Taking the Test: USMLE® Step 1 Exam Dates in 2021

Sophie Moran - Nov 26, 2020

Update: The USMLE®  Step 1 exam switches to a Pass/Fail exam as of January 26, 2022. This means you are no longer dependent on the previous three-digit score. You can learn more about how to study for the new Step 1 exam from Dr. Ryan Colaço here. Read the official USMLE announcement here.

It’s that time of the year when the thoughts and attention of thousands of medical students turn towards taking the USMLE® Step 1 exam. Aside from finding the best resources, creating a study plan, and trying to memorize the vast amount of information required for Step 1, there are some smaller practical steps that students need to think about, too. These include researching their eligibility, registering for the exam, and choosing an exam date, amongst others. 

To help you parse through it all, we’ve put together a handy guide based on the USMLE instructions

When can I take the USMLE Step 1 exam? 

Most students take the Step 1 exam between their second and third years in medical school. However, students who follow an untraditional curriculum typically take the test after they take their NBME® Shelf exams. It’s also possible to take Step 2 CK before Step 1, but this happens less often. 

Who is eligible to take Step 1? 

  • US & Canada MDs: Students officially enrolled in, or a graduate of, an LCME accredited medical school in the US or Canada who will receive an MD degree are eligible to take the Step 1 exam. 
  • US DOs: Students officially enrolled in, or a graduate of, a COCA accredited medical school in the US who will receive a DO degree are eligible to take the Step 1 exam. 
  • IMGs: Students officially enrolled in, or a graduate of, a medical school outside the US and Canada that is listed in the World Directory of Medical Schools and meets ECFMG eligibility requirements are eligible to take the Step 1 exam. 

Where do I register for Step 1?

Eligible applicants from US or Canadian schools can apply through the NBME application website. To get started, you must register as a first-time user. Once this is done, you’ll receive your USMLE ID by email. This is the ID you’ll use to register for future USMLE exams. 

You can then apply for the USMLE, select a new application, and choose your testing period.  Following your application, the NBME will email you with your scheduling permit and the period in which you can sit the exam. You can then schedule your test date through the Prometric website.

How far in advance can I schedule my Step 1 exam? 

You can schedule your Step 1 exam through the Prometric website as far as six months in advance.

How much does it cost? 

The cost of registration is $645 (for students taking Step 1 in the US) which can be paid with a credit card. The application fee is nonrefundable. If for some reason you don’t sit the exam within your eligibility period, you’ll have to reapply with a new application and fee. However, this does not apply to exams cancelled or rescheduled because of COVID-19. Which brings us to the next point.

Will my exam be affected by COVID-19? 

As the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to develop, it’s important to keep an eye on the latest updates on the Prometric website. There you’ll find any developments that may impact when and where you’ll sit the exam. 

With that said, more than 90% of the Prometric global test centers have resumed testing in accordance with local and governmental mandates. If your exam is canceled or rescheduled as a result of the pandemic or certain other unforeseen events, you’ll be able to reschedule your exam for free. For students with a registered exam canceled or delayed, eligibility periods have been extended. Students whose exam appointments are canceled because of COVID-19 will receive an email informing them of the cancelation and instructions on how to reschedule. 

Prometric has implemented a number of social distancing strategies to keep test-takers and staff safe during the exam. They are reminding students to wash their hands frequently, wear a mask in the test center at all times, and avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth. 

When will I get my results? 

According to the USMLE, results for Step 1 are usually available within three to four weeks after the test date. However, it’s possible that it may take longer than this. If there is a delay for some reason, the USMLE states you should wait at least eight weeks before inquiring about your score. 

Once your score report becomes available, you’ll be notified by email and can follow the online instructions to access it. 

Preparing for Step 1 

While there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to studying for Step 1, there are a few key points that will apply to almost all students. Firstly, remember that it’s a marathon, not a sprint. It’s important to build up your knowledge base steadily and consistently up until test day. 

With that in mind, be sure to make the most of your dedicated study time if your university offers it. You can use this time to pass through Qbanks such as AMBOSS to enhance your learning and practice your test-taking skills (the AMBOSS Exam Mode feature that replicates NBME exam-day conditions is particularly useful for this). 





To get more detailed insights into taking the Step 1 exam, check out the webinar with AMBOSS Chief Editor and physician, Zebulon Tolman.