7+ Year Member
Oct 2, 2011
Medical Student
I know this question has been asked before, but I was wondering more specifically for specialties such as surgery, anesthesia, and emergency medicine. It's so hard because one person will say that every DO HPSP student should take the USMLE, and then the next guy says it's a waste of time and money. I've even heard that Kelly Adams said the USMLE can only hurt a DO student. So my question is, if I'm interested in the three specialties listed above, is it absolutely necessary that I take the USMLE or would I be just fine without it?


PM&R resident
10+ Year Member
Aug 22, 2005
If there is a remote chance that you will apply civilian one day...take the USMLE. If not...you will be fine with COMLEX.

My wife took USMLE 1-2 with her COMLEX 1-2, and did SIGNIFICANTLY better on her COMLEX without the USMLE. More time to focus on one exam...and taking two exams is expensive and exhausting.


It's a gas.
10+ Year Member
Apr 23, 2006
Resident [Any Field]
Coming out of the lounge woodwork, as someone who scored poorly on USMLE, I wish I hadn't taken it. I would only advise taking it if you are confident that you can score well on it. Otherwise, focus on the one test that you DO have to take (see what I did there? :p).

River Rat

Senior Member
15+ Year Member
May 31, 2004
Took the USMLE despite everyone saying "the military doesn't care about the COMLEX vs USMLE distinction" as a DO. This is fine if you're coming from the 'military career' perspective because the military is extremely good about treating DO's virtually identically. I'm glad I did because it's one less thing to worry about my life post-GMO compared to some of my classmates who only took the COMLEX as AF HPSP and will not have as many opportunities as I do. To echo a previous post, if there is a chance that you may go civilian in the future for residency training, you need to take the USMLE. If you are fine with the alternative, which is the likely chance you'll go the flight surgery route, then do military residency training to extend your service commitment, then COMLEX only is fine.

As someone who took both, it's the same material that you're studying, you're just taking a different, crappier, test a second time. I would say study for the USMLE and try to do well on it, if you do, no one will care about your COMLEX score, provided you pass.
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