Opinion: Cheers and jeers as med school’s Step 1 test becomes pass/fail

Medical students around the country cheered and jeered this week’s announcement that the results of a much-feared compulsory exam known as Step 1 would cease to be reported with a three-digit score but would instead become pass/fail as early as 2022.

The announcement by the sponsors of the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) said the change was made in part to “address concerns about Step 1 scores impacting student well-being and medical education.”

Students usually take the seven-hour exam after the second year of medical school. It is the first in a series of three exams that doctors-to-be must pass to become licensed physicians in the U.S. Initially designed to gauge how well a medical student can apply scientific concepts to the practice of medicine, in recent years the scores were used by some residency programs to screen potential candidates.

Opinions are divided on reporting scores: Some think it makes sense and moving to pass/fail would be “root rot.” Others point out how striving for scores induced egregious stress and has changed how medicine is being taught.

Social media platforms lit up with the news. Within hours, submissions for First Opinion had begun arriving. Here are excerpts from four of them:

This could reinforce the hierarchy among

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