A change in radiology residency grades is likely on the horizon as the USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Examination) step 1 transitions from a numeric grade to pass / fail.

In a poster presented during the ARRS 2021 virtual annual meeting, Rebecca Zhang, a medical student at the University of Maryland Medical School, stated that the directors of the radiology residency program will most likely begin to focus on the results of USMLE Step 2 Clinical Knowledge (CK) as to be abandoned These results are considered an objective and standardized measure for the screening of applicants.

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However, the point in time when these results will be needed remains questionable.

“Program Directors are unsure whether they need CK results for Step 2 at the time of application or before interviewing the applicant,” she said.

Zhang’s team conducted a 14-point anonymous, voluntary electronic survey of 308 active members of the Association of Program Directors in Radiology to determine the importance and potential impact of this pivot on pass / fail. They also performed a secondary analysis that compared the answers based on the current assessment screen for Step 1.

Of these surveys, 29 percent responded, and 64 percent said that an applicant’s CK score in Step 2 is likely to be one of the top three factors in evaluating applicants. The number of points was followed by the class ranking (51 percent) and the performance assessment of the medical students or the dean’s letter (37 percent).

Additionally, 90 percent of respondents predicted that their programs might or will require the results of Step 2 before considering the application. Fifty percent believe that the results will be required after the interview invitations are renewed.

More research could potentially help identify other objective metrics for more holistic assessments, said Zhang’s team.

“These results did not differ significantly between programs that currently use an assessment screen for Step 1 and those that do not,” they said.

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