The Step 2 CS Exam: What to Expect in 2018

Fall is in full swing, and the end of the year will be here before you know it. We’ve compiled an extensive list of everything you need to know to succeed on your Step 2 CS Exam in 2017 and 2018. From USMLE updates and exam tips, to incredible resources for improving your empathy and communication, we will help you ace your Step 2 CS Exam, — and  become a better doctor in the process. Here’s what’s in store:


USMLE policy changes and scoring updates

If you don’t routinely check the official USMLE website for upcoming changes, don’t worry. We do, and we’ll be sure to share the most current USMLE updates and changes both here on our blog, and across all C3NY Social Media accounts. You don’t want to be out of the loop about updated performance standards or delays/changes in scheduling or scoring.

This year, the USMLE Managing Committee has implemented changes to the scoring system used on the Step 2 CS Exam, making it slightly more difficult to pass. The Committee voted to increase the minimum passing requirements for all three components of the Step 2 CS, which will mean that candidates will need to be better prepared than ever before. For complete details on the changes to the Step 2 CS Scoring system, visit

The USMLE has also made changes to the common signs and symptoms that candidates might see on the Step 2 CS. You can check out the updated list HERE.

General Step 2 CS Test Advice & Tips

As you probably know, the Step 2 CS consists of multiple timed encounters with Standardized Patients, each one representing a different set of symptoms. Candidates are required to make a diagnosis for each Patient, then correctly enter the patient note in the time allotted.

One of the most important things that we tell our students is to BREATHE. The Step 2 CS is difficult, but by taking the time to relax and center yourself before each encounter, you’ll find that your mind is much clearer when you walk through the door.

Taking the time to connect with your patients is a key element in passing your Step 2 CS exam

Taking the time to connect with your patients is a key element in passing your Step 2 CS exam

Secondly, succeeding on the Step 2 CS isn’t just a matter of getting the correct diagnosis, it’s also a matter of showing that you have the ability to connect with a patient and build a relationship. This might seem like a difficult thing to do in a 15 minute encounter, but believe it or not, 15 minutes is plenty of time if you structure your conversation correctly. One of the key things that we teach our workshop students is to “invest in the beginning.” What we mean is if you take the time to invest in listening and connecting with your patient at the beginning of the encounter, you can quickly build a relationship with your patient. This will save you time later because your patient will be more willing to open up to you if you need to ask some rapid-fire questions towards the end. You can read more about this philosophy in our previous post, Do’s for the Step 2 CS Exam

Along these same lines, empathy is a necessary skill to becoming a better doctor, specifically when it comes to mastering the clinical skills portion of the exam. Knowledge is one thing, but listening and communication are what you will need to pass your Step 2 CS Exam with flying colors. It is vital for you to understand how the presenting complaint fits into the patient’s life, and to offer verbal empathy.

Finally, don’t neglect the patient note! Many students take plenty of time to study cases, as well as physical exam techniques, but much of your score on the Step 2 CS depends on your patient note. Click here to practice your note with a built in timer. It is vital to spend time practicing this component of the exam. You can read a detailed breakdown of how to improve your score on the patient note in our previous post, USMLE Step 2 Scoring for the Patient Note.

Interesting Reads and Useful Study Materials

Stay up to date on articles and literature! Here are some of our favorite sources of information about medicine and the Step 2 CS Exam:

Official website of the US Medical Licensing Exam

Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates
ECFMG partners with the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) in administering the Step 2 Clinical Skills (CS) component of USMLE, a requirement for IMGs and for graduates of U.S. and Canadian medical schools who wish to be licensed in the United States or Canada.

National Board of Medical Examiners
Founded in 1915, the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME) is an independent, not-for-profit organization that serves the public through its high- quality assessments of healthcare professionals.

KevinMD shares the stories and insight of the many who intersect with our health care system, but are rarely heard from.

Take the next step!

Our 3-day workshops will give you all the tools you need to PASS your exam! 

Our 3-day workshops will give you all the tools you need to PASS your exam! 

C3NY Step 2 CS Prep is committed to sharing knowledge and teaching clinical skills to doctors around the world. If you’re feeling nervous or unprepared, immerse yourself even further by enrolling in one of our trusted Step 2 CS 3-Day Workshop in New York City, where you’ll receive instruction from internationally known medical educator Mark H. Swartz, MD. We’ve helped students succeed on their Step 2 CS Exams for over 14 years, and we’re proud to maintain a 97% pass rate among our workshop graduates! Find out more about our workshops by visiting our Workshops page.