usmle step 2 cs

Tips to Ace the USMLE Step 2 CS Test

The United States Medical Licensing examination step 2 CS test is a very difficult set of examination. Any medical graduate who wishes to practice medicine in United States must pass this exam. Step 2 CS test is one of the requirements for medical license in United States. One can only be qualified to sit for USMLE step 2 CS test if he/she has certified the requirements for USMLE step 1 and step 2 CK.

The nature of USMLE step 2 CS exam makes it very interesting and unique among other USMLE exams. This exam provides you the opportunity to act like a medical practitioner in a mock where you will meet with trained specialized patients (TSP). AT this point, you will be meeting twelve (12) trained specialized patients for a period of 8 hours. At the end of this practical test your performance will be evaluated based on your mode of communication (oral and written), your ability to interpret a medical history and your methods of performing a physical exam.

USMLE step 2 CS test scores are graded on the bases of pass or fail. Though the grades for pass are always on the higher side, the possibility of failing the test cannot be written off. Therefore, you need to prepare and be ready for this test.

Preparation for USMLE step 2 CS test

There are numerous methods one can always apply when preparing for exams depending on the nature of the exam (s). USMLE step 2 CS is not an exception. Therefore, you can prepare through the following means.

  1. Understanding the nature of the exams: There is only one important thing you must bear in mind about USMLE step 2 CS exams, you must understand that USMLE step 2 CS exam is designed to test your acquaintance in applying medical learning into real life situations. Therefore, you do not need to read all the medical text books before you can sit for or pass this exam.

The only thing you need is practical of real life situations. If you must read a book to be more versatile, I will recommend you get a copy of “First Aid for USMLE Step 2 CS, Fifth Edition” and study its contents.

  1. How marks are awarded at the USMLE step 2 CS test: There is only one method of scoring examinees at this kind of exam; it is neither pass nor fail. Therefore, I will recommend you take the following steps into consideration.
  • Methods of speech: At this point, the trained standardized patients will use a scale to rate your mistakes. Therefore, you must be careful on your word pronunciation, your choice of words, and make sure the patients understand what you are talking about. Make your grammar simple, using words that do not exist in the dictionary is not an option at this point. You must communicate effectively.
  1. Integrated clinical encounter (ice): At this point the trained standardized patients will score your performance base on your ability to gather and interpret data during the exam through a checklist. They also take into consideration the information on the note you entered in the electronic device used for the exam. Therefore, I will recommend you use the correct medical terms, a detailed record of patient history, and the list of diagnoses in their respective order etc.
  2. Interpersonal skills: Interpersonal skills are the ability of one to communicate (listening and responding) effectively in a conversation. This skill comes into effect in USMLE step 2 CS test when seeking and gathering information and giving feedback to the patient. At this point the trained standardized patients will score your performance using the checklist, based on your ability to communicate effectively. This is the main point of the USMLE step 2 CS examination. Therefore, I will recommend you speak friendly with nice words such as; I’m so sorry you’re dealing with this back pain, it sounds really frustrating”

“I’m not completely sure what’s causing it, so I’d like to order a few tests to address the most likely cause.”

“Thanks again for your time. I’m very glad you came in today to get this taken care of.”  Etc.

Tips on how to Practice for the test

  1. Organize practical with your group: The USMLE step 2 CS test is not a theory test that will require too much of paper works. This exam is more of real life experience; you need to practice as many life cases as possible. Therefore, I will recommend you organize practical with a group such as; your class mates, family members, friends or other groups who can act as trained standard patients. These trained standard patients (TSP) are those whom you will eventually meet on the test hours as early explained. Therefore, try as much as possible to create an environment closer to the actual settings of the exams.
  2. Timing: Time is very paramount in all aspect of time. When practicalizing your ideas about the test, make sure you set a time limit for each step. I will recommend you set a time limit of about 15 minutes for each patient. Use 10 minutes to have effect communication with the patient and use 5 minutes to document the information. This method will help your memory to manage your time on the day of the test.
  • Practice with patient gown: Ask one member of your practical group to put on a cloth like a patient gown. Practice your method of untying or retying of the gown on the patient. The untying or retying method may be used when you want to check or listen to the breathing sound of a patient or other related matter. You can only perform such method when you must have taken permission from the patient. This, when properly done at on the exam day, will aid in awarding you more marks.
  1. Practice on your typing ability (how fast and accurate can you type): Many examinees of the USMLE step 2 CS test believe they can type with speed and accuracy but many a time that mentality has proved abortive. You only have about 5 minutes to type the information gotten from a patient into the computer. You will be penalized for typos and there will be no spell-check. Therefore, I recommend you practice on your typing ability.


On the day of the exam

  1. Get ready for the test: On the eve of the test, get all the materials you may need for the test. You need a practical experiment on you work. The worst thing you can experience on the test day is the pressure of being unprepared.
  2. Night sleep: Research has proven that having a good night sleep can enhance a good body system. Even if you are the kind that do not sleep at night, you are advised to rest from all works during the hours of the night to get your memory and body in the right balance for the test. Having a good night sleep/rest will help you mentally and increase your test performance.
  • Choose your food: On the day of the test make sure you eat your best meal before you set out for the test. This will enable your body to be in the right balance which in turn enables you to think and reason rightly. If eating is not an option now take your lunch and snacks along so you will have nothing to border about your system imbalance.
  1. On arrival: When you get to the venue of the test, check if all the materials such as your valid ID, signature or your printed copy of your scheduling permit required for the test are with you. Make yourself comfortable; review all that you have studied. Do not discuss any matter that will divide your attention with anybody. If possible stay alone and memorize your practical experiments early done.
  2. Time is crucial in USMLE step 2 CS test. Project to arrive at the venue at least an hour before the actual time for the test. If you have the chance to practice again with your class mates do make use of it, you never can tell the new idea you may develop at a time. If you do not have such opportunities then set your time on you are going to present your idea to trained standardized patients (TSP).
  3. Check and follow the instructions: the pressure to get started without following instructions may get you into trouble. Examinees are always venerable to punishment or deduction of points even when their works are very accurate because of not following the lay down rules. Do not get into such pressure, check, cross check, and follow all the instructions.


Do well to follow these tips they are what you need to equip yourself in preparation of any USMLE step 2 CS test.

At the end if you are graded pass, then you have achieved your goal.

Good luck.

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