Multiple Attempts on the USMLE Exams

There’s no denying it, your Residency Personal Statement is an important part of your application package. Of course, you’ll want to convey the reasons you chose the specialty you’re applying to and why your experiences and strengths are aligned with the field. You will also want to stand out as a relevant and dedicated applicant who has something to offer the program. But what about those areas of your background that are less impressive? Many residency candidates wonder if they should address multiple attempts on the USMLE exams in the Personal Statement. Read below for our advice.

Addressing Multiple Attempts on the USMLE Exams in the Personal Statement

All residency candidates hope to pass their Step exams on the first attempt, but of course not everyone does. While failing an exam is definitely not the end of the world, it is considered a “red flag,” so explaining it in your Personal Statement is usually beneficial. The trick to doing so successfully is avoiding too much focus on the topic and conveying a humble attitude about the experience. If your explanation comes across as an excuse or as though you’re blaming someone other than yourself, it won’t be well received.

Best practice for writing about this topic is:

  1. Devote one paragraph (or about 5 – 7 sentences) to this content
  2. Acknowledge the failure
  3. Concisely discuss the reason why it occurred (death in the family, illness/injury, difficulty with test taking/study methods, etc.)
  4. Explain how you went on to pass the exam in your next attempt
  5. Share specifics of how the experience helped you grow

Program Directors don’t read the Personal Statements of every single applicant. So, if they are reading yours, it means they were impressed with other aspects of your application! They are likely curious about your background and will be receptive to your explanation.

Personal Statement Assistance

If you need assistance drafting or polishing your Personal Statement, let the expert editors and writers at Residency Statement help! We are dedicated to your success and our personalized process will save you time and stress.