How to Study for Step 2 CS (Complete Guide)

How to study for Step 2 CS

Imagine going to college for four years, medical school (Step 2 CS) for the same amount of time, and paying thousands of dollars in non-refundable books and tuition fees in order to get a residency.

You then went on to excel in all your exams except one because you failed to prepare well for it.

It becomes more painful when you know that the exam was one of the easiest exams to study and requires nothing more than readily available medical practice, organization, and knowledge.

If you’re wondering which exam I’m referring to, it’s the Step 2 CS. The Step 2 CS is one of the four USMLE assessments that students typically overlook.

The mistake of not knowing how to study for the Step 2 CS Exam has caused many students to fail the exam.

That is why in this article, we’ll give out tips to prospective test takes on how to study for the Step 2 CS Exam.

How to Study for Step 2 CS: Understand the parts of the Step 2 CS exam:

Getting familiar with the Step 2 CS pattern and scoring methodology can help a candidate prepare for the exam.

The exam is split into three sections. Candidates only have two scoring options, either to pass or fail, which apply to each section.

Before one can pass the USMLE Step 2 CS, one must pass all 3 of the sections. The three sections of the Step 2 CS exam are as follows: 

1. SEP (Spoken English Proficiency)

This section assesses your fluency in spoken English by measuring word choice, pronunciation, clarity, and ease with which patients can understand your statements or questions.

2. ICE (Integrated Clinical Encounter)

This section assesses your ability to analyze and gather data during physical exams, as well as the content of the note for the Phase 2 CS patient that you enter following the physical exam.

3. CIS (Communication and Interpersonal Skills) 

This section examines your soft and communication skills and how well you communicate information to patients, reduce the tension in the room, put them at ease, and help them make decisions.

How to Study for Step 2 CS:

1. Avoid Multiple Resources

In most cases, the more resources you dedicate to studying will enable you to cover more material or pass an exam, but in certain cases, it may simply lead you astray.

This leads to other instances where using multiple study materials can be a disadvantage in studying for Step 2 CS.

Moreover, try studying with the few directly linked study materials for the Step 2 CS exam to stay on course.

2. Use First Aid to Succeed in the Step 2 CS 

This book entails detailed test case samples for all major illnesses in America, excellent for practicing with other students.

Try laying your hands on the most recent edition, as it is updated from time to time.

Moreso, reading this book would provide major tips on How to Study for Step 2 CS. 

3. Go for a “live” Practice

Rather than learning from phone calls or video chats, personally work on test cases with other medical students, friends, and family. 

This way, you can test your communication and interpersonal skills before dealing directly with standardized patients during the real test and making it significant in the study for Step 2 CS.

4. Use a Step 2 CS Stopwatch 

Because the actual test will be timed (15 minutes patient engagement, 10 minutes note-taking), practice in the same space. 

Using a stopwatch to simulate the actual exam will help you develop a focused approach, manage time better, and manage time better.

Moreover, timing yourself is a relevant way of studying for Step 2 CS.

How to Study for Step 2 CS:

5. Practice with Flashcards or Notes to take USMLE Step 2 CS Exam.

Practice lengthy emergency cases for Step 2 CS with a partner a minimum of two times, then create flashcards or notes for the number of cases.

It should include the patient’s name, age, illness, and important signs on each card, shuffle them and repeat the exercise.

6. Read the Mini Cases as Well

Often, candidates skip these mini-cases, but rather than skip them; it is highly recommended that you study them too. 

Those mini cases could help when dealing with differential diagnosis, allowing you to maintain control even if the patient’s condition is not what you initially thought it was. 

7. Make Use of Patient Gown 

Have your partner wear a hospital gown during physical exam practice sessions so you can ask for permission to lower, unfasten, and adjust the gown.

This will assist you to recall to ask questions and feel more comfortable with them. 

8. Be Courteous and Respectful 

Treat your practice sessions in a similar way you would for the actual test, establishing a doctor-patient relationship in each case.

Smile and look your patients in the eye, listen attentively to what they are saying, and do not interrupt them while talking.

How to Study for Step 2 CS:

9. Practice Typing Notes

The exam does not include a spell checker, therefore you must be exact in your notes.

Typographical errors will be penalized, so use the official USMLE note template and a stopwatch at the end of every case to practice typing the case and patient’s information. 

10. Simulate a Full USMLE Step 2 CS Test 

Step 2 CS can be difficult if you haven’t studied well for it.

To prepare for the exam, select 12 difficult case examples and complete them a few days before the exam, using the same deadlines and breaks.


Because the Step 2 CS is closely aligned with medical students’ role during clinical placements, many applicants often think the test will be easy and fail to prepare adequately.

Do not underestimate the relevance of performing well. Use these strategies on how to study for Step 2 CS to pass your upcoming Step 2 CS exam.

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