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So you took the USMLE Step 2 and failed . . . now what?

By OnlineMedEd February 20, 2018

Finding out you’ve failed Step 2 CK is a downer, to say the very least. There’s no easy way to put it. You probably spent a good three months studying for this test (or more) and although now you’ve taken it, nothing else has changed. The best thing to do in this position is to not get discouraged or give up, and remember that many great doctors have been where you’re at now.

You are not alone.

First, spend some time refocusing. Once you decide you’re ready to get back in the saddle, follow these suggestions on ways you can begin prepping for your second go-around.


Check out your score

Even though it might be the last thing you want to look at, dissecting your score can help you figure out what areas you need to improve on before taking Step 2 again, and what topics you can leave alone. For example, maybe because of the way your blocks were positioned, you weren’t able to spend as much time on some topics, and these are the ones you did the worst on. If that’s the case, it’s easy to build a targeted study plan. Or, worst-case scenario, you realize you were weak across the board, and should then decide whether you want to start from scratch and follow a one-year plan. Whatever your case may be, the answer to the “what do I do next?” question begins with your score.


Research residency programs

Most residency programs will require more than just matching rankings before they consider taking you on: they also want you to have passed Step 2 CK. You might need to make a quick turnaround when retaking your test. That being said, every program is different. Some might not require the Step 2 CK before you interview. This is where your research comes in. If you get lucky and are allowed to interview before you retake the test, make sure you’ve prepared an appropriate answer for when they ask about your test score. It will come up, there is no way to avoid it. Just own it. Don’t make excuses for yourself; honesty is always the best policy.


Consult your school

In order to succeed on your second attempt at taking the Step 2 CK, you need to give yourself a good four weeks to focus on studying. During these four weeks, you need to be fully committed! Chat with the administrators at your school and see whether they can help you figure out a plan. It may seem like an annoyance to have to change some things around in your schedule, but right now it’s important that you put yourself and your retake first so you can pass, and maybe end up with a high score as well.


Review your test-taking skills

If you’re going back over things and realize that you actually know all of the right answers, then it’s possible that your problem lies elsewhere. Maybe you ran into problems with timing. Maybe you ran into problems with “the next best step” sort of questions, it could be a number of things! In this case, doing a lot of practice questions and NBME’s would be your best solution. Make sure the Qbank timer is turned on, and you try to beat your time each round. Try talking out tricky questions with a friend, and if that doesn’t work then seek out professional help, whether it’s a professor or a test-taking expert.

These are just a few suggestions that can help you begin prepping for your Step 2 CK retake. And while we hope you never find yourself in this position, remember that it can only go up from here! (Renewing your OnlineMedEd membership might be a great option as well.)


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