Change in passing score for USMLE Step 3


In Dec 2019, the USMLE announced that it has changed the minimum passing score again from 196 to 198 for the USMLE Step 3 exam effective as of January 1, 2020. In Dec 11, 2015, the USMLE changed the minimum passing score from 190 to 196. The reasons that are given for the change is that residency directors are seeing the USMLE Step 3 as a pass/fail exam, so apparently, the USMLE is feeling that it should raise the minimum passing grade. Other things were mentioned that justified the change such as “trends in examinee performance” and “precision of pass/fail classifications.” It might be that too many people were scoring higher, so they wanted to adjust the grading downward. There has been discussions to make the USMLE Step 3 Pass/Fail completely, but then again, these discussions have been going on for years and years.

Therefore, there is less leeway to “get by” on the multiple choice portion of the test and neglect the step 3 simulation part the exam. It is getting more and more important to be prepared for both sections. We are of course biased in our recommendations that you use our program to study for the USMLE Step 3 CCS portion of the test. You can try out our trial version and download it here:

It does seem that there seems to be a grade creep over the years. The minimum score has increased by 8 points over the last 5 years, So, we might be doing a similar post in 2025 saying that the minimum passing grade has increased to 200. We recommend that you keep your testing skills sharp and not even get close to the not-passing rate. This is an obvious statement, but many students either get too overconfident or are too busy with residency duties that they do not prepare adequately for Step 3. This can be very embarrassing if you fail, and now there are 2 points less in your padding for passing. Study hard!