The basics of USMLE Step 3

The main focus of Step 3 is to ensure that physicians can carry out the practice of medicine without supervision. Most of the questions presented, but not all, deal with ambulatory care. The most common, “high-impact” cases are tested. Step 3 is generally considered to be the “easiest” of the exams, but this assumes a strong internship and good preparation for steps 1 and 2.

Starting in 2014 step 3 will be divided into two sections, each administered on a separate day and the days do not have to be back to back. The first part is “Step 3 Foundations of Independent Practice (FIP)” and the second part is “Step 3 Advanced Clinical Medicine (ACM).”

USMLE Step 3 Question Formats

There are three question formats on this step: Single Item, Multiple Item Sets, and Cases.

The Single Item questions are the standard “multiple choice” single best answer questions. There are generally 4-5 answers to select from.

The Multiple Item Sets questions are multiple choice, single best answer questions, all based on a single patient vignette. Again, each question has a single correct answer (although other answers may be “partially correct”). The questions are designed to be answered by themselves – the order in which do the questions is not important.

The Case-based questions are designed to be answered in sequential order. Skipping questions can be bad news: the cases often progress in an orderly fashion, and each question may rely on information given in preceding questions. Again, these are multiple-choice, single best answer questions.

For more information on Step 3 question formats visit:

Step 3 Eligibility

A big change in 2014 is that people who want to take step 3 no longer have to apply through individual states. This means a more consistent, non-state based eligibility criterion for taking the test.

USMLE Step 3 Passing Score

As of 2013, the minimum passing score for step 3 is 190. This is up from previous passing scores in the 180s. Further information is available at:

Kaplan USMLE Step 3 Test Prep

Kaplan USMLE Step 3 Preparation
Kaplan USMLE Step 3 Q-Bank

General USMLE Step 3 Resources

For more information: – step 3, COMLEX Level 3.

To download sample questions, tutorials, and computer-based case simulations:

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