Step 2 CS fail- lessons learned

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Mar 4, 2020
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Hi all,

I failed step 2 CS and found out about it towards the end of interview season. I remember being devastated and turned to the internet for resources and studentdoctor forums were one source that really helped me through that time so I wanted write a post about my experience in case someone needs it like I did at the time.

I am an AMG from a mid- to high-tier medical school. I took CS in September thinking I would definitely absolutely pass. If I am truly honest with myself, I almost took the test as a joke spending most of my time being frustrated that I even had to take it. I had done okay on OSCEs during third year but i have always been very confident in practice and have never had issues on rotations. Anyway, I remember asking some friends who had take the test who confirmed my assumption that it was basically an English language test. I became even more confident and all I did the first time around was skim through First Aid CS and then went to take the test in Los Angeles. There was no doubt in my mind that I had passed it. I went about my life. I submitted my eras application for internal medicine and got a handful of interviews and did really well on them. I only had 1 interview left, which was in December.
Late December, I woke up to an email from nbme that my score was available. I was excited to have one more thing check off of my list. You can imagine my shock when I opened the email and I saw FAIL. I had failed the ICE section by quite a large margin. I was devastated and shocked. I could not breathe. The first thing I did was start looking up online for steps on what to do next. That is when I came across some posts on here that really helped me. Below are the steps I took next:

1) Take a deep breath, cry, exercise, call your support person whatever you need to do to let it all out
2) Pull yourself together
3) REGISTER ASAP to get your permit since you need a second one (this step is really crucial especially if your timing is similar to mine) *don't worry if you don't get the next day but try to have a date within a week if possible. You will have to wait for a day or two if it is weekend to get your permit and be able to sign up for a date (this was a really difficult time because I had to just sit on my butt and watch dates disappear)
4) Email your dean as soon as you have registered. Explain what happened and the steps you have already taken to redeem the situation and how you plan on moving forward. Ask them for their advice.
5) Start your studying process. The first thing I did was to take a really honest look on my first time and how I prepared and did during the test. Reading more about the test online, I realized that I had definitely not prepared well for the test. I wrote down each section of the test and what was being tested. For me, I had failed ICE so I looked more in depth what that section entailed. I read the information section of First Aid CS and looked on NBME's website. I decided that physical exam, note-writing, and counseling were my weakest points.
6) I then did a practice patient encounter with my significant other and we together graded my performance. That is when we found more areas to improve upon.
7) I downloaded an ANKI deck for the FA CS cases that I found online and did a combination of flashcards and being quizzed on mini-cases by my SO. I did not start with patient encounters until I had developed a good differential diagnosis for several chief complaints. Once I had gone through the majority of FA mini-cases I started practicing the patient encounters with my SO (timed). I used NBME's patient note portal to practice my note-taking. I think this was really crucial in my prep.
8) I was able to sign up for a date early January, which meant that I would have to submit my rank list without having my score back. I was really afraid that my school was going to make me pull out of the match.
9) I was able to re-take the test early January, returned to rotations. I had ONE school of all the programs that I interviewed at ask me about my CS score and I told them that I had taken it and was still waiting for my score because they emailed me after my re-take. I did not have any other programs email me about it. I was really anxiously waiting all the way up to rank list submission date but I didn't hear from anyone. Next I was afraid that my school was not going to verify me for rank list submission since I had technically not met the graduation requirements yet. However, they did and I think this was a leap on faith on their part.
10) Bottom line, I submitted list and got my score exactly one week later that I had PASSED the re-take. I was ecstatic.

I hope my post will be helpful for someone who is going through this at any point. It is a really difficult situation and position to be in but know that you are not alone. For those who have not taken the test yet, please do not think this is just an English test because it is NOT and you definitely have to prepare for it, ideally with a study partner. However, know that it is not the end of the world if you fail it and that you can redeem yourself.

Let me know if you have any questions. Good luck and keep your head up. You will make it.

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I also took it for granted and failed step 2 cs. Took the exams in September at Los Angeles. I was really devastated when i got my results n saw I failed the ice part. Could not sleep, think or do anything. I rescheduled at philly, got my results today and I have pass. I personally think step 2cs is the hardest among all the steps. Step 1 n 2 ck was easy for me. Pls everyone should study for this exams because it’s getting harder every time.
Congrats on getting the pass!

I know not a lot of US students on here are doing FM, but I want to remind people who are that a lot of programs want the CS score in before ranking.

FM is one of those specialty that cares about CS. Please try to take it early so in case things go wrong you have time to retake/add more programs.

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