How exactly is Step 1 scored?

Discussion in 'Medical Students - MD' started by daveshnave, Sep 17, 2001.

  1. daveshnave

    daveshnave Senior Member
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    More specifically, how do they set the bar for passing? (Isn't it 180 that's passing?... I don't know too much about it)
    I always thought it was a bell curve distribution, like the MCAT, but that can't be right because the passing rate nationwide tends to vary from year to year, although as I understand it's generally around 92-93%. If it was a bell curve, this percentage passing would be a fixed number (like how an 8 on the MCAT is approximately the mean)... so how is a passing score determined???
     
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  3. turtleboard

    turtleboard SDN Advisor
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    The Step 1 is a standardized, competitive examination and as such it's graded like any standardized, competitive examination -- on a bell curve. Passing is set for US Medical Students (MD & DO) at 182 (75). Passing for International Medical Students/Graduates is a higher. The published passing rate of approximately 92% for first-time takers of the Step 1 is for US M.D. (Allopathic) medical students only. The passing rate for US D.O. (Osteopathic) medical students is around 80% and that for International Medical Students/Graduates is still lower.

    So it is graded on a bell curve when you work out all the numbers and factor in all those who sit for the exam. Remember, the US M.D. is not the only kind of physician out there. :)
     
  4. daveshnave

    daveshnave Senior Member
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    So you're saying that the OVERALL (ie. everyone taking the exam) pass rate IS an exact percentage, but if you break it down into groups (ie. MD, DO, IMG, etc...) that's what I keep hearing as varying national pass rates?

    Also, how do they do this since anyone can take it on any day? They don't necessarily wait for everybody planning to take Step 1 that year to finish taking it before they release scores do they? Since it's a bell-curve distribution it seems like they would have to, but I thought that it usually takes the same amount of time to get your scores, regardless of when you take it. How does this work? Have I just heard misinformation?
     
  5. turtleboard

    turtleboard SDN Advisor
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    Yes. The "varying" national pass rates you hear are based on a subset of the entire group of test-takers.

    How they do this is not published, but there are several mathematically-acceptable ways of determining the curve. In any event, the MCAT is also scored in a similar fashion. While it is still a paper examination, there are two test dates (one in April and the other in August). The score you receive on the MCAT is based on a curve which takes into account all 60,000 students who take the examination every year -- not just those who took it on the same day.

    With the MCAT, however, we know a little more on how they score and perhaps this is the same system employed by the USMLE. Each administration of the MCAT has a variety of forms, e.g., "AC," "CD," "EF," which attempts to break up the students into smaller chunks for the purposes of more proper and accurate sampling and for testing questions for future administrations. Within these subsets students are scored against each other, but that doesn't take you out of the competition on the national level. Your score is still looked at relative to all those who took the examination on the two dates.
     
  6. dwstranger

    dwstranger Senior Member
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    Tim,

    You said passing for international students/grads is higher. I just took Step 1 in July, and my PASS was still 181 (BTW, did much better than just passing - on the first try) ... I have heard, though, that they do subject us to a "higher standard," in other words, even though 181 is still passing, they curve the US students' results and don't curve ours. That's what one of the Kaplan teachers said, anyway.
     
  7. turtleboard

    turtleboard SDN Advisor
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    dw,

    Sorry for the bit of mininformation. It seems, as far as I can tell, that the pasing score for International Medical Students/Graduates is also 182 (75), the same for US M.D. medical students.

    As for the IMG's exam not being curved that doesn't make much sense considering it's a competitive examination. Now if the IMG's exam was graded on the US M.D. curve, just like the D.O.s are undoubtedly, that makes much more sense.
     
  8. Winged Scapula

    Winged Scapula Cougariffic!
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    Just to clarify...

    A passing score is the SAME for ALL takers: US MD, DO, IMG, etc.

    The curve is NOT based on the taker's status but rather the group with whom the tester takes the exam. Thus, since most US MDs take Step 1 in the late spring after 2nd year, anyone who takes the exam at that time will be compared to them and their percentile will reflect that comparison. IMGs and/or others who take the test at different times during the year will be compared to those testing at the same time - they may fair better or worse.

    I think the concept that IMGs are scored "harder" is due not to an actual scoring procedure but the impression that a score of say, xxx for an IMG is NOT as highly regarded as the identical score for a US MD. IMGs typically are held to higher standards for these exams than are US grads.

    Hope this helps.
     
  9. daveshnave

    daveshnave Senior Member
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    Thanks all for clarifying... I really appreciate it. :)
     

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