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The Best Month to take the USMLE Exam

Posted in USMLE Forums

I've noticed that many of our International Medical Graduates members in the forums and also several
of my friends firmly believe that taking the exam in a certain Calendar months makes significant
difference compared to taking it in other months.

Their argument is based on the assumption that if you take the exam during the season when US
medical students take the step 1 exam for example (late Summer) then you are likely to compete with a
higher number of "good students" and you are probably going to score less! Others say that if you take
the exam in California you will be compared to California takers and if you take it in Hawaii you will be
compared to Hawaiian examinees!

Although the exam mechanism by which the NBME and the FSMB calculates the USMLE score is still
largely unknown (as I eluded to this here), nevertheless, In my opinion, I think this is not true and it's a
public myth.

Here's what I base my opinion on:

1) Who said US Medical students score higher than IMGs? If at all there is a difference then it's in the
passing percentage not in the score level.
2) The USMLE official website states that the exam is standardized in a way so that the same student
(with the same level of preparation and knowledge) would score the same if he/she takes the exam at
different times, +/- 5 points on the three digit scale.
3) The USMLE official website did not mention that the exam is competitive. They did not say that your
score is calculated in the context of other students' scores. They just set the standard and everybody is
scored according to the same standard curve, not according to what other students have scored.
4) If you think that they are doing it but they are not disclosing the fact, then this means that 75% of
students taking the exam in a single testing day should fail the test, while that's not the reality.
5) The reason why different three digit scores correspond to the same two digit score is not the level of
achievement of others, it's the variation in difficulty of the questions across different exam sessions.
6) Exam dates and timing is not uniform. It can be taken at 8 AM Eastern Time and it can be taking at
midnight ET (if the exam is conducted in Japan for example), if they were to compare students with each
other, they should have at least synchronized the timing.

So bottom line, I believe that it does not matter when or where you take the exam in September or in
January, in California or in Europe. It's still the same standardized scoring system and your chances are
equal.