Step 1 requires you to study until it drives you crazy because you just want one thing – a high Step 1 score. However, some of you may be thinking that it’s alright to set the average Step 1 score as a form of insurance if in any case your target score is not achieved.
In this post, we’re going to discuss the average Step 1 score in general and by their distinct specialties to give you an idea on what score you should be aiming for.
What Is The Average Step 1 Score?
Your USMLE Step 1 score plays a large role in your medical residency application. Board directors of residency programs can accept you or not depending on how well you did on your Step 1.
That’s why it’s only fair for us to ask – what is a good Step 1 score?
The 2018 Charting Outcomes in The Match of the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) analyzed the rate of match success of U.S. allopathic seniors and individual applicants to their preferred specialties.
The individual applicants are a heterogenous group consisting of:
- Previous graduates of U.S. allopathic medical schools
- Students/graduates of Fifth Pathway programs
- Students/graduates of osteopathic medical schools
- Students/graduates of Canadian medical schools
- U.S. citizen and non – U.S. citizen students/graduates of international medical schools.
The document indicates there are certain factors in the match success of U.S. allopathic seniors and individual applicants such as academic degrees, publications, research, work and volunteer experiences, Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society (AOA) membership, including USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 CK scores.
The Correlation Between USMLE Step 1 Scores And Matching Success
Generally, U.S. allopathic seniors successful in matching to their individually preferred specialties are all more likely to:
- Rank more programs within their preferred specialty
- Be members of Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society
- Have higher USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 scores
Summary statistics on U.S. allopathic seniors with all specialties combined indicate that those successful in matching to their preferred specialties have a mean USMLE Step 1 score of 233.
Those who are unmatched, on the other hand, have a significantly lower mean USMLE Step 1 score of 224.
This data leads us to the inference that across all specialties, U.S. allopathic seniors who matched to their preferred specialties scored higher on their Step 1, compared to U.S. seniors who were unsuccessful in matching.
If you manage to obtain a Step 1 score similar or higher to the average Step 1 score ranging from all the specialties, your chances of matching success become a whole more plausible.
FYI: Getting a high score on your Step 1 is possible as long as you put your mind into it and you have the right guide to accompany you throughout the whole process.
Now, putting general matters aside, this begs us the question – what does the data shown on the Chart Outcomes in The Match indicate regarding the average Step 1 score by specialty?
What Is The Average Step 1 Score By Specialty?
Different specialties in the field of medicine have certain standards with regards to USMLE Step 1 scores. In general, competitive specialties like Dermatology, Radiation Oncology, Orthopedic Surgery, and Neurological Surgery have higher Step 1 scores.
For comparison purposes, let’s take Orthopedic Surgery and Family Medicine as an example.
U.S. allopathic seniors who matched to their desired field of Orthopedic Surgery have an average Step 1 score of 248.
In Family Medicine, on the other hand, the average Step 1 score goes around 220, the highest it has ever been.
There still remains a significant gap between average Step 1 scores of U.S. allopathic seniors who matched to their preferred specialties and those who did not manage to match. Let’s take a look at the chart below.
Chart 1. USMLE Step 1 Scores of U.S. Allopathic Seniors by Preferred Specialty and Match Status
The chart above exhibits the Step 1 scores of U.S. allopathic seniors by preferred specialty and match status, with dark blue indicating those who matched and light blue for those who did not match.
The horizontal lines indicate the mean of USMLE Step 1 scores by preferred specialty. The vertical lines, on the other hand, display the interquartile ranges of Step 1 scores.
U.S. allopathic seniors who did not match to their preferred specialties tend to overlap to the lower portion of the interquartile ranges of Step 1 scores of seniors that matched.
Neurology, Pathology, and Family Meidicine seem to have lower average scores on Step 1, falling in the range of 200 to 210 if we look at the mean USMLE Step 1 scores of those that did not match.
