By Mark Ard
[Editor’s note: This article was originally published in 2014 and has been updated to incorporate procedural changes and fee increases, as well as recent information from Prometric and the NBME regarding the COVID-19 outbreak.]
3/31/20 Update from USMLE, related to Prometric announcement about reopening test centers in April (bolded for emphasis):
Q: I have a Prometric testing appointment in the latter half of April 2020 and it looks like certain Prometric sites may be open. Should I test?
A: U.S. guidelines for social distancing extend through 4/30/20. Many states and counties in the U.S. have issued strict stay-at-home orders and closures of non-essential businesses. At the current time, there are certain areas in the U.S. not under strict social distancing lockdowns. If you live in one of these areas, it’s possible that your local Prometric center may be offering some testing. The USMLE program strongly encourages all examinees to adhere to the U.S. federal guidelines and not gather anywhere in groups. All rescheduling fees will be waived for those that elect to reschedule testing, and eligibility periods will be extended as per our FAQ’s.
We are currently experiencing a high volume of inquiries related to the COVID-19 outbreak; as a result you may experience a significant delay in response to your phone or email query. We have disabled our chat function temporarily in order to better manage our response times. If your test has been cancelled or rescheduled due to our COVID-19 preventative measures, Prometric will send you an email within 5 business days with further instructions regarding your exam. For updated information on the steps we are taking to protect your health and well-being, please click here. For additional information, including site closures, you can click here
Prometric announced on March 17 that test centers in the United States and Canada will be closed for a period of 30 days, starting March 18.
In response, the USMLE program is extending eligibility periods for all examinees who currently have a scheduling permit with an unexpired eligibility period with an end date in 2020, regardless of the country in which they are testing.
We have begun extending eligibility periods for all examinees who currently have a scheduling permit with an unexpired eligibility period with an end date in 2020, regardless of the country in which they are testing.
We have begun extending the eligibility periods this week, beginning with those that expire in March. All 2020 eligibility periods will be extended to have an end date of December 31, 2020.
Extensions will be processed in order of expiration date, with all extension processing expected to be completed by the week of April 13th. Examinees will receive a notification and new scheduling permit when their eligibility extension has been processed. Examinees will need to use the new permit once received.
Extending the eligibility period will not impact already scheduled appointments. No fees will be charged for these eligibility extensions. Eligibility periods will be extended automatically, requiring no action from examinees.
Every year, students schedule their USMLE Step 1 exam in high (anxiety-ridden) hopes that they will be able to coalesce and synthesize two years of knowledge in a few short weeks of dedicated prep time. It’s stressful. In fact, you may not have known how stressful it was when you scheduled your ideal test date months in advance, thinking you might be able to squeeze in three weeks of vacation and work on your tan before rotations. Maybe you need more time to study, and that’s ok. Don’t let people drag you down for wanting to work harder.
Or maybe you got to the testing facility and they called your name (game time!) only to tell you, “Sorry, but the security camera isn’t working today, so you’ll need to go home and reschedule your test.” After you salvage your heart from its resting spot on your pyloric sphincter, you need to deal with Prometric in a cool, calm, and collected way.
First, contact their USMLE specific customer support line: 800-633-3926 (It’s kind of a hard number to find, especially on a smartphone in a parking lot).
If they are responsible for the rescheduling, they should change you to whatever date they have available. Some people need a day or so to gather their wits (e.g., I took my exam 24 hours later at the same site). I suggest more than 24 hours, since they need to get all new registration information to the testing site. In my case, when I came back to take the test, it wasn’t ready, and I had to sit around and sweat bullets for three hours.
If you are rescheduling because you don’t feel ready—which, again, is a perfectly rational feeling—keep in mind some facts (editor’s note: some of this may change due to the COVID-19 crisis, as noted at the top of the article).
- It is free to reschedule within your testing block, more than 30 days in advance
- Within 6-30 days, it is $50
- Within 5 days, it may cost you your firstborn (in the U.S. and Canada, it’s $114, but in other regions, it will range from $276 to $506(!) for Step 1). For Step 2 CK, the costs are a bit higher.
- Hours are 8am-8pm EST, Mon-Fri
On the Prometric site (https://www.prometric.com/en-us/Pages/home.aspx), there is a link on the top to reschedule. The process is self-explanatory, as long as there are dates available, somewhere, within the three month block you selected on the NBME website.
If you would like to change that block, you may move one block forward (for example, if you had Apr-May-Jun, you can move to Jul-Aug-Sep). You may only do this once, and only one block forward. It costs $80. Log into the NBME website, and under the “Licensing Examination Services” page, scroll down to “Step 1 and Step 2 CK Eligibility Period Extension Form.” If you are an IMG/FMG, you can do this through their interactive web application.
If you need to reschedule further than that, I would contact NBME. You might need authorization from your school.
I hope this helps you in your most vulnerable, end-of-your-wits, mental state. Believe me, I was there.
Categories: Step 1 Advice