Do you need a USMLE Step 2 CK prep course? How do you know which one is right for you? A good USMLE Step 2 CK score can help you get into the most competitive residency programs. This means that you want to do everything you can to ace it. Some students can get by with a rigorous study schedule, but most students need guidance and expert feedback to get their dream scores. This article will help you decide if you need a prep course and find the ideal one for you.

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Why is USMLE Step 2 CK Challenging? Do You Need a USMLE Step 2 CK Prep Course? How to choose the right USMLE Step 2 CK prep course? Steps to Take Before Signing Up For USMLE Step 2 CK Prep Course Conclusion FAQs

Why is USMLE Step 2 CK Challenging? 

1. The amount of material

The United States Medical Licensing Examination Step 2 Clinical Knowledge (USMLE Step 2 CK) is a comprehensive exam that tests everything you learned over the last three years of medical school, including courses and rotations. So, the volume of material you need to know and review is overwhelming. This exam is designed to test your ability to apply medical knowledge and your understanding of the clinical science you will need during residency with practice and hypothetical cases. In other words, it aims to see if you have the skills and knowledge required to provide patient care under supervision. It will include questions designed to evaluate your theoretical knowledge, with sections focusing on individual organ systems and other sections about concepts spanning organ systems. The other questions aim to evaluate your practical knowledge. Those will ask about ethics, legality, patient care, patient safety, professionalism, and systems-based practice. We highly recommend looking at the USMLE content outline before you start studying. Although not every topic mentioned on the outline will come up in every exam form, it will give you a better idea of what to expect.

2. The test format

The USMLE Step 2 CK evaluates your theoretical and practical knowledge using a variety of test formats- including single multiple-choice questions, a sequential set of multiple-choice questions, scientific abstracts, and questions with audio or video findings. The total number of questions for the Step 2 CK can vary, but it will not exceed 318, with each section having a maximum of 40 questions each. The exam takes place in one day, over nine hours, but is divided into eight sixty-minute blocks with a forty-five-minute break.

Want to learn more about USMLE Step 2 CK? This infograpghic should help:

3. The pressure 

In addition to being challenging, the USMLE Step 2 CK is quite important. Your score influences whether you will be interviewed and accepted to your top-choice residencies. In fact, program directors rank it as #3 in their list of items that influence their decision of whom to interview. In other words, you want to make sure that you get the best score possible.  

Do You Need a USMLE Step 2 CK Prep Course?

That depends on you. Experience has shown us that no two students are the same, and therefore, what they need to get the best score possible varies greatly. So, we can’t answer this question for you, but we can give you some guidelines to help you come to a decision. As with most exams, preparation is the key to success, so you want to make sure you use the best strategies to prepare. To figure out if that includes a prep course for you, consider the following factors:  

How did you do on USMLE Step 1? 

It’s important to consider how well you did on USMLE Step 1, as this is essentially a continuation of that exam. Think about how you prepared for Step 1 and how well you did. For instance, if you studied with a prep course and did well, you might consider doing the same thing this time around. If you studied by yourself and feel like your score could have been better, you could decide to use a prep course this time. 

Your baseline

If you have not taken a practice test yet, it is time to do so. The aim here is to find out where your strengths are and what you need to work on. The USMLE website has a series of USMLE practice tests that you can use. These are old test forms, so they reflect the exam pretty accurately and help you predict your scores. Consider how well you did on this initial test and the questions you struggled to answer. If you feel like you are close to your dream score and a little studying will get you there, you might not need a prep course. However, if you feel that your score can be much higher, you should seriously consider investing in a USMLE Step 2 CK prep course. 

Make sure you pay close attention to the material that you find challenging and be honest with yourself. Is it something you can learn by yourself, or do you need help? Are there specific concepts that you’ve tried to review but you still have difficulty with? All of these questions will help you figure out the prep course that actually works for you.  

Your budget 

Becoming a doctor is expensive. Every part of the process requires money, including preparing and applying for residency. The fees for ERAS Residency Applications vary depending on how many residency programs you apply to, per specialty. Try to find out how much your residency application will cost you. Ask yourself if a prep course will ultimately be helpful to you. Consider your other expenses and ask yourself if you can afford to spend a bit more money on your education. Think about the benefit-cost ratio. Will getting the highest score on your test help you get into the program you dream of? Then perhaps joining a prep course is a good investment into your future. 

Wondering how many residency programs you should be applying to? Take a look at this:

Your schedule  

Prep courses can save you a lot of time, but they also require time. On the one hand, if you enroll in the right USMLE Step 2 CK prep course, then you won’t have to spend time researching practice tests, gathering content, and planning other aspects of your exam preparation. The experienced course administrators would do these things. On the other hand, depending on the course, you might also have to shift things around in your schedule to accommodate the location of the prep course or the pre-established class schedule. 

The fourth year of medical school is typically very busy. You will probably be dealing with electives, rotations and preparing your residency applications. You will need to consider what your current schedule looks like to see if you would benefit from someone else handling the logistics of the prep planning and then look for a prep course that fits within your schedule. We suggest looking for a course that is offered online or one where the instructor accommodates your schedule, rather than vice versa. The aim is for the prep course to make things easier for you, not the other way around. 

