A Scoring Guide – Kaplan Test Prep (2023)

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Passing the USMLE is a challenging process that starts with determining your score goals. Review what a good USMLE score is for each of the three Steps to set expectations and inform your test prep. We’ll walk you through the USMLE scoring system and show you the minimum USMLE passing scores for each Step so you understand how to read your score report. Try our free USMLE practice questions and check out our other free USMLE resources to get a better feel for where you stand before Exam Day.


  • What does my USMLE score mean?
  • USMLE Step 1 Transition to Pass/Fail
  • USMLE 2023 Passing Scores
  • USMLE Step 1 Passing Score
  • USMLE Step 2 CK Passing Score
  • What is a good USMLE Step 2 CK Score?
  • USMLE Step 3 Passing Score
  • What is a good USMLE Step 3 score?
  • What are good USMLE scores for International Medical Graduates?
  • USMLE Pass Rates

What does my USMLE score mean?

The USMLE consists of three separate exams: Step 1, Step 2 CK (Clinical Knowledge), and Step 3. USMLE results are reported on a three-digit scale from 1 to 300 with the exception of Step 1 which recently transitioned to pass/fail. Passing the three-Step USMLE is a requirement to earn medical licensure in the United States. However, passing each Step is its own milestone and has its own benefit. Passing Step 1 of the USMLE after your second year of medical school allows you to begin practicing medicine under supervision. Passing Step 2 CK and Step 3 – and earning a good score – will make you a competitive candidate for residency programs and fellowships. Once you pass the third and final USMLE, you are eligible for a medical license.

USMLE Score Reports

You will receive a detailed USMLE Score Report two to four weeks after taking each Step. When your report is ready, you will get an email from the organization that registered you for the exam. The USMLE Step 1 has recently transitioned to pass/fail, but you will still receive a numerical score for USMLE Step 2 CK and Step 3. See an example of a USMLE Score Report so you know what to expect after completing each exam.

USMLE Step 1 Transition to Pass/Fail

As of January 26th, 2022, the USMLE Step 1 scoring system has transitioned from a three-digit numerical score to a pass/fail outcome. The hope of the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) and the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME), co-sponsors of the USMLE, is that this change will encourage residency programs to view candidates holistically and decrease the unnecessary stress placed on residency applicants. This change won’t affect residency applications for most medical students, nor does this test change require them to change their USMLE Step 1 study strategy. It does, however, affect the residency application process. With less detailed scoring information, medical schools will need to develop alternative methods of assessing the qualifications of residency applicants.

USMLE 2023 Passing Scores

The USMLE Management Committee establishes the passing scores and will recommend a pass or fail outcome on all USMLE exams. The recommended passing score for each USMLE Step is reviewed and adjusted periodically. The percentages of correctly answered items needed to pass varies from each test which is why the passing scores vary.

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The current passing scores for the USMLE are listed below:

  • USMLE Step 1 Passing Score: Reported as pass/fail only
  • USMLE Step 2 CK Passing Score: 214
  • USMLE Step 3 Passing Score:198

USMLE Step 1 Passing Score

Passing the USMLE Step 1 is no small task. The first USMLE is known to be rigorous as it tests your mastery of science and science principles to ensure you can practice medicine safely and competently. Unlike the other USMLE exams, Step 1 is reported as pass/fail only, so you will not receive a numerical score. According to the USMLE program, examinees must correctly answer approximately 60 percent of items to pass each USMLE Step.

How to Study for USMLE Step 1

The USMLE Step 1 tests everything you’ve learned in your first two years of preclinical medical education. If you are just finishing up your preclinical medical courses, then you should spend 6-9 weeks of intensive study to prepare to take your USMLE Step 1 exam. If you finished your preclinical medical coursework six months or more prior to this, you should expect to spend 6-9 months preparing. Before you begin to parse through exactly how and what to study for the USMLE Step 1—like strategies for different question types or how to pick the best answers—start by developing a study plan that works for you.

