USMLE Board Exams Policy


This policy outlines the requirements for student completion of USMLE exams.


COVID-19 Update

Original board exam deadlines will be adjusted based on when Prometric sites reopen

The United States Medical Licensing Examination ® (USMLE®) is a three-step examination for medical licensure in the United States that assesses a physician's ability to apply knowledge, concepts, and principles, and to demonstrate fundamental patient-centered skills, that are important in health and disease and that constitute the basis of safe and effective patient care. UCSF School of Medicine requires students to pass two USMLE exams (Step 1 and Step 2 CK ) in order to graduate.

Related LCME Standards

9.9: Student Advancement and Appeal


1. Students must pass Step 1 and Step 2 licensing examinations to be eligible for graduation and to begin residency.

2. Students should take licensing examinations early enough for scores to be returned, and if necessary, to retake an examination, prior to matching and graduating. 

3. Requirements to pass licensing examinations may be waived/altered at the discretion of the Committee on Curriculum and Educational Policy (CCEP) if national public health emergencies or other crises impact the national board’s ability to administer licensing examinations. Any change will follow the Liaison Committee of Medical Education’s accreditation requirements. 


Step 1 

  1. All students should take Step 1 of the US Medical Licensing Examination by the completion of the USMLE Step 1 Licensing Exam block and before beginning Career Launch or taking an extended curriculum or leave of absence.
  2. Students may proceed to Career Launch as soon as they have taken Step 1. However, a student who fails Step 1 cannot continue on through their planned Career Launch schedule.
  3. A student will be permitted to re-enter Career Launch after having taken Step 1 for a second time; depending on the situation, the student may be able to re-enter Career Launch with their class or will need to extend and re-enter Career Launch with the next class.
  4. All students taking Step 1 for the first time should be enrolled in the UCSF School of Medicine, not on leave of absence, at the time they take the exam.
  5. The School permits two attempts on Step 1, and a third attempt may be allowed in special circumstances, with approval by the Vice Dean for Education (or designee).
  6. Students studying for a third attempt must take a leave of absence from school in order to have sufficient time to implement a structured approach for preparation.
  7. Students attempting to pass Step 1 for a third time may not re-enter Career Launch until notification of a passing score has been received.
  8. Students who fail Step 1 on all three attempts will be subject to dismissal from the School of Medicine.

Step 2 CK 

  • Students are encouraged to take Step 2 CK as soon as possible after completing Foundations 2.
  • Students planning to graduate in Spring quarter must take Step 2 CK no later than November 30 of their fourth year. Students do not need to be currently enrolled in the School of Medicine at the time they take Step 2 CK.
  • Students intending to participate in that year’s residency match must demonstrate passage of the Step 2CK exams by the date the school must certify their match participation with NRMP (usually the third week of February).
  • Students who do not intend to participate in that year’s residency match must demonstrate passage of the Step 2 CK exams by the end of the quarter prior to the quarter they plan to graduate.
  • Any student who has not passed by this deadline will go on LOA until they demonstrate passage of Step 2.
  • After demonstrating passage of Step 2 CK, the student will enroll in the subsequent quarter in order to meet curriculum requirements and/or the requirement of enrollment during the term of graduation.

*Deadlines for taking Step 2 CK are determined each year based on the USMLE Step 2 reporting schedule and are subject to change. Please pay close attention to communications directly from the NBME [also available on the NBME's website] and from UCSF School of Medicine for updates regarding the most current information.


  1. Any student who does not schedule a licensing examination by the School deadline must meet with the Associate Dean for Curriculum.
  2. Exceptions to any elements of the policy above require approval of the Associate Dean for Curriculum.

Accountable Dean or Director: Associate Dean for Curriculum

    Approval Date and Governing Body: February 2, 2021, Committee on Curriculum and Educational Policy