Your preferred study method

It would help if you also thought about how you learn best. As previously mentioned, no two students are alike. Consider the following things:

How to choose the right USMLE Step 2 CK prep course?

Ultimately, if you decide to enroll in a course, you need to make sure that it will actually be helpful to you. Of course, different students have different needs, but certain key components make a course effective. Here are the things that we've found a good USMLE Step 2 CK course needs: 

Reliable course administrators

The first thing you want to be sure of is the provenance of the prep course in question. Your USMLE scores play a huge role in determining where you will end up for your residency, so you don't want to leave anything to chance. You should look into the company or instructor that offers the prep courses you are considering. You need to know if they are reliable, have good independent reviews, have experience helping students, and if the instructors that will be teaching you are qualified to do so. Don't be afraid to call the program and ask about anything you're unsure of. You will be spending your hard-earned money on this prep course in exchange for help preparing for one of the most important exams of your life. You should make sure you are making the right choice!  

Personalized feedback

Another important aspect of a good prep course is personalized feedback. You want to make sure that the prep course instructor can give you feedback specific to your strengths and drawbacks, not general knowledge, or class averages. You want to select a UMSLE Step 2 CK prep course with instructors that will focus on you and your work. How can you really personally improve if you do not receive feedback from your teacher? Look for courses that guarantee that you will receive the instructor’s undivided attention. Which leads us to the next important quality of a prep course…    

One on one instructions  

We know that these aren't everyone's favorites, but one-on-one sessions are important. Having some time with your instructor gives them the chance to provide you with personalized feedback, but it also allows them to identify which learning strategies and tactics work better for you. It also gives you the chance to address things that aren't working and find ways to overcome these obstacles together. For example, if you have trouble understanding something, you can easily ask the instructor to go over it again in a one-on-one session. Classroom learning can be valuable, but when it comes to USMLE Step 2 CK prep course, you want to make sure that your needs are attended to, not just general challenges commonly faced by most students.  

Homework and practice tests

The whole point of the prep course is to get you ready for the exam that you will be taking by yourself. Therefore, it's important that the prep course you select allows you to apply what you will be learning. Assigning homework and practice tests is the best way to do that. It will give you and the instructor a chance to evaluate your progress and see what areas, sections, or subjects you are struggling with so that they can help you improve.   

Interested in a video on USMLE Step 2 CK? Check this out:

Steps to Take Before Signing Up For USMLE Step 2 CK Prep Course

The things outlined above are general guidelines for what a good prep course should have, but of course, you need to consider all the factors that are relevant to your situation. If after your diagnostic and some reflection you decide that you need a prep course, follow these steps:

Tip: Look for a free initial consultation. Good programs typically have these free initial strategy discussions because it allows them to go over how they can help you, and it will enable you to see if they are a good fit.          


Whether or not you need a USMLE Step 2 prep course, and which one is right for you is a decision that only you can make. The USMLE Step 2 CK is one of the most challenging exams that you will write, and it will affect your chances of matching residency. Acing the exam is possible but doing so requires the right strategies and hours of studying. The right prep course can help make this process more efficient for you. Start by taking a diagnostic test to establish a baseline and follow our guidelines to determine if you could benefit from a prep course and, if yes, which one would be right for you. 


1. How long is the USMLE Step 2 CK ?

It is a nine-hour-long examination divided into eight 60-minute blocks with a 45-minute break and a 15-minute optional tutorial. The number of questions in each section will vary but will not exceed 40, and the total number of questions on the exam will not exceed 318.

2. What kinds of questions can I expect?

You should expect several single multiple-choice questions, a sequential set of multiple-choice questions, items with audio or video findings, and scientific abstracts. The total number of questions will vary, but it won’t exceed 318. Keep an eye on the USMLE page for any updates or changes in format. 

3. If I don’t need a prep course, where can I find resources to help me study?

The USMLE page has a lot of great resources that you can use. Many students also find invaluable materials and practice tests on UWorld.

4. When should I start prepping for USMLE Step 2 CK?

Most students need 4 to 6 months to prepare, but the earlier you start, the better! This is one of the most challenging exams you will take, so give yourself enough time to prepare. Take practice tests, study, and enroll in a prep course if you need to. 

5. When should I take USMLE Step 2 CK?

Most students take it during their fourth year of medical school. 

6. How much does a USMLE Step 2 CK prep course cost?

There are a variety of different prep courses for all kinds of prices. It can be as low as 400 USD to a few thousand dollars. It all depends on what kind of prep course you need. Make sure you thoroughly research the programs you are interested in and consider the value you will be getting for your money.

7. What is a good score for USMLE Step 2 CK?

A good score is the highest one that you can get. The current minimum passing score is 209 but you want to aim higher than that. The better your score, the more impressive your residency CV will be, and subsequently, the higher your chances of getting into a competitive residency program. 

8. What should I look for in a USMLE Step 2 CK prep course?

If you opt to register for a prep course, make sure it is from a reliable source, one that assigns homework, includes practice tests, one-on-one instructions, and personalized feedback. Make sure that it also fits into your schedule and that it gives you the best value for your money.

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting

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