AMA Pushes to End National Clinical Skills Exams for U.S. Medical Students
By Sean Price


In discussions on medical education, American Medical Association (AMA) delegates called on AMA to urge the speedy end to the clinical skills part of the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) Step 2 and Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Examination (COMLEX) Level 2 for U.S. medical students. 

The exams have been suspended during the pandemic and are not scheduled to restart before June 2021.

The clinical skills exams have been unpopular with medical students and faculty since their inception because of the financial and time pressures placed on students. Opponents also pointed to exceptionally high passage rates of 97% to 98%, and questioned the need for the exams.

During debate at the Special Meeting of the AMA House of Delegates this week, supporters of the exams argued that they are an independent assessment of clinical skills using a national standard. But Galveston endocrinologist Kevin McKinney, MD, speaking on behalf of the Texas Medical Association delegation, argued that medical schools are capable of teaching and evaluating students’ clinical skills. He is a professor at The University of Texas Medical Branch School of Medicine.

Medical students “tell us when they go take the exam that our [school’s] exam is just as hard if not harder than the one they’re taking [for the USMLE Step 2],” Dr. McKinney testified.   

The directive also urged the AMA to work with the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates to advocate for an equivalent, equitable, and timely pathway for international medical graduates to demonstrate clinical skills competency.

In a related move, delegates also called on AMA to advocate that all U.S. medical students or residents who took and failed any part of the USMLE or the COMLEX between March 1, 2020, and May 31, 2021, be reexamined at no charge to the student or resident.

The house also approved other policies and reports that:

  • Oppose the diversion of any funding away from graduate medical education (GME) funding programs.
  • Monitor progress on concerns about continuing board certification programs.
  • Examine the role of corporate entities in GME.
  • Outline ways to protect residents and GME positions in the event of a sudden hospital or training program closure.

Last Updated On

November 18, 2020

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Sean Price


(512) 370-1392

Sean Price is a reporter for Texas Medicine and Texas Medicine Today. He grew up in Fort Worth and graduated from the University of Texas at Austin. He's worked as an award-winning writer and editor for a variety of national magazine, book, and website publishers in New York and Washington. He's also helped produce Texas-based marketing campaigns designed to promote public health. Sean lives in Austin and enjoys hiking, photography, and spending time with his wife and two sons.

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