moderate positive correlation between Step 2 CK and ITE scores for both nonsurgical (0.59, 95% CI 0.51-0.66, P < .01) and surgical specialties (0.41, 95% CI 0.33-0.48, P < .01). There was a very weak positive correlation between Step 2 CK scores and subjective measures of resident performance (0.19, 95% CI 0.13-0.25, P < .01).

Conclusions: This study found Step 2 CK scores have a statistically significant moderate positive association with future examination scores and a statistically significant weak positive correlation with subjective measures of resident performance. These findings are increasingly relevant as Step 2 CK scores will likely become more important in resident selection.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Certification
  • Clinical Competence
  • Educational Measurement
  • Humans
  • Internship and Residency*
  • Licensure, Medical
  • Observational Studies as Topic
  • United States