Monday, March 30, 2009

USMLE Step 2 CS Books And Study Strategy

Three days ago, I took USMLE Step 2 CS. The CS stands for Clinical Skills. Unlike the other exams, this one is not computer-based and instead involves live, standardized patients. Relative to USMLE Step 1 or even USMLE Step 2 CK, preparing for Step 2 CS is a much shorter, much more straightforward process. Since Step 2 CS is graded on a pass / fail basis, the goal here is also much simpler: pass!

USMLE Step 2 CS Exam Format

The basic format of Step 2 CS is a patient encounter. A patient encounter consists of a focused history and physical exam conducted in 15 minutes, followed by a patient note, for which you are given 10 minutes. The note includes pertinent positives and negatives from the history and the physical, as well as a differential and plan. The differential and plan can have up to 5 items on them, each. There are 12 patient encounters throughout the day. The first five are followed by a thirty minute break for lunch, the next 4 are followed by a 15 minute break, and then the day ends with the last 3 encounters. The exam is only given at 5 locations throughout the United States: Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, and Philadelphia. On top of that, it costs over a $1000! The USMLE site has a more extensive description of the clinical skills exam here.

USMLE Step 2 CS Study Schedule

I'd say I spent about a week studying for the exam. I read through First Aid for the USMLE Step 2 CS, first familiarizing myself with the format of the test and basic differentials for common complaints. Then, I recruited one of my medical school friends to play the standardized patient for me and went through some of the cases at the end of the book. Even though I was unable to complete all the cases, I felt pretty comfortable going into the exam.

As far as preparing goes, my advice would be to take Step 2 CK before CS. If you have a good fund of knowledge for CK, you will be more than prepared for CS. Also, when writing the patient note, use the computer as it will be faster and easier to edit than pen & paper. Oh, and bring your own lunch and snacks. They provide food, but your own food will probably be better. Other than that, just remain calm and you'll do just fine.

Updated 2015-12-18

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