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NEET PG VS. USMLE: Which Path is Right for You?

Jul 26, 2023


Are you aspiring to advance your medical career through post-graduation but finding it challenging to choose between NEET PG vs USMLE? Making this decision is a significant milestone for every medical student, and it requires careful consideration.

Both exams offer unique opportunities and rewards, but it's essential to grasp the key factors that set NEET PG apart from USMLE to make a well-informed choice.

This blog will delve into the crucial intricacies of both exams - NEET PG and USMLE. We'll explore their formats, key differences and the diverse prospects they offer in India and abroad.

Read the blog till the end to understand all the essential considerations that will empower you to make a choice that aligns with your aspirations and career goals.

ENT Residency

Understanding NEET PG & USMLE

NEET PG, or National Eligibility cum Entrance Test for Post Graduation, is a national-level examination conducted by the National Board of Education (NBE) once every year. Medical graduates seeking admission to postgraduate courses such as MD or MS must qualify for this entrance exam to gain admission into any private or government PG college nationwide.

USMLE, on the other hand, is a licensure exam. The United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) is a three-step examination for Indian medical professionals who wish to practice medicine in the United States. It is an international-level exam sponsored by the Federation of State Medical Boards (FSMB) and the National Board of Medical Examiners (NBME).

Eligibility Criteria: NEET PG Vs USMLE

The table below shows a concise overview of the eligibility criteria for both NEET PG and USMLE -

NEET PG & USMLE Eligibility Criteria

NEET PG Eligibility Criteria

USMLE Eligibility Criteria

  • A valid MBBS degree from a recognized medical institution in India.
  • A valid provisional or permanent registration certificate issued by the Medical Council of India (MCI) or the State Medical Council (SMC).
  • Completion of the mandatory rotating internship on or before the specified date.
  • Candidates pursuing their internship are eligible to apply but must complete it before counseling.
For Step 1 and Step 2 CK (clinical Knowledge)
  • You should be a medical student or graduate from a medical school that is listed in the World Directory of Medical Schools and meets ECFMG requirements.
For Step 3:
  • You must be a graduate of a US or Canadian medical school with an MD (or an equivalent degree, such as an MBBS).
  • You must be in possession of the ECFMG Certification in addition to a DO degree from an AOA-accredited medical school in the US OR an MD (or an equivalent degree, such as an MBBS) from a medical school listed on the WDOMS that is located outside of the USA and Canada.
  • You should have passed both the USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 tests.

Application Process

Candidates fulfilling the eligibility criteria specified earlier can apply for NEET PG or USMLE. The application process for the same is outlined below -

NEET PG & USMLE Application Process



  • Register yourself on the official NBE website to obtain user ID and password
  • Fill out the application form as per the instructions
  • Choose your preferred exam center
  • Upload the scanned copy of requested documents
  • Pay the application fee
  • Print out the filled application form with transaction ID
  • Visit the ECFMG website to create an account and request a USMLE/ECFMG identification number.
  • Complete the form, wait for confirmation, and make any necessary modifications.
  • Log in on the ECFMG website with your user ID and password to fill out the USMLE Step 1 application form with accurate details.
  • Make the payment and access the link for form 183 in the same window. Complete the form, and obtain the necessary sign and stamp from your medical school's Dean.
  • Complete the form and send it to the specified address mentioned on Form 183, ensuring the Dean's office forwards it with the Dean's stamp.
  • After sending the form, wait for the scheduling permit, usually received via email within 2-3 weeks. Verify the details carefully, as it's a crucial document for the exam day.
  • Book your exam date at Prometric, the testing service for USMLE. Visit the Prometric website, select USMLE, and choose your preferred location and date within your eligibility period.

Exam format: NEET PG vs. USMLE

While NEET PG is a single-step exam conducted only in India, USMLE is a three-step examination. USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 CK are computer-based tests. For step 2 CS, examiners assess your clinical skills through in-person encounters with standardized patients. Lastly, the USMLE step 3 exam combines multiple-choice questions and case simulations.

