When planning for the fourth year of medical school, students must decide on the appropriate time to take the USMLE Step 2 CK examination. Here we weigh the pros and cons of taking Step 2 CK before ERAS.
The Pros of Taking Step 2 CK Before ERAS:
- Hitting a high score on Step 2 CK can enhance a residency application
- Putting the test behind you can be a relief!
- Providing time to retest if necessary
- Providing more time to focus on completing ERAS and interviews
Performing well on the USMLE Step 2 CK examination is another opportunity to increase one’s competitiveness for ERAS. A strong step 2 CK score can enhance a somewhat weaker application (low Step 1 score, failed preclinical coursework, etc.) and further polish an already outstanding application. The good news is the average Step 2 CK score is much higher than the Step 1 score (242 and 229, respectively), so most students improve on Step 2!
An advantage to taking Step 2 CK early in fourth year is the opportunity to pass it and move on with the remainder of the exciting aspects of the year (scheduling interviews, traveling, taking vacations, and completing electives) ahead of you! It can be daunting to have to schedule interviews around the Step 2 CK exam or to have it hanging over one’s head until after interview time. Having taken and passed Step 2 CK prior to interviewing allows you to enter interview season with a complete application- all boxes checked off and ready to go.
Most students improve in score from Step 1 to Step 2 CK. However, on occasion, a student performs poorly or even fails. In the event of a failure, having taken Step 2 CK early enough in the year allows one ample time to schedule another test date and pass the test before rank lists are due (and to ensure passing in order to graduate medical school).
The Cons of Taking Step 2 CK Before ERAS:
An obvious counter-argument to taking Step 2 CK before ERAS is that a poor or even average score could take away from an otherwise excellent application. Some people recommend that students with strong applications, such as a high Step 1 score and coursework grades, should take Step 2 CK after ERAS. The argument is that if one does not perform well, or only performs average, he or she ideally would have already been offered interviews at top programs and possibly even completed interviews without having to worry that a low or average score might drag them down.
For students, being able to put Step 2 CK off until after ERAS and interview season provides more time to focus on completing the application, scheduling interviews, and traveling to interview for residencies.
So, should I take Step 2 CK before or after ERAS?
In most circumstances, planning to take Step 2 CK before applying to ERAS is ideal. However, for select students, delaying Step 2 CK until after ERAS may be an appropriate alternative.