The Importance of the USMLE Step 2 Clinical Skills Examination

Posted on March 29, 2013


This guest post was written by Dr. Mark Swartz, M.D.  Please see the author bio below for more information.

Physical Exam 2The Importance of the USMLE Step 2 Clinical Skills Examination

“Do you smoke, drink coffee or consume alcohol? If you answered yes—how often?”

As a patient, you may feel overwhelmed having to answer each question as thorough and concise as possible to attain the best possible physical examination. Though these may seem like basic questions, it is important for your doctor to not only have a familiarity, but a well-rounded knowledge of the importance of each question asked during an examination to update your personal and family medical history. The Step 2 Clinical Skills examination is, in my opinion, the most important building block—per se—within the series of the United States Medical Licensing Examination. It was designed to evaluate medical student’s knowledge of history-taking, clinical communication and physical examinations.

It is of crucial importance to understand health history and the correct method in which to conduct a complete physical examination to avoid medical error and to make for better practices—inhibiting malpractice and patient negligence.

The United States Medical License Examination (USMLE)

Preparing for the USMLE requires skill, determination and practice—a knack that a medical doctor must attain before taking a patient’s health into their own hands. This three step examination was designed to assess a soon-to-be medical practitioner’s ability to convey a vast array of knowledge and concepts within a medical setting. The trio of patient-centered skills builds off of one another to ensure a clear and concise medical examination. Determining the importance of one step of the USMLE exam over another can be hard to define since each is important to grasp while receiving a medical education.

If you are currently studying for the examination, have previously taken the licensing exam or plan to buckle down within the coming year, it is important to know the importance of the USMLE Step 2 CS and why the second step of the licensing exam will significantly increase your knowledge to aid in medical preparedness.

The Step 2 Clinical Skills Test:

The Step 2 CS examination is a practical exam—designed with patients in mind. Most students within their fourth year of med school will take Step 2 of the USMLE. Preparing for this section of the test may be more difficult to do as this exam relies on a standardized patient review and a pass or fail basis, unlike the other two sections of the licensing exam.

Recent Changes to Step 2 Clinical Skills Examination

Proper communication and interpersonal skills are imperative to have within the medical field. Standardized patients will be asked to assess the initial diagnostics, examination findings and the history and physical examination findings.

The patient note, which used to be the least important factor of passing Step 2, now holds the most weight for whether or not the examinee will pass or fail.

A Wholesome Education: Reflected by the Step 2 Clinical Skills Exam

Practicing medical students will have a seamless transition from the classroom to their professional role with a wealth of knowledge and insight into patient health and history-taking. Having a well-developed patient relationship may not come easy and takes time to formulate both with patient to doctor interaction and the ability to care for a culturally diverse blend of individuals in today’s society. Learning how to be empathetic and well-informed will aid in a more accurate accumulation of information and the skills to properly diagnose patients with differing needs.

Author Bio:

Mark Swartz, M.D.Dr. Swartz has over 20 years of experience in the medical industry, focused on enhancing medical education. In 2003, he founded a prep course called C3NY to improve the education and preparation for students within the field of medicine.



If you would like to submit a guest article or suggest a topic for a future post, please use the Contact page.



Posted in: Medicine