What is your Step 1 score?

You might be surprised that an interviewer is asking about your Step 1 score in an interview. All interviewers should have your score right in front of them on your CV. Still, this question gets asked.

This segment is divided into broad classifications to give you advice tailored to you own numbers.

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Low Scorers

If your Step 1 score is lower than you would like it to be, hopefully you have bolstered your CV in other ways to make up for this. When specifically asked your score, state it, but don’t let your answer end there. State the score, and then have a well developed explanation that cites your score as a notable exception to who you are as a residency applicant. Lines that you can use to start this conversation:

  • “Yes, I did not do well on Step 1, but Step 2 CK is a better indication of my academic capabilities and performance.”
  • “Step 1 was not my greatest strength. However, I was very involved with research pursuits. My productivity demonstrates my dedication and determination.”
  • “I did not do my best on Step 1. However, I worked extremely hard on my clinical rotations and received honors on my core clerkships.”

Address the deficiency in your CV, but push the discussion towards why interviewers should over look your Step 1 score.

Average Scorers

This is assuredly the largest group of applicants. Depending on the specialty that you choose, there may be less pressure to differentiate yourself from your peers in order to match. That being said, the top programs in every specialty are looking at the best of the best applicants. If you find yourself in this score cohort and have desires for a match at a top ranked program, be sure to use this as an opportunity to highlight the other aspects of your CV that might distinguish you more so than your board scores.

For students that saw a rise in their Step 2 CK score from their Step 1 score, be sure to highlight this. Carve out a story that addresses your weaker areas and demonstrates that you have learned from those experiences to propel future success.

High Scorers

Here you don’t have much explaining to do. Let your score speak for itself. It represents hard work, preparation, and execution. State your score humbly, and be prepared for potential follow up questions. An example of a followup question could be, “What did you do to perform so well?”

You want to use your answer as an opportunity to speak about your work ethic, grit, and preparation. Pivot the conversation and leverage your performance on the exam to script a narrative that you bring focus and dedication to every task that you do.

Back to more interview questions and structured responses.

Carter J. Boyd, MD, MBA
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