Potential Impact of Pass/Fail USMLE Step 1 Scoring on Radiology Residency Applications

Leesburg, VA, April 18, 2021—A Scientific E-Poster to be presented at the 2021 ARRS Virtual Annual Meeting found that as the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 1 transitions from a numerical score to pass or fail—as early as January 2022—radiology residency program directors will likely rely on USMLE Step 2 Clinical Knowledge (CK) scores as an objective and standardized metric to screen applicants. 

“However,“ wrote lead investigator Rebecca Zhang of the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore, “program directors remain unsure whether they will require Step 2 CK scores at the time of application or before interviewing applicants.” 

To evaluate the anticipated importance of various application metrics when Step 1 becomes pass or fail, Zhang’s team distributed an anonymous and voluntary 14-item electronic survey to 308 active members of the Association of Program Directors in Radiology, performing secondary analyses to compare responses based on the current use of a Step 1 scoring screen.

With 29% of respondents completing the online survey, a majority (64%) of program directors noted that an applicant’s Step 2 CK score will likely be one of the top three most important factors in assessing applicants, followed by class ranking (51%) and the Medical Student Performance Evaluation or Dean’s Letter (37%). Most (90%) of respondents predicted their programs may or definitively will require Step 2 CK scores before reviewing an application, and 50% of respondents anticipated extending interview invitations at a later date to receive Step 2 CK scores.

Acknowledging that additional research may identify other objective metrics for holistic evaluations, “these results did not significantly differ between programs who currently use a Step 1 scoring screen and those who do not,” the authors of this ARRS Annual Meeting E-Poster concluded.

Founded in 1900, the American Roentgen Ray Society (ARRS) is the first and oldest radiological society in North America, dedicated to the advancement of medicine through the profession of radiology and its allied sciences. An international forum for progress in medical imaging since the discovery of the x-ray, ARRS maintains its mission of improving health through a community committed to advancing knowledge and skills with an annual scientific meeting, monthly publication of the peer-reviewed American Journal of Roentgenology (AJR), quarterly issues of InPractice magazine, AJR Live Webinars and Podcasts, topical symposia, print and online educational materials, as well as awarding scholarships via The Roentgen Fund®.