The primary objective of both NEET PG and USMLE is to evaluate a candidate's overall medical knowledge and clinical skills.

Specific details of the exam format of NEET PG and USMLE are listed in the table below:

NEET PG & USMLE Exam Format

NEET PG Exam Pattern

USMLE Exam Pattern

  • Exam Mode: Computer-based
  • Question Type: Multiple-choice.
  • Duration of Exam: 3 hours 30 mins
  • Number of Questions: 200
  • Total Marks: 800
  • Marking Scheme: 4 marks for correct answer & -1 for incorrect answer
  • Total Attempts: No Limit
  • Syllabus: All 19 subjects from the MBBS curriculum
  • Exam Mode: Computer-based, Conducted at Prometric centers around the world.
  • Question Type: MCQs and Computer-Based Case Simulations
  • Duration of Exam: Step 1: One day - 8 hours
    Step 2 CK: One day - 9 hours
    Step 3: Two days - 16 hours
    First day - 7 hours
    Second day - 9 hours
  • Number of Questions: Step 1: 200 MCQs
    Step 2 CK: 318 MCQs
    Step 3: First day- 232 MCQs Second day- 180 MCQs and 13 case simulations
  • Total Attempts: 4
  • Syllabus: Medicine, Surgery, Paediatrics, Cardiovascular System, Respiratory System, Behavioral Health, Social Sciences, Obstetrics and Gynecology

Making the Decision: Factors to Consider

While understanding the key differences between NEET PG and USMLE helps make an informed decision about which path to take, there are a few other factors that you must consider before making a final decision.

Scope of Practice and Career Opportunities After Clearing Each Exam

Clearing NEET PG allows you to pursue postgraduate courses (MD/MS/Diploma) in different specialities. After completing your PG degree, you can practice as a specialist in hospitals, clinics or pursue academic and research careers.

Whereas clearing USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 CK will allow you to apply for residency programs in the US. After completing residency, you can practice medicine in the US, with possibilities for further specialization through fellowships or research opportunities.

Residency and Specialization Prospects in India and the US

After qualifying for NEET PG and completing your degree in India, you can compete for super speciality seats in various government and private medical institutions. However, it must be noted that the seats are limited, and the selection process for the super speciality is highly competitive. You must secure a good rank in the NEET SS exam to secure your desired speciality.

USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 CK are crucial for obtaining a residency in the US. There is a wide range of residency programs in the US, and you will have opportunities to match into various specialties, depending on your performance and preferences.

Work-Life Balance and Lifestyle Considerations

Work-life balance in India can vary depending on the chosen speciality and the institution. But as doctors, you can expect long working hours, on-call duties, and high patient loads.

The US healthcare system promotes a better work-life balance for physicians. Depending on the speciality and practice setting, doctors in the US may have more predictable work hours and better compensation.

Financial Considerations

While making a decision, you must carefully assess your financial situation and factor in the costs and benefits of pursuing NEET PG in India versus USMLE.

Firstly, there's the cost of taking the exam. Registration fee for the NEET PG exam is much lower than the costs involved in taking USMLE Step 1, Step 2 CK, and Step 2 CS, which adds up to a substantial amount.

Secondly, when pursuing USMLE, additional costs are associated with the residency application process, including fees for the Electronic Residency Application Service (ERAS) and the National Resident Matching Program (NRMP).

Lastly, you must consider relocation expenses, including travel and living expenses.

Personal career goals and aspirations

It's important to consider all the factors mentioned above while making a decision. However, above everything else, your career goal and aspirations are the most crucial factor. Think about the medical speciality you wish to pursue, your career objectives and academic pursuits. In light of the same, assess whether NEET PG or USMLE aligns better with your long-term professional goals.

By carefully considering these factors, you can make an informed decision that best suits your individual circumstances and ambitions.

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Kashika Walia

Kashika Walia is a Senior Content Writer at PrepLadder. She is devoted to give her readers easily digestible and high-value content that makes their journey towards their dream career incredibly easy.


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