Mar 30, 2010
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I have spoken to a few DO's who have matched recently, Specifically at Washington & U Pitt, who only took COMLEX. I am wondering what programs you need to take USMLE for, Which ones COMLEX would work for, and possible ranges of scores needed. My general understanding is that if you are a strong applicant you can get away with just COMLEX at most programs. I would love to hear what you all have to say.

Thank you!
 

Bombesin

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I'm a DO that recently matched and I would suggest taking both exams. While it is true that more and more programs across specialties are becoming more and more adept at interpreting COMLEX scores, they are ultimately still more familiar with the USMLE. People do match with only COMLEX, but I had numerous times on the interview trail when I was thanked for also taking the USMLE. It makes their job "easier." Naturally following this was the question, "But why did you take both?" It's a benign question and I was honest. I wanted to keep more doors open. If I had changed my mind at the last second to another specialty where most programs only wanted the USMLE, I'd be prepared. In that respect, I think PM&R is ahead of the game in accepting COMLEX: I believe almost all programs will accept just that score alone. I believe this same question was answered by some of the attendings on here in a post not too long ago.

IMO, if your COMLEX scores are average to below average, definitely try to do well on the USMLE to optimize your chances. USMLE step 2 isn't necessary unless you are a masochist.

As far as score ranges: I've never liked the idea of a range. There is no top limit. Rather, think in terms of minimums, and concerning that I don't have an answer. Maybe others involved in the process can chime in. I've heard whisperings that people with <210 have matched. PM me and I'll let you know what my scores were and where I was offered interviews.

Also, keep in mind that boards aren't everything, although they feel like they are. I was always told that PM&R places more emphasis on you as a person than you as a score. I never believed it until I began interviewing and academics rarely came up.

In short, take both. I don't know if you've taken it already, but the COMLEX is a crap test. In fact, I actually enjoyed taking the USMLE after that nonsense (maybe I'm the one that's a masochist?).
 

OMMFan

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Another recently matched soon-to-be-DO here. I agree with Bombesin, too.

One interviewer asked me why I took both exams. I told him I approached the USMLE Step 1 as another opportunity to do well on a board exam. I don't mind taking exams and figured two shots is better than one.

I also wanted to give program directors a way to directly compare my scores to those of my allopathic counterparts. I questioned whether all PDs would be able to effectively do so with just my COMLEX score, especially since the exams are different and even the 2-digit scores are not directly comparable.

Keep in mind most of the board study materials are geared toward the USMLE. Add in some OMT study and you're ready to take both exams.

You might not want to take USMLE Step 1 in addition to the COMLEX if:

1) Your QBank and practice exams indicate that you will fail or just not do very well. Your score should not be a complete surprise to you. You must report your score through ERAS when you apply for residency.

2) Your financial situation is so dire that you can't shell out another $500 for the exam. Even this reason is shaky. I wouldn't advocate that you forgo healthy food or sell your body to take the exam, but I would recommend taking an extra loan to make it happen.

I know several folks who have gotten into great programs over the years with just COMLEX scores, solid applications & standout personal qualities. On the other hand, you very well may decide to pursue a less COMLEX-friendly specialty or PM&R program. In that case, it might be nice to have the more commonly seen USMLE score on your application.
 
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DOctorJay

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Agree with the above. I took both sets for Step 1 and 2, finished up with Part 3 COMLEX only. This is not a process you want to have any lingering "what ifs" afterward.
 

oreosandsake

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Agree with the above. I took both sets for Step 1 and 2, finished up with Part 3 COMLEX only. This is not a process you want to have any lingering "what ifs" afterward.

now that the OP's question has been resolved (and not to threadjack but to pose a Q along similar lines)

how important are step 3/comlex level 3 scores for fellowship after pm&r?

just wondering how hard I should be studying for this exam (comlex 3) during internship... :rolleyes:
 
Mar 30, 2010
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Thanks everyone for your answers. I have just been concerned that doing worse on the USMLE would make me look worse. If i don't get greater then 230 or so does it make me look bad as an applicant even if I do well on COMLEX? Is doing well on COMLEX and passing a USMLE a bad thing? I am weak in Biochem/micro and that is what worries me about the USMLE.

Thanks again for your help!
 

specepic

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Well, since everyone is in agreement above I'll weigh in for balance sake.

I do not see a sufficient need to take the USMLE for PM&R and would argue it amounts to a gamble. You could win, you could also lose. I would argue that the odds of losing are higher. Some valid points are made above but before a bunch of med students start marching off to sign up for the USMLE I would ask them to consider:

1) You do very well on the COMLEX, then you have a bad day on the USMLE. You are out $ and you just hurt your application. Not good.

2) You do marginal on the COMLEX and then fail the USMLE. Not good.

3) You do average on the COMLEX and average on the USMLE, what did you gain?

4) What are the chances of doing ok on the COMLEX and then rocking the USMLE.....(yes I'm sure someone will poist their success story here but I would doubt this is common)


I had some frank discussions with several PDs on the trail, everyone I spoke to told me COMLEX was fine. I would submit that their job is to know what COMLEX scores mean and PM&R is arguably one of the most D.O. friendly specialities out there, if not the most. I also wonder how much, by taking the USMLE, you are saying "I have an inferiority complex"

My 0.02
 

oreosandsake

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I guess the assumption is that you will do "well" on the comlex, and at least around average on the usmle step 1.

I know someone that scored slightly above average on comlex 1. I forget if he took/passed usmle 1, but he did take usmle 2 - Twice.

He originally received an interview from his top choice program, (a top tier pm&r program), but once they got wind that he failed the usmle 2, they rescinded the interview.

He kicked himself for taking the exam, and creating a presumed large red flag on his application, in the middle of prime interview season.

this field is not as caught up with those metrics as others, but I assume that programs want to know that you will not have difficulty passing your specialty boards at the end of your training.

I would say to you what should be the obvious - study hard, start studying early, do as well as you can.