U.S. allopathic seniors successful in matching to the specialties of Dermatology, Interventional Radiology, Neurological Surgery, Orthopedic Surgery, Otolaryngology, Plastic Surgery, Radiation Oncology, and Diagnostic Radiology scored the highest on Step 1, circulating around the range of 240 and 250.
FYI: Aiming to match to a competitive specialization? Don’t worry too much. Let me tell you, it’s possible to achieve a high Step 1 score as long as you have a step-by-step walkthrough to guide you.
Summary Statistics Of Mean USMLE Step 1 Scores By Specialty
Let’s take a look at the summary statistics for each specialty in terms of mean USMLE Step 1 scores.
|U.S. Allopathic Seniors||Independent Applicants|
|Obstetrics and Gynecology||230||218||229||220|
|Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation||225||215||229||222|
Table 1. USMLE Average Step 1 Scores of U.S. allopathic students and independent applicants, matched and unmatched, by specialty.
The gap between the average scores of those who matched and didn’t match seems to be present in the USMLE Step 1 scores of individual applicants, with the exception of Plastic Surgery, as well.
What Is The Highest Step 1 Score You Can Get?
It’s important for you to target a high Step 1 score, especially if you’re aiming to specialize in the most competitive fields.
Let’s say you want to specialize in Dermatology, the field with the highest average Step 1 score. According to the data in the 2018 Charting Outcomes in The Match, out of the 340 applicants who matched to their preferred specialty, 58 of them achieved a score of more than 260.
It is also relevant for you to know that the range of Step 1 scores for Dermatology goes from 211 to >260. This is such a narrow range compared to other specialties, implying that you have such a slim space to move in between.
Chart 2. USMLE Step 1 Scores of U.S. Allopathic Seniors in Dermatology
Of course, you can always strive to achieve a score falling in this range if you review for Step 1 with the right resources such as our free step-by-step masterclass.
What if your desired specialty happens to be a less competitive field? Take Psychiatry for example.
In 2018, there were 860 U.S. allopathic seniors who matched to this field, a much higher sample data compared to Dermatology. Even so, only 20 applicants scored higher than 260.
If we take note of the chart below, the scores circulate in such a wide range of 191 to 260 – indicating that you have an extensive room for error.
Chart 3. USMLE Step 1 Scores of U.S. Allopathic Seniors in Psychiatry
What If You Get A Low Step 1 Score?
Though residency program directors largely consider your Step 1 score, this does not mean that they solely rely on those numbers. The distribution of scores portrayed in the chart of USMLE Step 1 scores of U.S. allopathic seniors by preferred specialty and match status should provide evidence for this.
Other factors play a role in whether or not you get accepted for a residency program, depending on the competitiveness in the field you desire to apply for.
This implies that matching to your desired specialty does not rely on your Step 1 score alone. A low Step 1 score does not hinder your success, and a high score does not instantly catapult you to success, either.
FYI: It’s still important for you obtain a high Step 1 score either way. Studying for Step 1 is not a walk in the park, it requires concentration, time management, and a step-to-step guide to help you throughout the whole process.
It’s not the end of the world.
Balance is important.
Work on publications, participate in research projects, gather work and volunteer experiences, improve on your performance, and practice a sensible attitude to carry on until you step into the actual clinical setting.
The data and information I have provided you are based on the 2018 Charting Outcomes in the Match: U.S. Allopathic Seniors, released by the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP). If you want to view all the charts and summary statistics of all the specializations, visit here.
I hope your questions about the average Step 1 score in general and by specialty were answered by this post!
Found this post helpful? Check out our additional posts on USMLE Step 1 here:
- What Does USMLE Step 1 Cover
- How To Use First Aid For Step 1 [Ultimate Guide]
- How To Study For Step 1 [Get a 250+]
- Acing The USMLE: Step 1 Tips and Tricks Guide
- What To Do If Your Step 1 Score Is Not Improving
Also, remember that rocking your USMLE Step 1 is possible and you can do just that by signing up for FREE Step 1 Masterclass here.
Or maybe you need a bit of help and support to push yourself up the ladder? If so, join Step 1 Academy now.
Thanks for reading friend!