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The USMLE Experience -Indian Medical Student Edition

Updated on October 10, 2019
Pranav Balakrishnan profile image

I am a med student from India and am working on applying into Residency programs in America.

How do you decide to leave your country to train abroad? It is essential to be certain that it is what you want to do.

What should you keep in mind:

  1. What is it that you expect from America that you do not get in your home country? Let’s be clear, money is the incorrect answer. It is definitely a very happy byproduct. You need to be sure that it is the training, the inspiration of learning from the people at the top of their fields and a stimulating environment that is the basis of your decision making process.
  2. You will hear a lot from people saying that it is a decision to permanently leave your home country. While it may be difficult to transition back, I do not agree with the finality of the statement. It is definitely something you should give thought to. Where do you see yourself 10 years from now?
  3. Which field do you see yourself going into- surgery, internal medicine, radiology, dermatology, family medicine.... Whatever your choice is, look into what you’re signing yourself up for. Not just in terms of the lifestyle but also what you need to aim for to get into the program. Let the naysayers say what they have to. That’s what they do. Do your own research and forge your path forward.
  4. I believe one of the mistakes I made was probably not working on the research aspect of my resume. Publications do matter, so does working with professors who are doing real research(a letter of recommendation from them would go a long way).
  5. Electives: Sub-internships/Clerkships>Observerships. These rotations are a means of determining what you like and what you definitely don’t like. See if you can make it in America, living alone and keeping the hours you will need to during your residency. Very importantly, it is a chance for you to network, get letters of recommendations and get clarity on the process of the USMLE and interview process

The journey begins with a dream- a dream to be a doctor. For some, this begins at the end of high school and for others its a dream that has been gnawing at them for years now. It’s a journey that needs dedication, the will to go above and beyond, and the stamina to keep up with the demands of the course.

In India, the gates to medical school are guarded by a highly competitive entrance exam. The rankings decide your fate. As fate would have it, I had the privilege of attending medical school at Kasturba Medical College. I will get into that at a later date. This article is about deciding to pursue residency in America, and the path forward.


The journey begins with a dream- a dream to be a doctor. For some, this begins at the end of high school and for others its a dream that has been gnawing at them for years now. It’s a journey that needs dedication, the will to go above and beyond, and the stamina to keep up with the demands of the course.

What are the STEPS?

  1. Step 1: This is the first exam of the series of three. While it is not necessary to take them in order, I would advise you to. It covers the preclinical subjects: Anatomy, biochemistry, physiology, pathology, pharmacology, epidemiology, psychiatry, biostatistics... you get the gist. In America, a majority of students take this exam at the end of MS2(Second year of med school. If your college exams allow it, that is great. I personally found that my schedule, and that of most Indian medical colleges doesn’t allow for it. You may end up performing sub-par in the Step and your university exam. Solution; Do it during your internship or after you finish your degree. You receive a three-digit test score about three weeks after your test.

2. Step 2 CK: This is based on Clinical Knowledge. It encompasses all your clinical subjects. It tests your diagnostic skills, your ability to decide between treatment modalities, and your ability to chose the appropriate tests. You receive a three-digit test score about three weeks after your test.

3. Step 2 CS: This is your Clinical Skills test. This tests your mettle in the clinic. The exam is set-up such that you face 8 patient actors. You are tested on your ability to take an H&P, counsel your patient while assuaging their fears and put down a clinic encounter note. This exam is a pass-fail exam with no score, but you are provided with a detailed evaluation on your performance.

4. Step 3: I will not be covering this as it can be taken after you start your residency. In essence, it covers what Step 2 CK does but in greater detail. It’s the test that gives you the righ to practice independently in the USA as a clinician.

For more information on each of the Steps, click on the links above.

All the best on this journey. Aim for the moon. Even if you miss, you will be among the stars, but if you work hard enough, the Universe is yours for the taking!

Aim for the moon. Even if you miss, you will be among the stars, but if you work hard enough, the Universe is yours for the taking!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2019 Pranav Balakrishnan

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    • profile image

      Shreya Utla 

      5 months ago

      Thank you for your article! It gives a clear and concise overview of the whole process. Not taking Step 1 too early on is great advice, in my opinion, too.

    • Pranav Balakrishnan profile imageAUTHOR

      Pranav Balakrishnan 

      5 months ago from Kolkata

      Hey guys! Check out my article on Step 1- How you need to work your way through it at this link: https://hubpages.com/education/Step-1-USMLE-for-an...

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