[ KEEP STUDYING: How to Pass USMLE Step 1: Top 5 Tips ]

USMLE Step 2 CK Passing Score

In July 2022, the USMLE Management Committee increased the passing score for the USMLE Step 2 CK from 209 to 214. This means that examinees must earn approximately 71% of the points on Step 2 CK to achieve a passing score. Now that the USMLE Step 1 is reported as pass/fail, residency committees will look more closely at your Step 2 Score percentiles. Ultimately, your goal should not only be to pass the USMLE Step 2 CK, but to earn a good score so you can be a competitive candidate for residency programs.

What is a good USMLE Step 2 CK Score?

A good USMLE Step 2 CK score is between 240 and 260. However, what qualifies as a “good” score ultimately depends on the residency program you are applying to. If you want to match to your first-choice program, you should aim for a score at or above 256. The highest possible score for the USMLE Step 2 CK is 300, but no one has ever achieved a “perfect” score; a score around 280 would be considered a top Step 2 CK score.

USMLE Step 2 CK Score Percentiles

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Learn what your USMLE score means by reviewing the score percentiles for Step 2 CK.

USMLE Step 2 CK Percentiles
USMLE ScoreStep 2 CK Percentile Rank
200 and below0

How to Study for USMLE Step 2 CK

Each question on the Clinical Knowledge (CK) portion of the USMLE is composed entirely of clinical scenarios describing patients. You’ll be required to answer questions about diagnoses, prognoses, indications of underlying mechanisms of disease, and next steps in medical care (including preventative measures). We recommend using a Qbank to familiarize yourself with the test and question format. Get more information on how to earn a good USMLE Step 2 CK score in our guide to the USMLE Step 2 CK.

USMLE Step 3 Passing Score

Currently, the passing score for USMLE Step 3 is 198. As the last test in the series, it’s easy to underestimate the USMLE Step 3, especially when you have less time to study. That being said, passing this final examination in the USMLE sequence leads to what you’ve been working toward for years: a license to practice medicine without supervision. Passing the USMLE Step 3 is an incredible achievement, demonstrating your medical knowledge and proficiency.

What is a good USMLE Step 3 score?

A good USMLE Step 3 score is any score above 230. While your score on Step 3 is less important than whether you pass or fail, a high score can compensate for a mediocre Step 2 CK performance. A competitive Step 3 score can also bolster your application for a fellowship.

USMLE Step 3 Score Percentiles

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See how your score stacks up against the competition by reviewing USMLE Step 3 score percentiles.

USMLE Step 3 Percentiles
USMLE ScoreStep 3 Percentile Rank
185 and below0

How to Study for USMLE Step 3

USMLE Step 3 is a two-day exam consisting of multiple-choice questions and computer-based case simulations. It is the final assessment of physicians assuming independent responsibility for delivering medical care. You’ll be tested on patient management, lab and diagnostic skills, diagnosis, prognosis, and pathophysiology. Prepare for the exam by working your way through as many Qbanks as possible, and set yourself up for success by taking an on-demand or live online USMLE Step 3 prep course.

What are good USMLE Scores for International Medical Graduates?

What constitutes a “good” USMLE score for international medical graduates (IMGs) depends on which residency program is your top choice because some are more competitive than others. Residency programs rely on USMLE scores to help evaluate applicants. Since Step 1 transitioned to pass/fail in 2022, Step 2 scores have factored more heavily into residency program admissions.

In 2022, the average USMLE Step 2 CK score for US and non-US IMGs that matched into their preferred residency specialties were as follows:

  • Step 2 CK: US IMGs: 230; Non-US IMGs: 240

Some of the top medical specialties for which US and non-US IMGs matched had the following Step 2 CK USMLE scores:

Step 2 CK: US IMGs:240; Non-US IMGs: 243

Internal Medicine
Step 2 CK: US IMGs:235; Non-US IMGs:245

Step 2 CK: US IMGs:235; Non-US IMGs:245

Step 2 CK: US IMGs:228; Non-US IMGs:238

Step 2: US IMGs:233; Non-US IMGs:240

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What percent correct is a 196 on Step 1? ›

Assuming Step 1 is scored similarly to CBSSA 25-30, you would need somewhere between 63 to 65% correct to attain the passing score of 196.

