Surviving Step 1: Step 1 Scores, Part 2: So you passed

By Walter Wiggins

Congratulations! This is a wonderful achievement, and you should celebrate again, regardless of your score. If you’re satisfied or even happy/thrilled/ecstatic with your score, congratulations, again! If you’re not very satisfied with your score, keep your head up and celebrate that you will never have to take Step 1 again, because you passed.

Independent of your score, you should evaluate your study process. Figure out what worked and what didn’t. You’ve got two more Steps of the USMLE to go and any items for improvement should be identified while the experience is still fresh in your mind.

You should also critically evaluate the resources you used. If you used our products (First Aid or USMLE-Rx), please take a minute to give us feedback. Go to the Contribute page (found near the top of your screen on this website) or email us at Let us know what we’re doing right and where we could improve so we can generate better products for you and others. General feedback will not only be used to improve our Step 1 product line but all of our other products as well.

If you’re not happy with your score, it is likely that you feel it is not sufficient for a residency position in a particular specialty. Or, perhaps, you feel that your specialty or location preference may be limited. While it is true that residency programs place a high value on Step 1 when evaluating you, there are many other important aspects of your application that programs will consider when deciding whether to offer you an interview. Your clinical clerkship evaluations, dean’s letter, letters of recommendation, Step 2 CK score, and research experience are all important components of your application [1]. You may be able to use strong performances in these other arenas to balance out a Step 1 score that may be below average for a particular program.

Bottom line: learn from this experience so you can do even better on your clinical clerkships and Step 2 CK.


  1. Results of the 2010 NRMP Program Director Survey. Available at



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