If you are a medical student or graduate who wants to practice medicine in the United States, you probably know how important it is to pass the USMLE Step 1 exam. The USMLE Step 1 is the first of three exams that assess your basic science knowledge and clinical skills, and it is a prerequisite for applying to residency programs in the US. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many test takers have difficulty scheduling or taking their exams within their assigned eligibility periods. That is why the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) has recently announced that they will offer eligibility period extensions for USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 CK exams until December 31, 2023. In this article, we will explain how you can request a USMLE Step 1 Extension, what documents you need, and how to apply.
An eligibility period extension (EPEx) is a one-time, contiguous three-month extension of your original eligibility period for USMLE Step 1 or Step 2 CK. For example, if your original eligibility period was January- March 2023, you can request a usmle step 1 extension to April- June 2023. However, you cannot request an extension to July-September 2023 or any other non-contiguous period. You can only request an extension of your eligibility period once for each exam registration, and only after your original eligibility period has begun. You also need to pay a $90 fee for each extension request. If you find yourself in need of additional time to prepare for your USMLE Step 1, you have the option to request a USMLE Step 1 Extension. This extension allows for a one-time, contiguous three-month prolongation of your original eligibility period, ensuring you have the necessary flexibility to achieve your best performance on this critical examination.
You are eligible for an eligibility period for USMLE Step 1 extension if you meet the following criteria:
- You are registered for USMLE Step 1 and/or Step 2 CK and cannot take the exam in the eligibility period that you are currently assigned.
- You have not already requested an extension of your eligibility period for the same exam registration.
- You request an extension of your eligibility period through ECFMG’s Interactive Web Applications (IWA) and pay the associated fee by the published deadline.
To request an eligibility period extension, you need two documents:
- A completed and signed Request to Extend a USMLE Step 1/Step 2 CK Eligibility Period (EPEx) form, which can be accessed through IWA. This form requires your personal information, exam registration details, and preferred new eligibility period.
- A verification of your student or graduate status from your medical school, which can be done electronically or by submitting a Certification Statement (Form 183-E) signed by you and a medical school official. This document confirms that you are still enrolled in or have graduated from a medical school listed in the World Directory of Medical Schools.
To apply for an eligibility period extension, you need to follow these steps:
- Log in to IWA using your USMLE/ECFMG Identification Number and password.
- Select “Request to Extend a USMLE Step 1/Step 2 CK Eligibility Period” from the list of available services.
- Select the exam(s) you want to extend the eligibility period and review your contact information.
- Read and agree to the Certification by Applicant statement and proceed to payment.
- Pay the $90 fee using a credit card or an electronic check.
- After payment, click “Continue” to inform you about how your student or graduate status will be verified with your medical school.
- If your medical school participates in the ECFMG Medical School Web Portal (EMSWP) Status Verification program, ECFMG will verify your status electronically. If not, you must print, sign, and date a Certification Statement (Form 183-E) and have it signed and dated by a medical school official. You must then mail the original Certification Statement (Form 183-E) to ECFMG at the address provided.
After you apply for an eligibility period for the USMLE Step 1 extension, you need to wait for ECFMG to process your request and confirm your new eligibility period. You can check the status of your request through IWA or by contacting ECFMG. Once your request is approved, you will receive a confirmation e-mail from ECFMG with your new SCHEDULING PERMIT. You will also receive a new eligibility record from Prometric with your new testing window. You can then schedule or reschedule your testing appointment with Prometric as soon as possible after receiving confirmation of your new eligibility period.
However, keep in mind that there may be limited availability of testing dates and locations due to high demand and COVID-19 restrictions. Therefore, it is advisable to plan and book your appointment early. If you find yourself in need of a USMLE Step 1 Extension, the process involves waiting for ECFMG to process your request and provide confirmation of the new eligibility period. Once your USMLE Step 1 Extension is approved, you’ll receive a scheduling permit and a new testing window from Prometric. This will allow you to promptly secure a testing appointment, considering potential limitations due to high demand and COVID-19 restrictions.
Preparing for USMLE Step 1 can be challenging and stressful, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, there are some tips and advice that can help you ace the exam and achieve your goals. Here are some of them:
- Review the USMLE Bulletin of Information and the ECFMG Information Booklet for important policies and procedures related to USMLE Step 1. These documents contain essential information about eligibility, registration, scheduling, testing, scoring, and reporting of USMLE Step 1.
- Use reliable and updated study resources, such as First Aid for the USMLE Step 1, to review the exam content and practice questions. First Aid for the USMLE Step 1 is a comprehensive guide that covers all the topics tested on USMLE Step 1, with high-yield facts, mnemonics, diagrams, tables, and tips. It also includes a full-colour atlas of anatomy, pathology, and microbiology, a test-taking strategy guide and a directory of online resources.
- Take practice tests and self-assessments to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses, identify your knowledge gaps, and monitor your progress. You can use the official USMLE Practice Materials, which include free sample test items and tutorials, as well as fee-based self-assessments that provide feedback on your performance and readiness for the exam. You can also use other reputable sources of practice questions, such as UWorld, Kaplan, or Differential Diagnosis, to simulate the exam format and difficulty level.
- Join a study group or an online community of USMLE Step 1 takers to share your experiences, insights, doubts, and tips with other students or graduates preparing for the exam. You can find many online forums, blogs, podcasts, and social media groups dedicated to USMLE Step 1 preparation, such as Reddit, Student Doctor Network, MedSchoolCoach, or Differential Diagnosis. You can also seek guidance from experts or mentors, such as Dr. Usama Bukhari, who can offer you personalized advice and coaching on how to ace USMLE Step 1.
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle and a positive mindset throughout your preparation. USMLE Step 1 is a demanding exam that requires a lot of time, effort, and dedication. However, you should not neglect your physical, mental, and emotional well-being while studying for it. Ensure you get enough sleep, exercise, nutrition, hydration, and relaxation. Avoid burnout, stress, anxiety, and procrastination by setting realistic goals, managing your time effectively, rewarding yourself for your achievements, and seeking support from your family and friends. Remember that USMLE Step 1 is not the end of your journey, but a stepping stone to your dream medical career.
We hope this article has helped you understand how to request a USMLE Step 1 Extension, what documents you need, and how to apply. If you have any questions or concerns about the eligibility period extension process or the USMLE Step 1 exam, Leave a comment below and we will get back to you shortly. We wish you all the best in your preparation and success in your exam!