Perceptions of USMLE Step 1 Pass/Fail Score Reporting Among Orthopedic Surgery Residency Program Directors

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Orthopedics. 2021 Dec 2:1-5. doi: 10.3928/01477447-20211124-08. Online ahead of print.


The United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 1 examination will transition from graded to pass/fail scoring starting no earlier than January 2022. Orthopedic surgery residency programs will need to adapt to these changes. The goal of this study was to investigate the perceptions of orthopedic surgery residency program directors on the change of Step 1 from a graded to a pass/fail examination. We also investigated how the change would affect the other factors that are typically considered in the selection of orthopedic surgery residents. A survey was distributed to 161 directors of allopathic orthopedic surgery programs. Contact information was obtained from a national database. Of those contacted, 75 (46.6%) program directors responded. Most (85.3%) did not support the pass/fail change. Most believe that greater importance will be placed on the Step 2 Clinical Knowledge examination (96.0%), audition elective with their department (84.0%), personal knowledge of the applicant (78.7%), grades (74.7%), letters of recommendation from recognizable orthopedic surgeons (74.7%), and Alpha Omega Alpha status (69.3%). Most also believe that this change will advantage allopathic students who attend highly regarded schools (58.7%). Most of the program directors support a graded preclinical curriculum (69.3%) and caps on the number of orthopedic surgery residency applications (70.7%). Although most orthopedic surgery program directors disagree with the change to a pass/fail Step 1 examination, residency programs will need to reevaluate how they screen applicants for an interview once the scored Step 1 is no longer available. With this change, other factors, such as Step 2 score, audition rotations, and grades in clerkships, will be emphasized more heavily. [Orthopedics. 202x;4x(x):xx-xx.].

PMID:34846244 | DOI:10.3928/01477447-20211124-08