Why Not Wait? Eight Institutions Share Their Experiences Moving United States Medical Licensing Examination Step 1 After Core Clinical Clerkships
The majority of medical students complete the United States Medical Licensing Examination Step 1 after their foundational sciences; however, there are compelling reasons to examine this practice. This article provides the perspectives of eight MD-granting medical schools that have moved Step 1 after the core clerkships, describing their rationale, logistics of the change, outcomes, and lessons learned. The primary reasons these institutions cite for moving Step 1 after clerkships are to foster more enduring and integrated basic science learning connected to clinical care and to better prepare students for the increasingly clinical focus of Step 1. Each school provides key features of the preclerkship and clinical curricula and details concerning taking Steps 1 and 2, to allow other schools contemplating change to understand the landscape. Most schools report an increase in aggregate Step 1 scores after the change. Despite early positive outcomes, there may be unintended consequences to later scheduling of Step 1, including relatively late student reevaluations of their career choice if Step 1 scores are not competitive in the specialty area of their choice. The score increases should be interpreted with caution: These schools may not be representative with regard to mean Step 1 scores and failure rates. Other aspects of curricular transformation and rising national Step 1 scores confound the data. Although the optimal timing of Step 1 has yet to be determined, this article summarizes the perspectives of eight schools that changed Step 1 timing, filling a gap in the literature on this important topic.