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West J Emerg Med. 2017 Apr;18(3):544-549. doi: 10.5811/westjem.2016.12.32478. Epub 2017 Feb 7.

USMLE Scores Predict Success in ABEM Initial Certification: A Multicenter Study.

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Henry Ford Hospital, Department of Emergency Medicine, Detroit, Michigan.
Henry Ford Hospital, Department of Emergency Medicine and Internal Medicine, Detroit, Michigan.
MedStar Georgetown University Hospital/MedStar Washington Hospital Center, Department of Emergency Medicine, Washington, DC.



There are no existing data on whether performance on the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) predicts success in American Board of Emergency Medicine (ABEM) certification. The aim of this study was to determine the presence of any association between USMLE scores and first-time success on the ABEM qualifying and oral certification examinations.


We retrospectively collected USMLE Step 1, Step 2 Clinical Knowledge (CK) scores and pass/fail results from the first attempt at ABEM qualifying and oral examinations from residents graduating between 2009 and 2011 from nine EM programs. A composite score was defined as the sum of USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 CK scores.


Sample was composed of 197 residents. Median Step 1, Step 2 CK and composite scores were 218 ([IQR] 207-232), 228 (IQR 217-239) and 444 (IQR 427-468). First-time pass rates were 95% for the qualifying examination and 93% for both parts of the examination. Step 2 CK and composite scores were better predictors of achieving ABEM initial certification compared to Step 1 score (area under the curve 0.800, 0.759 and 0.656). Step 1 score of 227, Step 2 CK score of 225 and composite score of 444 predicted a 95% chance of passing both boards.


Higher USMLE Step 1, Step 2 CK and composite scores are associated with better performance on ABEM examinations, with Step 2 CK being the strongest predictor. Cutoff scores for USMLE Step 1, Step 2 CK and composite score were established to predict first-time success on ABEM initial certification.

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Conflict of interest statement

Conflicts of Interest: By the WestJEM article submission agreement, all authors are required to disclose all affiliations, funding sources and financial or management relationships that could be perceived as potential sources of bias. The authors disclosed none.

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