How Becoming a Doctor Works

The Boards

At the end of 2nd year all medical students take the first part of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE-1), administered by the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME). The purpose of the NBME is to prepare and administer a test that states feel confident in using to determine medical competency when deciding to issue a license to practice medicine. There is no national license to practice medicine. Each state has its own rules and issues its own license.

The USMLE is a three-part exam:

  • Part 1 is taken in the 2nd year of medical school and tests your knowledge in the basic medical sciences.
  • Part 2 is taken in the 4th year of medical school and tests whether you can apply your medical knowledge in providing patient care under supervision.
  • Part 3 is taken in the first year of residency (internship) and tests your ability to apply your medical knowledge in providing unsupervised medical care.

These are very difficult exams. However, over 90% of students from U.S. M.D. schools pass these exams (see

In the 3rd year, medical students begin rotating through each of the specialties of medicine, such as Internal Medicine, Surgery, Pediatrics, Obstetrics and Gynecology, Psychiatry, Neurology, Radiology, Emergency Medicine, Family Medicine, etc. In the 4th year more clinical rotations with a higher level of responsibility are completed, in addition to electives.

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