July 4 2023
  Ahmed Umair

Are You Eligible to Take the USMLE? A Checklist


If you’re an aspiring medical professional planning to practice in the United States, you’re likely aware of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE). The USMLE is a three-step examination that assesses a physician’s ability to apply their medical knowledge, concepts, and principles in a clinical setting. It is essential for obtaining a medical license and pursuing a medical career in the United States.

Before you embark on this rigorous journey, it’s crucial to determine your eligibility to take the USMLE. The examination process is complex, and understanding the requirements and prerequisites is vital to ensure a smooth and successful application. In this article, we’ll provide you with a comprehensive checklist to help you determine if you meet the eligibility criteria for the USMLE.

What is the USMLE?

The United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) is a comprehensive examination series that assesses the knowledge, skills, and abilities of medical professionals seeking licensure to practice medicine in the United States. If you’re looking for a more detailed guide on what USMLE is and its significance, you can check out our blog post on What is USMLE?? A Detailed Guide.

USMLE Eligibility Checklist

USMLE Eligibility Checklist

Educational Requirements:

The first step in determining your eligibility for the USMLE is to ensure you meet the educational requirements. These requirements vary depending on the step of the examination you plan to take:

  • Step 1: 

To be eligible for Step 1, you must be enrolled in, or a graduate of, a medical school recognized by the World Directory of Medical Schools (WDOMS). Most medical schools in the United States and Canada meet this criterion.

  • Step 2 (Clinical Knowledge and Clinical Skills): 

To be eligible for Step 2, you must have completed the necessary coursework from a medical school recognized by WDOMS. You must also meet additional requirements set by the medical licensing authorities in the jurisdiction where you plan to practice.

  • Step 3: 

To be eligible for Step 3, you must have completed Step 1, Step 2 CK (Clinical Knowledge), and Step 2 CS (Clinical Skills).

ECFMG Certification:

ECFMG Certification:

The Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) is an organization that assesses the readiness of international medical graduates to enter U.S. residency or fellowship programs. ECFMG certification is a prerequisite for international medical graduates to take the USMLE. 

Here are the requirements for ECFMG certification:

  • Medical Education: 

You must have attended and graduated from a medical school listed in the International Medical Education Directory (IMED) or the Avicenna Directory.

  • Medical Diploma: 

You must hold a valid and unexpired medical diploma from your medical school.

  • Examination Requirements: 

You must pass the USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 CK. You must also pass the Clinical Skills Assessment (CSA) or Clinical Skills Examination (CSE) if required by the state medical licensing authority.

  • English Language Proficiency: 

You must demonstrate English proficiency by passing the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) exam.

Visa Status:

US Visa Status

If you’re an international medical graduate, it’s crucial to ensure you have the appropriate visa status to take the USMLE and pursue a medical career in the United States. The most common visa classifications for international medical graduates are:

  • J-1 Visa: 

This visa is sponsored by the ECFMG and is intended for physicians participating in an approved clinical training program in the United States.

  • H-1B Visa: 

This visa allows international medical graduates to work as physicians in the United States. It requires sponsorship by a U.S. employer and is subject to annual numerical limits.

  • O-1 Visa: 

This visa is for individuals with extraordinary ability in the sciences, including medicine. It requires evidence of extraordinary achievement in the medical field.

Financial Considerations:

Taking the USMLE involves financial implications that you should be prepared for. Here are some financial aspects to consider:

  • Examination Fees: 

The USMLE has fees associated with each step of the examination. These fees can add up, so it’s essential to budget for them accordingly.

  • Study Materials: 

Comprehensive study materials and resources are essential for preparing for the USMLE. These materials can come at a significant cost, so factor them into your budget.

  • Living Expenses: 

If you’re an international medical graduate planning to take the USMLE in the United States, you’ll need to consider the cost of living, including housing, transportation, and daily expenses.

Application Process:

Application Process

Once you’ve determined that you meet the eligibility criteria, you must understand the USMLE application process. Here are the general steps involved:

Step 1:

Create an account on the USMLE website and apply for a Step 1 eligibility period.

Step 2:

Once you’ve completed Step 1, apply for a Step 2 CK and Step 2 CS eligibility period.

Step 3:

After completing Step 1, Step 2 CK, and Step 2 CS, apply for a Step 3 eligibility period.

Familiarizing yourself with the application timeline and deadlines is essential to ensure you submit your application on time.


In conclusion, determining your eligibility for the USMLE requires careful consideration of various factors. Using this checklist as a guide, you can ensure that you meet the requirements before embarking on this crucial step in your medical career. Remember to research the specific requirements for your situation thoroughly, consult with relevant authorities, and seek guidance from professionals specializing in medical licensing to maximize your chances of success.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can I take Step 2 before completing Step 1?

No, you must complete Step 1 before attempting Step 2.

What is ECFMG certification, and do I need it?

ECFMG certification is required for international medical graduates (IMGs) to demonstrate their readiness for the USMLE.

Are there limits to how many times I can attempt each step of the USMLE?

Yes, there are maximum attempt limits for each step of the USMLE. Make sure you are aware of these limits.

How long do I have to complete all steps of the USMLE?

There are time limits for completing all steps of the USMLE. Familiarize yourself with these limits and plan accordingly.

What should I do if I have questions or need further guidance?

If you have any questions or need additional guidance, it is recommended to consult official USMLE resources or reach out to the appropriate authorities for assistance.

Is It Possible to Work as a Doctor in the USA Without USMLE?

In this article, we address common inquiries aspiring medical professionals often have. However, if you’re wondering whether it’s possible to work as a doctor in the USA without undertaking the USMLE, we have a comprehensive blog post that covers this very topic. To learn more about alternative pathways to practicing medicine in the USA and explore opportunities for international medical graduates, check out our blog post on ‘Is It Possible to Work as a Doctor in the USA Without USMLE?