Studying for the USMLE in Saudi Arabia

Studying for the USMLE in Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabian medical school graduates should know everything required of them if their goal is to become a doctor in the United States of America. Before an International Medical Graduate (IMG) from Saudi Arabia can come to the United States to complete their residency, they must first gain certification from the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG). To gain ECFMG certification, Saudi medical students must graduate from medical school and pass the United States Medical Licensing Examination® (USMLE®)  Step 1 and Step 2 CK exams. Studying for the USMLE in Saudi Arabia is not always straightforward, but with the right help, an IMG can pass these exams.

How to Become a U.S. Doctor as an IMG From Saudi Arabia

Before going step-by-step through how an IMG should study for the USMLE in Saudi Arabia, here’s the complete process to becoming a doctor in America if you are from Saudi Arabia, including where studying for the USMLE fits into that process:

  1. Register with ECFMG 
  2. Take a USMLE Step 1 prep course and prepare for the exam
  3. Pass the USMLE Step 1
  4. Take a USMLE Step 2 CK prep course and prepare for the exam
  5. Earn a good score on the USMLE Step 2 CK
  6. Prepare and pass the Occupational English Test (OET)
  7. Apply for your ECFMG certificate
  8. Preferably take USMLE Step 3 (while you are fresh with clinical content)
  9. Submit a MyERAS® application and wait for your Interviews
  10. Register with NRMP and Match with a U.S. residency program!

Obtaining ECFMG Certification From Saudi Arabia

An International Medical Graduate from Saudi Arabia will need to gain certification from the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG). This proves that you’ve met all training requirements from a World Directory of Medical Schools-accredited medical school outside of America.

An IMG can only gain certification after they graduate from medical school. An international medical student actually may begin their certification process by applying to sit for exams as soon as they meet their respective requirements; but the ECFMG certificate’s medical school diploma requirement means that certification cannot be completed until the diploma has been given.

ECFMG International Requirements include:

* dependent on individual requirements

ECFMG exam passing score requirements must be achieved within time limits and/or seasonal application cycles.

How to Register for the USMLE Exams in Saudi Arabia

To take the USMLE in Saudi Arabia, all International Medical Graduates must select the Middle East testing region when applying for Step 1 or Step 2 CK.

How much does it cost to take the USMLE in Saudi Arabia?

Be sure to prepare to pay fees for ECFMG programs and services, including the USMLE exam fees and surcharges in Saudi Arabia. Surcharges apply to all test takers outside of the U.S. and Canada.

How should an IMG study for the USMLE Exam in Saudi Arabia?

The best way to study for the USMLE Step 1 and USMLE Step 2 CK in Saudi Arabia is to register for a USMLE prep course with an expert instructor. Kaplan gives you the option to prepare for the USMLE at your own pace, or to prep for the USMLE live with an instructor.

Often, an IMG may find it simpler to utilize Kaplan’s On Demand Course given scheduling and language limitations. However, if you are not yet sure how to prepare for the USMLE from Saudi Arabia, start off with our free USMLE practice resources.

When should an IMG study for the USMLE Exam in Saudi Arabia?

 A Saudi medical school student should begin studying for the USMLE as soon as possible. Kaplan teachers recommend making a USMLE Step 1 plan for studying 6-to-12 months before taking the exam and 4-to-7 months before taking USMLE Step 2 CK. Students who take Step 1 right after completing science subjects in med school often feel more prepared to recall the more difficult subject matter. However, this may not be the optimal time for every student to take Step 1.

Review this list of factors to consider when choosing when to take Step 1:

  • Most find that M1 topics are difficult to recall, and that behavioral science and U.S. epidemiology are not adequately covered in their med school’s curriculum.
  • Most international medical students are not exposed to the integrated clinical vignettes like those that appear on Step 1, and therefore, are not accustomed to an 8-hour computerized testing experience. Full prep for Step 1 also requires the ability to integrate interdisciplinary knowledge, apply that knowledge to difficult clinical vignettes, and maintain focus throughout a long exam.
  • Some Saudi Arabian medical graduates return during breaks between semesters to complete a live review course.  However, most international graduates aren’t able to do so until after graduation, when they can attend a Kaplan Medical review course on a student visa, due to time constraints or internship and housing surgency.

Does taking the USMLE in a certain month give you a better score?

