Top Tips for Passing USMLE Step 2 CS

Imagine having spent 4 years of college, 4 years of medical school, and tens of thousands of dollars on tuition and books in an effort to getting a residency. Imagine if you actually did well on all the other exams but failed only one and now you are not getting interviews. It’s even more painful when you learn that exam was one of the more straightforward exams to study for, and requires nothing more than readily available medical knowledge, practice and organization.

If you are wondering what exam I am talking about, it’s known as Step 2 CS. Step 2 CS has recently become one of the most difficult of the 4 USMLE®exams, and the one students are frequently underestimating. This error has led to many students actually failing the exam.

Expert Test Tip

Edward Kaplas, Faculty Physician, USMLE Step 2 CS

“Coming up with a good doorway differential diagnosis is critical to a successful patient encounter.”

So how can we avoid getting pinched by the Step 2 CS exam and come out on top? Well it’s quite easy, to be honest, and can be done through following these 5 prep tips:

  • Learn to type.

    The new Step 2 CS note is digital and requires you to be able to type a quick and efficient note. If you type like grandma, then it’s going to be difficult to complete the note in the 25 minutes allotted for each case.

  • Learn focused physicals.

    Not every patient with abdominal pain needs a full neuro exam. Remember keep your exams focused and to the case. You can save time that way.

  • Know your differentials.

    Knowing the key buzzwords for the prototypic cases is necessary to nail the diagnosis. If they present a patient with RUQ pain in a fertile forty female who happens to be obese–you know right away it’s cholecystitis.

  • Be humble and warm to the patient.

    Remember empathy is something many medical associations feel is lost in patient encounters in the new “generation” and is something the boards want you to demonstrate to your patients.

  • Practice practice practice.

    There are numerous courses and books, many offered by Kaplan, that allow you to practice real live case simulations. If the first time you practice a case is on Test Day, studies prove you are more likely to fail Step 2 CS. So find a study buddy and practice early and regularly!