Is 260 a good Step 2 score? ›

What is a good USMLE Step 2 CK Score? A good USMLE Step 2 CK score is between 240 and 260. However, what qualifies as a “good” score ultimately depends on the residency program you are applying to. If you want to match to your first-choice program, you should aim for a score at or above 256.

What is a Step 1 score? ›

* USMLE Step 1 score reporting is reported as pass/fail only for exams taken on or after January 26, 2022. On the three-digit score scale, the passing standard is 196.

What is a good Step 1 score? ›

Prior to starting your dedicated study time, make sure to do some research and figure out if your goal range matches the expectations of your chosen specialty. Generally speaking, however, a USMLE® Step 1 score between 230 and 245 is considered a good and a score between 245 and 255 is considered very good.

What is a 50% on Step 1? ›

Until the scoring system for Step 1 changes to Pass/Fail, the scores on Step 1 can be interpreted based on historical percentiles. While 194 represents the 5th percentile, the average (50th percentile) falls between 230 and 235. Scores at or just above the mean are good scores!

What is an 80% on Step 1? ›

The 80th percentile means that you scored in the top 20% in the country - so you'd be more than one standard deviation above the mean. Your score would be 240+.

What score is 75% on Step 2? ›

Data provided by the National Board of Medical Examiners, which administers the USMLE, indicate that the average score for Step 2 CK for U.S. medical graduates hovers just above 240. Generally, it's been 242 to 243 over the past few years. The 25th percentile is around 232, while the 75th percentile is near 256.

What is 90th percentile on Step 2? ›

Percentiles for Step 1, Step 2 CK, and Step 3 in 2022
ScoreStep 1 PercentileStep 2 CK Percentile
20 more rows

What is 50th percentile on Step 2? ›

The 50th percentile corresponds to around 248, and all but those trying to compete for very competitive specialities or very competitive locations can feel generally happy with a score around the top of the bell curve. The 75th percentile corresponds to around 258 and at this point, anything above that is gravy.

What is a bad Step 1 score? ›

215-229: This range is below average. Students with scores at the lower end may face more challenges to match, particularly in competitive specialties. 230-244: This range is considered above average. Students with scores in this range will be able to match in most specialties.

Is Step 1 harder than the MCAT? ›

In terms of exam difficulty, the MCAT is considered easier compared to the USMLE Step 1. It is because the MCAT only tests the basic science principles and skills of the individual if one fits the requirement to proceed or enter med school.

Is the Step 1 exam curved? ›

Note that the USMLE examination is not scored “on a curve”. Students are not scored against each other, but relative to a per-set annual standard. This standard is constant for the year. Both US medical students and IMGs are scored using the same standard.

Do residencies see Step 1 score? ›

The 2022-2023 residency match cycle will be the first cycle that program directors will have to consider some applicants with a numerical United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 1 score while other applicants will only report pass/fail for USMLE Step 1.

Is 60% enough to pass Step 1? ›

However, examinees typically must answer approximately 60% of items correctly to achieve a passing score.

What percentage of people fail Usmle? ›

2022 USMLE Step 1 Overview

Allopathic students' passing rate dropped from 95% in 2021 to 91% in 2022. DO students' passing rate dropped from 94% in 2021 to 89% in 2022. IMG students' passing rate dropped from 82% in 2021 to 74% in 2022.

What is 90th percentile on Step 1? ›

With a mean of about 220 and SD of 20 the 90th percentile becomes 245.6 or so by a simple calculation. The three digit score is an arbitrary system with no clearly defined ceiling. The two digit score is set at about 75 for passing and maxes out at 99 at about the 90th percentile. The three digit score maxes out at 300 ...

What score is the 60th percentile on Step 1? ›

For example, a self-assessment taker from the reference cohort scoring in the 60th percentile compared to the rest of the reference cohort should get roughly a 3-digit score of 240.

What is the average percent correct for Step 1? ›

The percentages of correctly answered items required to pass varies by Step and from form to form within each Step. However, examinees typically must answer approximately 60% of items correctly to achieve a passing score.

What score is 75th percentile Step 1? ›

Students often receive mean scores between 227 and 228 on Step 3. These differing means indicate differing percentiles. To land near the 75th percentile for Step 1, you will need a score above 245. In Step 2 CK, you will need a score above 255.


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