No, taking the USMLE in a certain month will not give you a better score. However, you do want to give yourself plenty of time to study for the USMLE and receive your score in time to meet important deadlines. Also, keep in mind that if you’re taking the exam in the U.S., your test center will have less availability in the summer when U.S. medical students are taking their Step 1 exams. Reserve your testing spot well in advance if you must test over the summer.

Consider Prerequisites and Application Deadlines

If you want to apply for your elective rotation in the U.S. (only available to Saudi Arabian medical students who have not yet graduated), Step 1 may be a prerequisite to applying. Weigh the advantages and disadvantages for taking Step 1 before graduating.

You should have all scores available before you submit your Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS(r)) application. Competitive applicants know their application must be submitted ASAP once ERAS starts accepting applications (usually by the middle of September*).

* Dates may vary

Should you take Step 2 CK before Step 1?

After your internship, you’ll finally be working on a clinical level. Because this clinical knowledge is top-of-mind, it may be tempting to take the Step 2 CK exam before Step 1. But we always recommend taking Step 1 first. Why? Step 2 CK keeps incorporating material previously relegated exclusively to Step 1. Our research suggests that test-takers most often score better on Step 2 CK when taken after the Step 1 exam.

Students who prepare for the exam with Kaplan will learn the crucial ways in which successful candidates are expected to communicate and interrelate with patients in the U.S. system of healthcare.

Can Saudi Arabian medical graduates retake the USMLE exams?

No, medical students cannot retake the USMLE exams if they earn a passing score. If they don’t pass the USMLE exams, they may retake  each Step up to three times in a one-year period. However, retaking the USMLE exams is not recommended, as schools will see how many times you attempted the exam. Candidates who did not pass on their first attempt are often denied admission, which is why it’s critical to pass the first time around. When students do not feel confident going into the exams, we often recommend they delay their attempt until they’re really ready to get a good USMLE score.

USMLE Exam Centers in Saudi Arabia

USMLE exams are administered at Prometric centers around the world, including the Middle East. Saudi Arabia is one of nine locations in the Middle East where you can take the USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 CK exams, along with Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Israel, and the United Arab Emirates. Refer to the Prometric website for the most up-to-date information.

Frequently Asked Questions About the USMLE in Saudi Arabia

Get more information about studying for and passing the USMLE as an IMG in Saudi Arabia.

Is English language competency required to pass the USMLE Exam in Saudi Arabia?

English Language Competency is required for passing the USMLE exam in Saudi Arabia. ECFMG’s certification requirements include passing OET Medicine or the former USMLE Step 2 CS exam.

Are research and clinical experience helpful for passing the USMLE?

Research and clinical experience can be helpful on the USMLE, but it’s even more important to be a competitive applicant for residency programs. As an IMG, you need to strengthen your application in addition to succeeding on USMLE exams. IMG’s should plan for U.S. experience opportunities to secure letters of recommendation and to make their application more competitive.

Is the USMLE exam harder than the MCAT?

The USMLE is a more in-depth, complex examination than the MCAT. However, with diligent preparation and studies, the USMLE Exams may not necessarily feel more difficult for you than the MCAT. Additionally, USMLE only tests you on Clinical skills and knowledge. MCAT will test your basic preclinical knowledge on subjects including General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, General Biology, Biochemistry, Physics, Psychology, and Sociology.

Registering with NRMP for the Residency Match

In order to participate in the Match as an IMG, you must first be ECFMG certified. The Match eligibility requirements for IMGs must be met before the rank order list deadline. Be sure to research programs you are interested in and review program applications and visa requirements. Individual residency programs ultimately decide if they will consider IMGs and which visa types they will support.

When you have decided on a program you are interested in, apply through ERAS. IMGs must request an ERAS token from ECFMG. This allows them access to the ERAS website. Applicants must register each year to participate in the main registry match. The Match has numerous deadlines, so be sure to stay on top of deadlines so you don’t incur late fees.

After submitting your application, you will interview with programs (if invited), then rank your programs in order of preference. The final step is to wait for match day to see if you Match with a program. If you do, remember: the Match result is binding. 

SOAP for Eligible Applicants From Saudi Arabia

If an eligible applicant does not match, they may still take part in the Supplemental Offer and Acceptance Program (SOAP). This allows unmatched applicants another chance at getting residency positions that went unfilled.