USMLE Step 1 Test

The United States Medical Licensing Examination Step 1, or USMLE Step 1, is a challenging and comprehensive assessment for men and women who want to enter the rewarding field of medical science. The exam consists of approximately 336 multiple-choice questions, each of which has five possible answers. These questions are broken up into seven blocks, requiring one hour each. The entire testing session lasts approximately eight hours.

The content of the USMLE Step 1 covers the following eight subjects: anatomy; behavioral sciences; biochemistry; microbiology; pathology; pharmacology; physiology; and interdisciplinary topics, such as nutrition, genetics, and aging. However, there are a few other ways to look at the test content.

The test items require three distinct tasks: the interpretation of graphic and tabular material, the identification of gross and microscopic pathologic and normal specimens, and the application of basic knowledge to clinical problems.
Another way to break down the content of the USMLE Step 1 is by body system. Roughly half (40 to 50 percent) of the test questions address general principles, and the remaining 50 to 60 percent relate to the following individual organ systems: hematopoietic/lymphreticular, nervous special senses, skin/connective tissue, musculoskeletal, respiratory, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, renal/urinary, reproductive, and endocrine.

The test content can also be categorized by process, with four different types: normal structure and function (30 to 50 percent of the exam); abnormal processes (30 to 50 percent); principles of therapeutics (15 to 25 percent); and psychosocial, cultural, occupational, and environmental considerations (10 to 20 percent).

The raw score (the number of questions answered correctly) is placed on both a three-digit and two-digit scale because different jurisdictions require different scaled scores. Most three-digit scaled scores are between 140 and 260, and the typical minimum passing score on the two-digit scale is 75.

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Physician Salary

Many young people have the desire to enter medical school but are unsure of what type of specialty they will practice. Whether it be a family practitioner who is a generalist of sorts and treats all family illnesses; a gynecologist who just treats diseases related to the female reproductive system; an internist who treats all adult diseases; or an internal medicine specialist who will diagnose, manage, and treat unusual diseases, one thing is for sure; there are rigorous requirements. Each specialty has a separate curriculum, examinations, internship requirements, and state licensures. Once these are fulfilled, a student is well on his or her way to treating and diagnosing patients. Some specialties require more education than others.

Take the field andrology, which has gained popularity in the last 20 years. Andrology is the diagnosis and treatment of men with reproductive health issues. This practice is a specialty of urology with more extensive and focused training. The andrologist is an expert in reproductive system diseases and progressive disorders. Many of these disorders are erectile dysfunction, testicular torsion, cancer, or undescended testes. Some andrologists have qualified to perform surgeries such as vasectomies, augmentations, and sex change operations. To practice in this specialty, a student needs to complete medical school, attend a four-year residency, and pass national licensing exams. In addition, students enter urology residency programs following medical school to receive supervised experience working with patients. Many students attend two-year fellowships in andrology, which many hospitals and specialty clinics offer. Once the residency and fellowship training are completed, the doctor can take an exam to get board certified. This physician salary is between $87,000 and $93,000 per year in a large city like Chicago, Illinois. Other highly specialized fields of medicine include cardiology, which is the study of diseases and disorders of the heart and circulatory system, and radiology, which uses medical imaging to diagnose medical conditions, disorders, and illnesses. After medical school, students in both these professions require additional training and licensing to perform procedures. A physician salary in either profession can yield more than $500,000 a year! An oncologist specializes in the treatment of cancer, and this is a profession that is in demand. A specialty within this specialty is a radiation oncologist, who treats tumors with radiation. With proper training and education, doctors in this profession earn $528,000 on average. A hematology oncologist, who is trained in using chemotherapy, infusions, and bone marrow transplants, can earn more than $450,000 a year. Another specialty that generates a high physician salary is gastroenterology. Gastroenterology is a subspecialty of internal medicine in which doctors are trained to treat digestive and gastrointestinal disorders and cancers and disorders of the digestive tract. Upon completion of the required training, internships, fellowships, and licensure, a gastroenterologist's average salary is more than $450,000 per year.

Surgery is another specialty that is diverse and has many rewards. Among the highest earning are the cardiovascular surgeons, who earn about $479,000 a year. These people are trained to perform open heart and circulatory surgeries. Another highly paid surgeon is an orthopedic surgeon, who specializes in bones and joints. Orthopedic surgeons can make more than $600,000 a year.

Becoming a good physician is a lifelong process, and most students find their careers personally rewarding once they enter the profession. The medical field is a culture of continuous improvements, and these specialties bring experience and expertise that provide immense benefits to society. Medical leaders have accepted the responsibility of improving people's lives through personal sacrifice and long hours. Their personal satisfaction derives from the specialty they choose, and it is the energizing force that moves them forward. These individuals find it extremely rewarding to see the impact of their actions and the contributions they bring to the world.

By Lindsay Downs

Last Updated: 06/20/2014

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